Urban Design & Planning Interdisciplinary PhD

Topic Areas & Projects

Below you will find a small sampling of projects currently being undertaken by faculty associated with the Interdisciplinary PhD Program in Urban Design & Planning. From the years 2012 to 2013 faculty associated with the program conducted research projects with a total budget of more than 45 million dollars.

Urban Ecology & Wellbeing

Snohomish Basin Scenarios for 2060
Bullitt Foundation
$160,000. 2011-2013
(PI: Marina Alberti)

The Snohomish Basin Scenarios (SBS) aim to support critical decisions for maintaining ecosystem functions in the Snohomish Basin in the long term despite irreducible uncertainty. The Project, led by the Urban Ecology Research Lab in partnership with a team of regional experts, aimed to develop and assess hypotheses about the future trajectories of ecosystem service provision in the basin by characterizing the uncertainty associated with alternative future baseline conditions. The project culminated in four scenarios presenting unique and surprising sets of future conditions. Together the four scenarios are intended to provide decision-makers with essential information for testing, monitoring, innovating and prioritizing policies in light of potential opportunities and challenges that future conditions may present. Project lessons are translated into six areas of support for making decisions under uncertainty. Scenario planning provides a systematic approach to 1) focus on system resilience rather than controlling change, 2) redefine the decision context and framework, 3) challenge our assumptions about future conditions, 4) highlight risks and opportunities that prompt creative solutions, 5) monitor warning signals of regime shifts, and 6) identify robust decisions under uncertainty.

Center for Child Environmental Health Risks Research
US Environmental Protection Agency
$5,417,075. 2009-2015
(PIs: Elaine Faustman)

Building on our 10-year history as a Center, we have designed a multi-disciplinary research program including members from multiple institutions, schools, departments, disciplines and communities to facilitate both basic and applied research aimed at identifying and reducing the influence of potential environmental exposures in children. This research program includes basic mechanistic studies of toxicity, exposure assessment, risk assessment, and Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR).
We have used a public health biomarkers paradigm based on risk assessment in order to understand the relationship between potential exposures and hazards. Our projects include evaluation of age, seasonal, temporal, and gene-environment factors that define within- and between-person variability for potential organophosphate (OP) pesticide exposures and response.

Urban Development Processes

TWINStudy of Environment, Lifestyle Behaviors, and Health
National Institutes of Health
$2,579,180. 2011-2016
(PIs: Glen Duncan, Anne Vernez Moudon, Phil Hurvitz)

A twin study of gene by environment interactions on lifestyle behaviors and health. This research uses a twin design to examine how the built environment is associated with physical activity and eating habits, and how aspects of the built environment operate through the mechanisms of physical activity and nutrition in its association with body mass index.

Social Impact Assessment of Intensive Development: High-Rise Life in Urban Qatar
National Priorities Research Program of the Qatar National Research Fund
$506,000. 2011-2014
(PIs: Lynne Manzo, Kaltham Ali Al-Ghanim)

Over the past decade, Qatar has embarked upon a particularly ambitious development program. Much of this development consists of urban development. Dense and high-rise dwellings have proliferated — indeed, they arguably represent Doha’s model for the future. Analysis of the built environment has been central to the social sciences, and while it is certainly true that humans shape the built environment, it is also true that the built environment shapes our sociocultural life: it impacts the way we live, work, play, relate to one another, organize and cope with the challenges we collectively face. This project will measure the impacts of Qatar’s new built environment upon families and individuals in Doha, with the overarching mission of better anticipating the sociocultural challenges this built environment might pose. The project is framed as a social impact assessment. It combines ethnographic methods with spatial analysis. Researchers will develop a survey questionnaire (n=1000) that will allow analysis to explore the social impact of high-rise life through a diverse set of variables. A subset of these variables will be spatial, and the project will use GIS and Remote Sensing techniques to develop mapping models for the social and the built-environment factors. Collectively, these data are intended to directly inform the planning process in contemporary Qatar. This project will be developed in conjunction with the Urban Planning and Development Authority in Qatar.

Urban Environment & Transportation

An Innovative Survey Design to Understand Sustainable Travel Behaviors
Research and Innovative Technology Administration, US Department of Transportation
$240,00. 2012-2013
(PIs: Cynthia Chen)

An innovative survey is being undertaken with rolling samples to address a major fiscal challenge faced by many MPOs. Faced with a small, but continuous budget, MPOs are increasingly unable to continue the current survey practice: conducting a large survey every 10 years. A rolling sample design also has other benefits over the current practice. Yet, for its implementation in household travel surveys, many questions exist. Some are technical issues, while others are cost and procedural-related. The primary purpose of this project is to understand these issues and provide recommendations for a future household travel survey with rolling samples.

Bicycle Route Choice: GPS Data Collection and Travel Model Development
PacTrans/US Department of Transportation
$30,000. 2012-2013
(PIs: Qing Shen)

Bicycle use is being promoted for a variety of social benefits. Because of the benefits associated with bicycling, jurisdictions across the central Puget Sound region and the nation have been investing in improvements to bicycle infrastructure. Academic and professional literature provides a basis for generally understanding bicycling behavior. However, less is known about the benefits of one facility type over another, or the potential inducement of new bicycle users when a policy intervention improves bicycling conditions.

This study will rely on GPS bicycle trace data collected by the Puget Sound Regional Council through the CycleTrack mobile application. The objectives of the study include improving the Puget Sound Regional Council’s travel demand model to include bicycle route choice and assignment, which will allow for policy analysis and an improved understanding of the tradeoffs between facilities, the relationship between utilitarian and recreational bicycling, and an analysis of the utility of a number of bicycle facilities that will become operational over the course of the study.