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    Faculty & Student Research and Engagement (Rodriguez)

    Ever wonder what projects you could be working on as a DCRP student? We asked a couple of Daniel Rodriguez's students.


    Faculty and students at DCRP carry out an extensive body of research and engage in a variety of projects working with local communities and clients.
    Research is carried out at our own research centers as well as through partnerships with academic, governmental, business, and non-profit organizations.  Students in the department are also active participants in community-based planning workshop courses in which they engage directly with local community groups. In addition to faculty and doctoral research projects, Master’s students also engage in research and engagement through their Master’s Projects.

    Faculty focus: Dr. Daniel Rodriguez

    rodriguezblue.jpgMy research focuses on the relationship between transportation and land development. I examine this relationship at various scales. At the individual level, I have studied that land value impacts of transit investments and the impacts of urban form on travel behavior and physical activity. At the regional scale, I study the relationship between regional policies and travel patterns, and  how plans can be used to strengthen the reciprocal connection between transportation and land use.  The work I do is driven by practical problems and aims to inform planners and policy-makers.  Learn more about my research >>

    Combsblue.jpgTabitha Combs

    I am a doctoral candidate at DCRP, and will graduate in May, 2013. My research focuses on understanding the built environment-travel behavior connection, and how to leverage that connection to enable more socially and environmentally sustainable development. Under the guidance of Professor Rodriguez, I have completed and defended my dissertation on the joint impacts of bus rapid transit investment and transit-supportive urban form on motor vehicle dependence in Bogotá, Colombia. In addition to my dissertation, I have collaborated with Professor Rodriguez on a number of domestic and international projects, including an analysis of urban mobility patterns in Ecuador and a multi-site investigation of travel behavior and physical activity in new urbanist neighborhoods in the US. Prior to joining the doctoral program, I received my masters in planning at DCRP, with specializations in land use and environmental planning.

    howlettblue.jpgMarc Howlett
    I am a sixth year doctoral student in the Department of City and Regional Planning. My specialization is freight transportation planning and policy. Although a relatively understudied component of urban planning, freight transportation is increasingly important to policymakers and researchers. Dr. Daniel Rodriguez connected me with his colleague Dr. Michael Belzer of Wayne State University, and I helped conduct a year-long study of the feasibility of Detroit, Michigan becoming a major inland port. The study produced a report and multiple conference presentations, including one I gave at the National Urban Freight Conference in Long Beach, California. Building from the experiences in that project, my dissertation focuses on the implementation of federal freight transportation policy at regional metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs). With the guidance of Dr. Rodriguez, my dissertation employs an integrated mixed-methods research design combining quantitative analysis of a national survey with qualitative case studies.

    Kashblue.jpgGwen Kash

    I began working with Dr. Rodriguez as a masters student, but my work with him examining how best to assess ongoing transit reforms in Bogotá motivated me to transfer to the PhD program.  I am now a second year doctoral student.  My professional background is as a community organizer in Harlem, New York City.  My research works to incorporate some of the insights of that field into the way planners interact with the people our systems serve, particularly in terms of effective communication and needs identification.  I examine these questions in the context of transit reform in Latin America, and have investigated cases in Bogotá, Colombia and Arequipa, Perú.  Both cities are in the process of integrating all local public transit, Bogotá as a complement to TransMilenio and Arequipa as an opportunity to both implement BRT and reorganize bus service throughout the city.  I use a mixed methods approach, attempting generate a holistic picture of how technical experts, policymakers, and residents understand the challenges their cities face.

    Vergelblue.jpgErik Vergel
    I am a third year doctoral student and Fulbright scholar with research interests in the relationship between urban development, affordable housing and transportation investments in Latin America. Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is a high cost effective transportation system designed with exclusive lanes for buses along trunk corridors with feeder routes that offer transportation services to certain neighborhoods located close to BRT terminals or intermodal stops. Latin America is leading nowadays BRT investments worldwide, while at the same time innovative land management instruments and finance tools are under implementation in several large and medium size cities. I have been working with Dr. Rodriguez in the research project Land development impacts of BRT in Latin America” which aims to develop a typology and understand the dynamics of land development changes around BRT stations as well as to examine the institutional and planning factors associated to the current built environment around them. This research project constitutes the point of departure of my dissertation work. My dissertation prospectus focuses on the relationship between BRT systems and the built environment as well as the location of housing for low income groups in relation to BRT investments. Within this framework, I am also interested in the role that local actors and institutions can play in potential planning scenarios where transportation investments and affordable housing supply match. This research process is developed based on Dr. Rodriguez’s research on land use transportation connection (i.e. relationship between the built environment and travel behavior, land use and transportation investments) in the North America and Latin America.  Prior to entering the doctoral program at UNC-CH, I worked as policy maker on housing and urban development issues at the National Planning Department (DNP) of Colombia.

    contiblue.jpgVeronica Conti
    I am currently in my third year of a dual degree program in Health Behavior at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and in the Department of City and Regional Planning, specializing in transportation. My primary research interests include the intersection of the built environment, transportation and health, access to nutritious foods and physical activity, and chronic health disparities. I have been able to highlight and support the work of communities addressing these issues across the country as a graduate assistant at both Active Living By Design and the National Center for Safe Routes to School. For my master’s paper I am analyzing the relationship between access to public transportation and physical activity through a systematic and comprehensive literature review. Employing a socio-ecological perspective to my review I am considering interventions most effective at increasing physical activity through transit use at each level of the socio-ecological model: the individual, social environment, built environment, and policy.

    Langfordblue.jpgKristen Langford

    I am a second year masters student at DCRP. My master’s paper involves developing a model for urban park usage based on factors such as the built environment, neighborhood demographics, and park facilities. This research builds on Professor Rodriguez's work on the relationship between physical activity and the built environment. I will be working directly with Prof.  Rodriguez to develop the research methodology and hopefully the project will result in a peer-reviewed publication. Before starting at DCRP I worked for a Metropolitan Planning Organization and a city planning department on projects related to active transportation, comprehensive planning, and outreach to traditionally underrepresented populations.

    Greenblue.jpgGeoffrey Green

    I am a second year masters student at DCRP with an interest in the intersection between land use and transportation. I am presently conducting research with Dr. Rodriguez on the connections between changes in a neighborhood's physical infrastructure over time with the socioeconomic and demographic makeup of the population living in the neighborhood. In a prior career I practiced law and I am currently a transportation planning intern with Triangle Transit in Durham, North Carolina.

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