Date of Award
Master of City and Regional Planning (MCRP)
City and Regional Planning
This study focuses on accessibility as an essential performance factor in city planning and urban development. The automobile-oriented designs that characterize and organize most modern United States cities, since the 1950s, have degraded pedestrian mobility and accessibility, causing people to be largely dependent on cars rather than walk, bike, and/or use public transit to reach essential and complementary daily destinations. This pervasive condition not only hinders community and sense of place, but also negatively affects people’s health and environment. We as planners should not forget that cities should be designed to serve people rather than cars. The more our cities are pedestrian accessible, the more they will draw people in, and potentially bring about other positive qualities, like safety, that could result in a better place to live in.
This study explores how pedestrian accessibility to key destinations might be influenced by: 1-land-use spatial structure and 2- urban design, using transportation network topology as proxy. As a case study, the study compares the pedestrian accessibility afforded by four New Deal villages (Greenbelt (MD), Greendale (WI), Greenhills (OH), and Eleanor Roosevelt (P.R.)). These towns, or villages as they were originally conceived, were planned, and developed during the late 1930s as part of a comprehensive Federal economic revitalization policy program known as the New Deal (Figure 1).
All four New Deal villages cases share the same age; similar mix of architectural typologies and densities; and similar original land-use programming where most services and opportunities for socio-economic interactions were located at and near a village center. Yet, these case studies differ slightly, with one of them differing significantly in terms of urban design and transportation network layout. These villages present a convenient quasi-experimental framework to evaluate how urban design, as expressed in the scaling and design of neighborhood blocks and in the disposition of their transportation networks (pedestrian and vehicular) might influence levels of accessibility to opportunities in each village and possibly corresponding aggregate travel behavior.
Results from this investigation could inform recommendations to improve pedestrian accessibility in lower-ranking neighborhoods, according to the calculations and analysis of this study brought in the table of result (page 39) as well as inform methodologies and best-practices for the planning, design, and assessment of pedestrian accessibility in other existing or proposed neighborhoods.
Sampling strategy motivated the selection of the four New Deal Town cases in this investigation and relates to their common policy and ideological (communitarian) origins, overarching planning, and spatial design paradigms inspired by Howard’s Garden City Model, which emphasized self-sufficiency and pedestrian accessibility; similar socio-economy profile and purpose as communities geared for the working class and lower-income families; and all being publicly subsidized in pursuit of housing affordability and job creation in a time of economic crisis.
Despite all the similarities, only Eleonor Roosevelt Village exhibits a traditional web-like grid street network, in contrast to the larger and more organic superblock morphology of the other three New Deal villages located in the US mainland that reflect a distinct suburban neighborhood design tradition influenced by Clarence Stein and Henry Wright’s Radburn development, in New Jersey.
Comparing these four neighborhoods could provide me insight into the influence of urban design and land-use patterns on pedestrian accessibility as a key factor in the planning and design for more sustainable neighborhood patterns that promote more walking. The insights and methods explored in this terminal project could also inform assessment protocols to evaluate existing and future developments as a standard practice in city planning, management of the built environment, and urban design.
Shemirani, Maral, "Examining Pedestrian Accessibility to Opportunities in Four New Deal Villages" (2023). All Theses. 3980.