Matching Items (16)

Policy Brief: Infrastructure and Automobile Shifts: Positioning Transit to Reduce Life-Cycle Environmental Impacts for Urban Sustainability Goals

Description

Public transportation systems are often part of strategies to reduce urban environmental impacts from passenger transportation, yet comprehensive energy and environmental life-cycle measures, including upfront infrastructure effects and indirect and

Public transportation systems are often part of strategies to reduce urban environmental impacts from passenger transportation, yet comprehensive energy and environmental life-cycle measures, including upfront infrastructure effects and indirect and supply chain processes, are rarely considered. Using the new bus rapid transit and light rail lines in Los Angeles, near-term and long-term life-cycle impact assessments are developed, including consideration of reduced automobile travel. Energy consumption and emissions of greenhouse gases and criteria pollutants are assessed, as well the potential for smog and respiratory impacts.

Results show that life-cycle infrastructure, vehicle, and energy production components significantly increase the footprint of each mode (by 48–100% for energy and greenhouse gases, and up to 6200% for environmental impacts), and emerging technologies and renewable electricity standards will significantly reduce impacts. Life-cycle results are identified as either local (in Los Angeles) or remote, and show how the decision to build and operate a transit system in a city produces environmental impacts far outside of geopolitical boundaries. Ensuring shifts of between 20–30% of transit riders from automobiles will result in passenger transportation greenhouse gas reductions for the city, and the larger the shift, the quicker the payback, which should be considered for time-specific environmental goals.

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Setting a resilient urban table: planning for community food systems

Description

Research indicates that projected increases in global urban populations are not adequately addressed by current food production and planning. In the U.S., insufficient access to food, or the inability to

Research indicates that projected increases in global urban populations are not adequately addressed by current food production and planning. In the U.S., insufficient access to food, or the inability to access enough food for an active, healthy life affects nearly 15% of the population. In the face of these challenges, how are urban planners and other food system professionals planning for more resilient food systems? The purpose of this qualitative case study is to understand the planning and policy resources and food system approaches that might have the ability to strengthen food systems, and ultimately, urban resiliency. It proposes that by understanding food system planning in this context, planning approaches can be developed to strengthen urban food systems. The study uses the conceptual framework of urban planning for food, new community food systems, urban resiliency, and the theory of Panarchy as a model for urban planning and creation of new community food systems. Panarchy theory proposes that entrenched, non-diverse systems can change and adapt, and this study proposes that some U.S. cities are doing just that by planning for new community food systems. It studied 16 U.S. cities considered to be leaders in sustainability practices, and conducted semi-structured interviews with professionals in three of those cities: Portland, OR; San Francisco, CA; and Seattle, WA. The study found that these cities are using innovative methods in food system work, with professionals from many different departments and disciplines bringing interdisciplinary approaches to food planning and policy. Supported by strong executive leadership, these cities are creating progressive urban agriculture zoning policies and other food system initiatives, and using innovative educational programs and events to engage citizens at all socio-economic levels. Food system departments are relatively new, plans and policies among the cities are not consistent, and they are faced with limited resources to adequately track food system-related data. However they are still moving forward with programming to increase food access and improve their food systems. Food-system resiliency is recognized as an important goal, but cities are in varying stages of development for resiliency planning.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2014

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Advancing sustainable urbanism through civic space planning & design

Description

The lack of substantive, multi-dimensional perspectives on civic space planning and design has undermined the potential role of these valuable social and ecological amenities in advancing urban sustainability goals. Responding

The lack of substantive, multi-dimensional perspectives on civic space planning and design has undermined the potential role of these valuable social and ecological amenities in advancing urban sustainability goals. Responding to these deficiencies, this dissertation utilized mixed quantitative and qualitative methods and synthesized multiple social and natural science perspectives to inform the development of progressive civic space planning and design, theory, and public policy aimed at improving the social, economic, and environmental health of cities. Using Phoenix, Arizona as a case study, the analysis was tailored to arid cities, yet the products and findings are flexible enough to be geographically customized to the social, environmental, built, and public policy goals of other urbanized regions. Organized into three articles, the first paper applies geospatial and statistical methods to analyze and classify urban parks in Phoenix based on multiple social, ecological, and built criteria, including landuse-land cover, `greenness,' and site amenities, as well as the socio- economic and built characteristics of park neighborhoods. The second article uses spatial empirical analysis to rezone the City of Phoenix following transect form-based code. The current park system was then assessed within this framework and recommendations are presented to inform the planning and design of civic spaces sensitive to their social and built context. The final paper culminates in the development of a planning tool and site design guidelines for civic space planning and design across the urban-to-natural gradient augmented with multiple ecosystem service considerations and tailored to desert cities.

