Posts tagged with "UC Berkeley":

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Department of Energy names Solar Decathlon teams, but mum about competition site

Brace yourself O.C.: It’s unclear if the battle of the Solar Decathlon will return to Irvine’s Orange County Great Park in 2017. This week the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced 16 participating teams who are gearing up for the task of designing and building a solar-powered house, but the feds have yet to announce the competition site. Hailing from colleges and universities across the United States and around the world—from Rolla, Missouri to Utrecht, Netherlands—the teams have nearly two years to develop an affordable and energy-efficient design strategy. According to the DOE, the Solar Decathlon teams compete in 10 contests that range from architecture and engineering to home appliance performance. Judges are looking for “[T]he team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.” In past years, teams had to cover some hefty research, design, construction, and shipping costs. But for one team the gamble will pay off. The winner takes home a whopping $2 million prize. (That’s a pretty huge PV array.) Homes will be showcased and on view to the public for free tours in mid-2017. The Solar Decathlon 2017 teams are:
  • École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland
  • Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Daytona State College
  • Georgia Institute of Technology
  • HU University of Applied Science Utrecht, Netherlands
  • Missouri University of Science and Technology
  • Northwestern University
  • Rice University
  • Syracuse University
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • University of California at Berkeley
  • University of California at Davis
  • University of Maryland
  • University of Nevada, Las Vegas
  • Washington State University
  • Washington University
  • West Virginia University
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Contrary to popular belief, the sacred "T" in TOD may not be necessary for reduced car dependence

Urban planning credo states that, through design and policy interventions that improve access to public transportation, Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) reduces car dependency and encourages individuals to walk, bike, bus, or take the train to their destination. Well, maybe. A University of California, Berkley study suggest that, for rail, the T in TOD may not be necessary to reduce car travel in neighborhoods that are dense and walkable, with scarce parking. fig1 In a study of rail transit's impact on travel patterns, Daniel Chatman, associate professor in the Department of City & Regional Planning at UC Berkeley, challenged the assumption that easy access to rail leads to less reliance on cars (and subsequently lower rates of car ownership). Were there other factors at play, like narrower streets, good parking, wider sidewalks, and nearby destinations? Chatman received over 1,100 responses to a survey he sent to households living within a two-mile radius of ten New Jersey train stations, within commuting distance to Manhattan. Chatman asked residents about what type of house they lived in, on- and off-street parking availability, travel for work and leisure, residential location preferences, and household demographics. 30 percent of respondents lived in housing that was less than seven years old. Half lived within walking distance (0.4 miles) to rail, in TOD-designated and non-designated developments. Controlling for housing type, bus access, amount of parking, and population density, among other markers, the availability of on- and off-street parking, not rail access, was the key determinate in auto ownership and car dependence. The study asserts that "households with fewer than one off-street parking space per adult had 0.16 fewer vehicles per adult. Households with both low on- and off-street parking availability had 0.29 fewer vehicles per adult." Living in a new house near a train station, moreover, was correlated with a 27 percent lower rate of car ownership compared to residents further afield. Bus access was also key in determining car use. The number of bus stops within one mile of a residence is a good indicator of public transit accessibility, and there are usually more bus stops in denser areas. The study found that "doubling the number of bus stops within a mile radius around the average home was associated with 0.08 fewer vehicles per adult." Compared to areas with poor bus access and plentiful parking, car ownership was reduced by 44 percent when strong bus access converged with poor parking availability. To reduce car ownership and use, municipalities don't necessarily have to invest in rail. Reducing the availability of parking, providing better bus service, developing smaller houses (and more rentals), and creating employment centers in walkable, densely populated downtowns may accomplish the same objective, at considerably less expense.
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This mapping tool shows the effects of gentrification and displacement in the Bay Area

Researchers at UCLA and the UC-Berkeley are mapping neighborhood change in the Bay Area. The Urban Displacement Project uses government housing, land use, transportation, and Census data from 1990–2013 to find markers that represent turnover in housing, demographic shifts, and new investment. Led by UC-Berkeley's Karen Chapple and Miriam Zuk, researchers divided the nine-county Bay Area’s 1,569 Census tracts into low- and high-income tracts. Low-income tracts were defined as areas where 39 percent of households earn 80 percent less than each county’s median income, and high income tracts where less than 39 percent of households are considered low income. Low- and high-income tracts were categorized by residential displacement “risk factors.” Significantly, the report defines “gentrification” and “displacement” differently. Displacement is defined as a net loss of low income residents, while “gentrification” is tangible evidence of neighborhood investment and/or an influx of more affluent residents. This is important because, as the researchers found, gentrification in some areas happened before displacement, while in others, displacement comes first or occurs at the same time as gentrification. Lower income tracts were assessed for risk of gentrification and displacement, while higher income tracts were assessed for displacement risk only. Overall, 51 percent of tracts did not experience significant displacement, while 48 percent are losing low-income residents. Researchers found that 422 tracts are “at risk” of displacing poor residents, while 165 are “currently experiencing displacement.” The map is intended as a resource for community groups taking action to prevent displacement. The data is retrospective, shedding light on regional population trends. Planners, however, cannot use the data to make sure predictions about where gentrification and displacement is likely to occur in the future. The data doesn’t reveal where displaced residents move to, or account for other qualitative factors that may prompt a move. Transportation planning and development can benefit a lower-income area, if officials take into account the economic and social needs of the existing population. Some areas, including  East Palo Alto, and Marin City, have actively forestalled displacement with housing subsidies and community organizing.