Master’s Project Abstracts: North Carolina Case Studies

Several Master’s Projects from the graduated class of 2021 underscored the impact the Department of City and Regional Planning can have in addressing equity, resilience, and accessibility across the North Carolinian planning landscape. A selection of abstracts and accompanying links to the full report are listed below.

For a complete list of DCRP Master’s Projects see here, and for more information on the Master’s Project process, here.

“The Answer Really Lies in the Community”: Exploring Inequity in Resilience Planning through Community Voice – A Study of Post-Florence New Bern, North Carolina

By Ranger Ruffins

The most recent National Climate Assessment states that low-income and marginalized groups with “lower capacity to prepare for and cope with extreme weather and climate-related events” will continue to be most affected, and that “adaptation actions for the most vulnerable populations” should be prioritized. However, while equity is receiving more attention in planning discourse, the uneven impacts of hazards on socially vulnerable populations are often ignored by traditional planning efforts. In 2018 Hurricane Florence devastated New Bern, NC, and in its aftermath revealed communities that were disproportionately at risk from the impacts of the hurricane. Through interviews with New Bern residents, this study aims to provide valuable insight regarding challenges and barriers facing equitable resilience planning in New Bern. The participants’ stories, experiences, and insight speak to some of the factors contributing to uneven resilience across the city. This study found that the avoidance and lack of confronting racism in New Bern, coupled with issues of mistrust and poor community engagement practices, are contributing to patterns of inequitable resilience in New Bern. This paper aims to provide a further understanding of these complex challenges and offer insight that can inspire approaches to resilience planning that best serve all of New Bern’s residents.

Bicycle Parking in Chapel Hill, North Carolina: Where It’s at and Where It’s Going

By Eli Powell

Chapel Hill, North Carolina, is a bustling college town with a great number of bicyclists, yet bicycle parking is a largely neglected topic by both its Code of Ordinances and its transportation planning staff. This project seeks to change that. Over six months in 2020, I collected a fieldwork inventory of almost all bicycle parking and maintenance resources within Town limits. I published this inventory as a public-facing interactive map and used it internally to perform a site-level analysis of adherence to the Town’s bicycle parking capacity requirements and design guidelines. I then evaluated the results of this analysis and consulted bicycle parking requirements in five United States municipalities similar to Chapel Hill to formulate recommendations to Town planning staff on improving their own codified bicycle parking requirements. My findings suggest that at least half of all sites in Chapel Hill have been violating bicycle parking capacity requirements and that almost all of them have been violating design guidelines, with the most common offense being an unsatisfactory amount of long-term parking. With my assistance, the Town of Chapel Hill Planning Department will use this dataset to amend bicycle parking capacity requirements and design guidelines in the Town’s Land Use Management Ordinance. The dataset will also be useful to all Chapel Hill bicyclists for more reliably locating bicycle parking at their destinations, making the Town of Chapel Hill a more bicycle-friendly place to live, work, and visit.

Dorothea Dix Park Access Study

Lucy Laird

This project proposes improvements to the Raleigh transit network and to Dorothea Dix Park’s edges that will allow for greater accessibility to neighborhoods both proximate and farther from the park, with an eye toward environmental justice concerns.

Historic Preservation and the Plan Integration for Resilience Scorecard: Case Study in New Bern, NC.

Rachael Wolff

Climate change will lead to more frequent and powerful natural hazards that can threaten historic resources and the benefits they provide to communities. Integration of different planning efforts offers one strategy towards better understanding gaps between land use policies that support or hinder resilience of historic resources. While prior research has explored both disaster planning for historic preservation and the resilience of a community’s network of plans, these two topics have not yet been combined. This study builds upon previous applications of the Plan Integration for Resilience Scorecard and applies it to historic properties at risk from flooding in New Bern, North Carolina. Using the 100-year floodplain and Hurricane Florence flood extent as the hazard zones and a sample of historic resources designated on the National Register as the planning districts, this research analyzes whether land use policies in New Bern’s network of plans increase or decrease resilience of historic properties. Findings suggest that New Bern’s historic resources are vulnerable to flood hazards since contradictory plans do not support their resilience. However, the deep, local ties of historic preservation planning provide an opportunity to enhance resilience and protect future resources.

Making the Case for Planning Analysts: A Study for North Carolina Localities

Hallee Haygood

This project considers whether an analyst within city and county departments would be beneficial to its growth and success. An individual in this role could address roles of budget preparation, strategic planning, special projects, and more. A variety of departments currently have this type of position, and this paper outlines the recommendations for this position. In addition, it clarifies that based on qualitative interviews, it may not be necessary for all planning departments. Typically, those with over 250,000 people benefit the most from these positions. Municipalities like Raleigh, Durham, and Wake County were the most interested in this opportunity. As such, I recommend that localities consider adding these positions, and their benefits can be further studied.

Walking and Biking while Black: Wake County, NC

Luke Lowry

For Black Americans, the risk of being a victim of traffic violence while walking or biking is higher than it is for the general public. However, for local and regional governments, racial crash disparities are not well documented, and existing methods for addressing racial crash disparities are not widespread. Consequently, the purpose of this report is to provide an example of racial crash disparities at the regional level, and to test the effectiveness of an existing method used to address racial differences in crashes. Wake County, NC was selected as the analysis region for two reasons: the robust pedestrian and bicycle crash data publicly available, and the lack of existing analysis on pedestrian and bicyclist crashes by race. The ‘High Priority Network’ method for addressing racial disparities is the most popular existing model, and it can be easily modified for different regions. The Portland Vision Zero ‘High Priority Network’ model is a prominent version of this model; thus, it was applied and tested in Wake County. Its three main components—Communities of Concern, High Crash Roads, and High Crash Intersections—were analyzed individually. The analysis revealed that the overall rates of crashes were considerably higher for Black pedestrians and bicyclists, as were the median crash rates by Census Tract. Additionally, Black pedestrians and bicyclist crash victims had consistently less access to infrastructure at the location of the crash. When applied to Wake County, the Portland model for High Priority Networks was fairly competent at locating areas within Wake County with high numbers of Black crashes and a high rate of Black crashes. By modifying the network to focus on racial metrics, the model was more effective at addressing areas of high racial disparity. While some of the racial metrics were less effective at addressing all crashes within the system, a model which combines the standard metrics used by Portland and racial-specific metrics may result in better equity outcomes while not sacrificing the overall efficacy of the model.

By James Hamilton

Featured image courtesy of Carolina Angles