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Date Created
  • 2013

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Food environment around school and students' weight status: a study of four New Jersey low-income communities

Description

Childhood obesity has been on the rise for the past decade, and it has been hypothesized that students' food choices may be influenced by easy access to food outlets near

Childhood obesity has been on the rise for the past decade, and it has been hypothesized that students' food choices may be influenced by easy access to food outlets near their schools that provide unhealthful options. But the results of recent studies on the relationship between the food environment around schools and student weight status are mixed and often contradictory. Most studies have used measures of weight and height that were self-reported by students, or have relied on data from a relatively small sample of students. I examine the association between weight status among school students and the food environment surrounding their schools using professionally-measured, student-level data across the full school-age spectrum. De-identified data were obtained for over 30,000 K-12 students in 79 public schools located in four New Jersey cities. Locations of alternative food-outlets (specifically, supermarkets, convenience stores, small grocery stores, and limited-service restaurants) were obtained from commercial sources and geocoded to develop proximity measures. A simplified social-ecological framework was used to conceptualize the multi-level the association between students' BMI and school proximity to food outlets and multivariate analyses were used to estimate this relationship controlling for student- and school-level factors. Over twenty percent of the students were obese, compared to the national average at 17% (Ogden, Carroll, Kit, & Flegal, 2012). On average, students had 2.6 convenience stores, 2.9 limited-service restaurants, and 0.1 supermarkets within a quarter mile of their school. This study suggests that easy access to small grocery stores (which this study uniquely examines as a separate food outlet category) that offer healthy choices including five types of fresh vegetable, five types of fresh fruits, low-fat dairy, and lean meats is associated with lower BMI z score and lower probability of being obese for middle and high school students. This suggests that improving access to such small food outlets may be a promising area for future investigation in obesity mitigation research. Also, this study separates students of pre-schools, kindergartens and elementary schools (neighborhood schools) from that of the middle and high schools (non-neighborhood) schools because the two groups of schools have different neighborhood characteristics, as well as open-school and bussing policies that result in different levels of exposure that students have to the food outlets around the schools. The result of this study suggests that the relationship between students' weight outcomes and food environment around schools is different in the two groups of schools.

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Date Created
  • 2013

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Selecting programs for urban transformations towards sustainability

Description

Despite widespread acknowledgement of the need for transformation towards sustainability, the majority of cities appear stuck in incremental change instead of far-reaching, radical change. While there are numerous obstacles to

Despite widespread acknowledgement of the need for transformation towards sustainability, the majority of cities appear stuck in incremental change instead of far-reaching, radical change. While there are numerous obstacles to transformational change, one critical aspect is the process of selecting impactful sustainability programs. The unique and complex nature of sustainability suggests a different approach is needed to program selection than is normal. But, to what extent are cities adapting selection processes in response to sustainability and what effect does this have on sustainable urban transformation? Could there be a more effective process to select programs with greater transformational potential? This dissertation investigates these questions using case studies and action research to add to the general knowledge of urban sustainability program selection and to develop practical knowledge (solutions) for more effective sustainable urban transformation.

The dissertation consists of three studies. Study 1 uses a case study approach to investigate existing sustainability program selection processes in three cities: Avondale, USA; Almere, the Netherlands; and Freiburg, Germany. These cities all express commitment to sustainability but have varying degrees of sustainable development experience, accomplishment, and recognition. Study 2 develops a program selection framework for urban sustainable transformation drawing extensively from the literature on sustainability assessment and related fields, and on participatory input from municipal practitioners in Avondale and Almere. Study 3 assesses the usefulness of the framework in a dual pilot study. Participatory workshops were conducted in which the framework was applied to real-world situations: (i) with the city’s sustainability working group in Avondale; and (ii) with a local energy cooperative in Almere.

Overall, findings suggest cities are not significantly adapting program selection processes in response to the challenges of sustainability. Processes are often haphazard, opportunistic, driven elite actors, and weakly aligned with sustainability principles and goals, which results in selected programs being more incremental than transformational. The proposed framework appears effective at opening up the range of program options considered, stimulating constructive deliberation among participants, and promoting higher order learning. The framework has potential for nudging program selection towards transformational outcomes and more deeply embedding sustainability within institutional culture.

