From the Archives: 2020 Master’s Projects

Master’s project proposals are due today! While second-year DCRP students work to finalize their items for submission, let’s revisit a few projects completed by the class of 2020.

Today’s post comes from pieces originally published on February 7, 2020 and January 17, 2020.

UNC’s top-ranked master’s program is designed to successfully prepare students for professional planning practice. A central component of the curriculum is a final capstone project, an ‘MP,’ which provides an opportunity for students to apply the skills and knowledge they’ve developed in the classroom and demonstrate their readiness for practice. But the MP is also a space for students to engage with pressing social and institutional challenges that affect real-world communities.

Transportation Disadvantage of Refugees in the Research Triangle of North Carolina (Kaitlin Heatwole)

Building on transportation equity research that was conducted with refugees in Vermont (Bose 2014) and Ontario (Farber et al 2018), I’m surveying refugees who have settled in the Research Triangle to learn more about how they get around. Specifically, I’m interested in modes of travel, travel times, and barriers they face to access work, school, groceries, child care, healthcare, social connections, and other destinations. Results of this multi-lingual survey will identify patterns of refugees’ travel behaviors and recommend steps that public transit, housing, and other service agencies can take to meet the transportation, housing, and employment needs of this group.

Retiree In-Migration and Low-Wage Job Growth (Paul Liu)

In many areas of the U.S., the number of seniors and retirees is growing relative to other age cohorts. This demographic shift can have wide-ranging implications on regional labor markets and economic development more broadly. Because retirees do not participate in the labor force but still demand goods and services, some have argued that retirees’ consumption patterns drive demand for low-wage and part-time labor. However, up-to-date research on the effect of retiree spending habits on regional labor markets is surprisingly limited. To fill this gap, I am developing an econometric analysis using publicly available data to determine whether there is, in fact, a causal relationship between retiree in-migration and the number of low-wage jobs. These results will provide a valuable and much-needed understanding of the relationship between retiree in-migration and regional job quality.

Curbside Management in North Carolina (Tory Gibler)

Curbside management seeks to optimize curbside usage, typically in urban downtowns, where a variety of users, businesses, and city functions are all competing for limited space. Large cities such as San Francisco, Seattle, and New York are proactively addressing curbside management, but curb competition is not unique to large metropolitan areas. Small to mid-size southeastern cities face the same challenges at the curb, particularly with the growth in Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft, the emergence of micromobility start-ups (e.g. e-scooter and dockless bicycle companies), urban freight delivery, and new complete street policies. My research looks at six North Carolina cities to better understand how these urban areas are managing the curb in light of new 21st century challenges.

Water Committees in sub-Saharan Africa (Catherine McManus)

The United Nations estimates that 1.8 billion people worldwide do not have access to safely managed drinking water sources. A major contributing factor to this problem in sub-Saharan Africa is that 25% of hand-pumps no longer work within four years of their construction. What explains why some water points reliably serve a community for decades while others fail within a year? Often, the answer lies in how local water committees manage their water systems. My MP looks at data from more than 3,000 water points across twelve countries in sub-Saharan Africa to understand whether different characteristics of these committees – including their composition, operations, and fee collection system – influence local water system functionality. I also intend to examine the potential of new definitions of ‘functionality’ to test the validity of existing, commonly used measures. These are questions we need to answer to help guarantee safe, reliable sources of drinking water for all.