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Joel Batterman

Current Student—Ph.D in Urban and Regional Planning

Joel Batterman

Email: jomba@umich.edu
Twitter: @battermanjoel

Dissertation: A Metropolitan Dilemma: Regional Planning, Race and Power in Greater Detroit

Dissertation Committee: Joe Grengs (chair), Scott Campbell, Matt Lassiter, June Manning Thomas

Areas of Interest: regional planning, metropolitan governance, urban history


Joel’s dissertation, A Metropolitan Dilemma, is a history of the politics of regional planning in metropolitan Detroit. Unbeknownst to many, the Detroit region was once a regional planning pioneer. Its rapid suburbanization and dependence on the automobile occurred not despite the efforts of regional planners, but in large part because of them. By the time some planners began to question the wisdom of continued decentralization, it was too late: a new class of suburban elected officials turned back efforts to reframe regional planning and ensured that the region would continue to sprawl along segregated and unequal lines. A Metropolitan Dilemma makes the case for a “reparative regionalism” that confronts this history and seeks a better future for all.

Joel has a B.A. in history from Reed College and a master’s degree in planning from the University of Michigan. He previously worked for the Michigan Suburbs Alliance, Metropolitan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strength (MOSES), and United Community Housing Coalition. He is founder and co-chair of the Motor City Freedom Riders, a group of Detroit bus riders and allies organizing for expanded public transit.

Selected Publications:

  • Batterman, Joel. “Don’t Buy Greenland, Buy Greyhound.” InTheseTimes.com. September 19, 2019.
  • Batterman, Joel. “Regional Equity and Regional Planning in Michigan.” Michigan Planner, Vol. 20, September/October 2016.
  • Batterman, Joel. “Race, Class and Public Transit in the Motor City." Progressive Planning 189 (2011).

Selected Presentations:

  • “From Consensus to Combustion: The Rise of Regional Planning in Detroit.” Society for American City and Regional Planning History Conference, Arlington, VA, November 2019.
  • “Making a Centrifugal City: Detroit as Regional Planning Pioneer.” Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning Annual Meeting. Greenville, SC, October 2019.
  • “Metropolitan Planning and its Limits in the Postwar Era: The Case of Detroit.” Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning Annual Meeting. Buffalo, NY. October 2018.
  • “Reverberations of Rebellion: 1967 in Detroit and Ann Arbor” (panel organizer). University of Michigan Hatcher Graduate Library. September 2017.


  • Institute for the Humanities Fellowship, University of Michigan, 2019-20
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Spirit Award, UM North Campus Deans, 2017
  • Unsung Hero Award, Transportation Riders United, 2016
  • Outstanding Student Project Award, Michigan Association of Planning, 2012
  • Community Service Award, UM Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, 2012
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