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  • 2015

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Developing and testing transition strategies for urban sustainability: case studies in transition research in Phoenix, Arizona

Description

Sustainability challenges with severe local to global impacts require fundamental shifts in what industrial societies aspire to, generate, consume, and represent, as well as how they function. Transition governance is

Sustainability challenges with severe local to global impacts require fundamental shifts in what industrial societies aspire to, generate, consume, and represent, as well as how they function. Transition governance is a promising framework to support these transformational efforts. A key component of transition governance is the construction of transition strategies, i.e., action schemes for how to transition from the current state to a sustainable one. Despite accomplishments in building theory and methodology for transition governance, the concepts of what transition strategies entail and how they relate to specific interventions are still underdeveloped. This dissertation further develops the concept of transition strategies, and explores how different stakeholder groups and allies can develop and test transition strategies across different scales, in the specific context of urban sustainability challenges. The overarching research question is: How can cities build and implement comprehensive transition strategies across different urban scales, from the city to the organizational level? The dissertation comprises four studies that explore the dynamic between transition strategies and experiments at the city, neighborhood, and organizational levels with empirical examples from Phoenix, Arizona. The first study reviews and compares paradigms of intentional change, namely transition governance, backcasting, intervention research, change management, integrated planning, and adaptive management in order to offer a rich set of converging ideas on what strategies for intentional change towards sustainability entail. The second study proposes a comprehensive concept of transition strategies and illustrates the concept with the example of sustainability strategies created through a research partnership with the City of Phoenix. The third study explores the role of experiments in transition processes through the lens of the neighborhood-level initiative of The Valley of the Sunflowers. The fourth study examines the role organizations can play in initiating urban sustainability transitions using exemplary strategies and experiments implemented at a local high school. The studies combined contribute to the further development of transition theory and sustainable urban development concepts. While this research field is at a nascent stage, the thesis provides a framework and empirical examples for how to build evidence-based transition strategies in support of urban sustainability.

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Date Created
  • 2012

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Phosphorus cycling in Metropolitan Phoenix

Description

Phosphorus (P), an essential element for life, is becoming increasingly scarce, and its global management presents a serious challenge. As urban environments dominate the landscape, we need to elucidate how

Phosphorus (P), an essential element for life, is becoming increasingly scarce, and its global management presents a serious challenge. As urban environments dominate the landscape, we need to elucidate how P cycles in urban ecosystems to better understand how cities contribute to — and provide opportunities to solve — problems of P management. The goal of my research was to increase our understanding of urban P cycling in the context of urban resource management through analysis of existing ecological and socio-economic data supplemented with expert interviews in order to facilitate a transition to sustainable P management. Study objectives were to: I) Quantify and map P stocks and flows in the Phoenix metropolitan area and analyze the drivers of spatial distribution and dynamics of P flows; II) examine changes in P-flow dynamics at the urban agricultural interface (UAI), and the drivers of those changes, between 1978 and 2008; III) compare the UAI's average annual P budget to the global agricultural P budget; and IV) explore opportunities for more sustainable P management in Phoenix. Results showed that Phoenix is a sink for P, and that agriculture played a primary role in the dynamics of P cycling. Internal P dynamics at the UAI shifted over the 30-year study period, with alfalfa replacing cotton as the main locus of agricultural P cycling. Results also suggest that the extent of P recycling in Phoenix is proportionally larger than comparable estimates available at the global scale due to the biophysical characteristics of the region and the proximity of various land uses. Uncertainty remains about the effectiveness of current recycling strategies and about best management strategies for the future because we do not have sufficient data to use as basis for evaluation and decision-making. By working in collaboration with practitioners, researchers can overcome some of these data limitations to develop a deeper understanding of the complexities of P dynamics and the range of options available to sustainably manage P. There is also a need to better connect P management with that of other resources, notably water and other nutrients, in order to sustainably manage cities.

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Date Created
  • 2011

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Populating and facilitating urban sustainability transition arenas

Description

Urban areas face a host of sustainability problems ranging from air and water quality, to housing affordability, and sprawl reducing returns on infrastructure investments, among many others. To address such

Urban areas face a host of sustainability problems ranging from air and water quality, to housing affordability, and sprawl reducing returns on infrastructure investments, among many others. To address such challenges, cities have begun to envision generational sustainability transitions, and coalesce transition arenas in context to manage those transitions. Transition arenas coordinate the efforts of diverse stakeholders in a setting conducive to making evidence-based decisions that guide a transition forward. Though espoused and studied in the literature, transition arenas still require further research on the specifics of agent selection, arena setting, and decision-making facilitation. This dissertation has three related contributions related to transition arenas. First, it describes a process that took place within Phoenix that focused on identifying, recruiting, and building the capacity of potential transition agents for a transition arena. As part of this, a first draft suggestion of plausible steps to take for identifying, recruiting, and building a team of transition agents is proposed followed by a brief discussion on how this step-by-step process could be evaluated in subsequent work. Second, building on such engagement, this dissertation then offers criteria for transition agent selection based on a review of the literature that includes the setting in which a transition arena occurs, and strategies to support successful facilitation of decision-making in that setting. Third, those criteria are operationalized to evaluate the facilitation of a specific decision (draft of a new transportation plan) in a specific transition arena: the Citizens Committee for the future of Phoenix Transportation. The goal of this dissertation is to articulate a first-draft framework for guiding the development and scientific evaluation of transition arenas. Future work is required to empirically validate the framework in other real-world transition arenas. A feasible research agenda is provides to support this work.

