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Congratulations to four CURS Faculty Fellows on receiving five new grants in the past quarter year. From sharing economies and ride sharing to public transportation and public housing – below are short summaries of each research project.

Grounding Digital Platforms: Socio-Spatial Mediation of Technological Change (National Science Foundation)

Torin Monahan

Torin Monahan, Department of Communication-PI. Scholars and policymakers are rapidly coming to recognize the central importance of large-scale digital platforms in shaping all aspects of commercial interaction. The digital platforms of Amazon, Google, Facebook and those of the so-called “sharing economy,” such as Uber and Airbnb, capitalize upon the production, collection and analysis of big data to fundamentally restructure entire markets. This research project will explore empirically what happens when large-scale digital platforms collide with the built world. It will attend specifically to the mediating effects of existing organizational forms, material infrastructures and cultural practices in selected U.S. cities. Using qualitative methods, the research will develop a “platform ethnography” that will include content analysis of industry, media and government documents; semi-structured interviews with key informants; and spatial mapping of platform densities and flows across urban regions. By generating findings about the local mediation of platform capitalism, this study will be able to produce recommendations for regional governments and firms looking to navigate these market shifts intelligently.

Evaluating the Impacts of a Work Requirement in Public Housing (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development)

Bill RoheWilliam Rohe, City and Regional Planning–PI. The Charlotte Housing Authority (CHA) is one of eight Moving to Work agencies that have adopted a work requirement. Based on an earlier evaluation showing that their work requirement led to substantial gains in employment with no increase in evictions, the CHA has decided to expand the policy to its remaining family public housing developments and to tenant-based Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) participants. The expansion of the work requirement offers an opportunity to further study the impacts of public housing work requirements. This new study will utilize a mixed-method approach and a quasi-experimental research design. The research design will utilize two treatment groups (project-based housing and HCV clients) and two matched comparison groups of households living in Raleigh Housing Authority developments.

Establishing a Dual Generational Modality Dataset: Comparing the Ride-Sharing Adoption Trends and Perspectives of Consumers from Two Generational Cohorts, Millennials and Gen X’ers (Southeastern Transportation Research, Innovation, Development and Education Center [STRIDE])

Allie ThomasAllie Thomas, City and Regional Planning-PI. Urban areas throughout the U.S. are experiencing growing traffic congestion. According to a study by INRIX Inc., the real cost of congestion in the U.S. alone is about $305 billion in 2017. At the same time, travel behavior has been rapidly changing. Transit ridership has been in a decline, while the use of ride services (e.g. ride hailing, ride matching, car sharing and bikesharing) has risen. This shift is viewed by many as unsustainable; however, policy makers will need to understand the rationale behind this transformation to change it. Millennial and Generation X influence on American mobility is significant. These two cohorts combined number is between 155 million to 170 million people. They have shown to be more adaptable to technology and more likely to use it in their daily lives than previous generations. This project’s objectives are to discern socio-demographic data and mobility trends among the two age cohorts. In addition, the proposed project will also consider equity issues related to ride-hailing and ride-sharing services, specifically for underrepresented populations such as African Americans, Hispanic and Asian American consumers. This research will result in primary data which will be evaluated to understand the travel behavior among two cohorts and further plan for congestion mitigation. The research will utilize a mixed methods approach to analyze the primary and as well as secondary data sources to understand the impact of usages of ride sourcing services by Millennials and Gen X on the congestion.

Changing Access to Public Transportation and the Potential for Increased Travel (STRIDE)

Noreen McDonaldNoreen McDonald, City and Regional Planning-PI. With nationwide declines in public transportation ridership, transit may be falling behind in its ability to help cities deal with congestion. Increasing real-estate values are causing the economic displacement of low-income populations, those most closely associated with transit ridership. A plethora of new mobility options are providing alternatives for transit riders who can afford them. But how will access to transit, ridership and congestion be impacted by these shifts in demographics and the introduction of new mobility services? This project includes researchers from four universities in the STRIDE (Southeastern Transportation Research, Innovation, Development and Education Center) partnership that together will address access to public transportation issues with specific contributions in suburbanization of poverty, ride-hailing/Transportation Network Companies (TNCs), health care access and vulnerable populations. There are four primary components of this study. First, a methodology will be developed to assess the externalities of the phenomenon of suburbanization of poverty with respect to access to public transportation. In addition, this work will provide a detailed analysis of sociodemographic and accessibility changes over time. Second, the study team will provide a model for transit ridership on a highly specific spatial and temporal scale to provide useful insights on the impact of service allocation policies and conflicting competition and complementarity happening with TNCs. Third, the study team will develop a better understanding of the interactions between public transit and TNC providers. Fourth, the study team will document the rapid evolution of paratransit services available to access health care.

Urban Freight and Planning (STRIDE)

Noreen McDonald, City and Regional Planning-PI. Goods movement has been a central element of urban areas for millennia. But the advent of online shopping and technological advances in logistics are reshaping freight in cities and bringing new congestion concerns to the fore. The move to 2-hour delivery windows has increased freight volumes, changed spatial patterns and shifted freight delivery modes. Cities have recognized the changes. For example, NYC reported residential deliveries increased by 29% between 2010 and 2015; the impact of this growth is traffic congestion and delays in freight deliveries as cities grapple with a lack of dedicated curb space for deliveries. But there are few guidelines on how cities should address the impacts of these rapid changes. Some cities have included freight in their transportation plans, but there is little systematic guidance available to shape these efforts. Nor has there been consideration of how this issue will shift as logistics firms employ new last-mile solutions; e.g. droids, cargo bikes, small delivery vehicles, lockers; and build consolidation centers closer to urban cores. The limited existing work on this topic is high-quality but focused on large urban centers such as Seattle which are quite different from the southeastern U.S. The goal of this project is to provide urban areas in the southeastern region with guidance on how municipal governments can accommodate expected increases in freight movements and mitigate anticipated congestion. To do this, we will conduct an environmental scan of current municipal practices around freight planning, particularly curb management and loading zone requirements. These practices will be compared to efforts of leading cities and an in-depth examination of the barriers and facilitators of implementing innovative last-mile solutions.

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