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Date Created
  • 2015

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Automobile path dependence in Phoenix: driving sustainability by getting off of the pavement and out of the car

Description

A methodology is developed that integrates institutional analysis with Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to identify and overcome barriers to sustainability transitions and to bridge the gap between environmental practitioners and

A methodology is developed that integrates institutional analysis with Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to identify and overcome barriers to sustainability transitions and to bridge the gap between environmental practitioners and decisionmakers. LCA results are rarely joined with analyses of the social systems that control or influence decisionmaking and policies. As a result, LCA conclusions generally lack information about who or what controls different parts of the system, where and when the processes' environmental decisionmaking happens, and what aspects of the system (i.e. a policy or regulatory requirement) would have to change to enable lower environmental impact futures. The value of the combined institutional analysis and LCA (the IA-LCA) is demonstrated using a case study of passenger transportation in the Phoenix, Arizona metropolitan area. A retrospective LCA is developed to estimate how roadway investment has enabled personal vehicle travel and its associated energy, environmental, and economic effects. Using regional travel forecasts, a prospective life cycle inventory is developed. Alternative trajectories are modeled to reveal future "savings" from reduced roadway construction and vehicle travel. An institutional analysis matches the LCA results with the specific institutions, players, and policies that should be targeted to enable transitions to these alternative futures. The results show that energy, economic, and environmental benefits from changes in passenger transportation systems are possible, but vary significantly depending on the timing of the interventions. Transition strategies aimed at the most optimistic benefits should include 1) significant land-use planning initiatives at the local and regional level to incentivize transit-oriented development infill and urban densification, 2) changes to state or federal gasoline taxes, 3) enacting a price on carbon, and 4) nearly doubling vehicle fuel efficiency together with greater market penetration of alternative fuel vehicles. This aggressive trajectory could decrease the 2050 energy consumption to 1995 levels, greenhouse gas emissions to 1995, particulate emissions to 2006, and smog-forming emissions to 1972. The potential benefits and costs are both private and public, and the results vary when transition strategies are applied in different spatial and temporal patterns.

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  • 2014

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Municipal solid waste management in India: finding sustainable pathways for the city of Bangalore

Description

During the months from June to November 2012, the city of Bangalore was faced with a serious solid waste management (SWM) crisis. In the wake of the upheaval, the state

During the months from June to November 2012, the city of Bangalore was faced with a serious solid waste management (SWM) crisis. In the wake of the upheaval, the state court declared source segregation to be mandatory. Yet, while the legislation was clear, the pathway towards a course of action for the transition was not clear and hence, Bangalore was stuck in a state of limbo. The objectives for this thesis spiraled organically from this crisis. The first objective was to examine the gaps in Bangalore's transition to a more sustainable SWM system. Six particular gaps were identified, which in essence, were opportunities to re-shape the system. The gaps identified included: conflicting political agendas, the exclusion of some key actors, and lack of adequate attention to cultural aspects, provision of appropriate incentives, protection of livelihoods and promotion of innovation. Opportunities were found in better incentivization of sustainable SWM goals, protecting livelihoods that depend on waste, enhancing innovation and endorsing local, context based SWM solutions. Building on this understanding of gaps, the second objective was to explore an innovative, local, bottom-up waste-management model called the Vellore Zero Waste Model, and assess its applicability to Bangalore. The adaptability of the model depended on several factors such as, willingness of actors to redefine their roles and change functions, ability of the municipality to assure quality and oversight, willingness of citizen to source segregate, and most importantly, the political will and collective action needed to ensure and sustain the transition. The role of communication as a vital component to facilitate productive stakeholder engagement and to promote role change was evident. Therefore, the third objective of the study was to explore how interpersonal competencies and communication strategies could be used as a tool to facilitate stakeholder engagement and encourage collective action. In addressing these objectives, India was compared with Austria because Austria is often cited as having some of the best SWM practices in the world and has high recycling rates to show for its reputation.

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Date Created
  • 2013