Publication: Sustainable Mobility in Metro-Detroit: A BRT Proposal
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City infrastructure and mobility culture in the U.S. have been heavily influenced by the invention of the automobile, a clear case in the city of Detroit. Once considered the ‘Motor City Capital’, its own paradoxical rise and demise can both be attributed to the stronghold the automobile industry had on government, the economy, and U.S. culture, and whose interests spurred the decentralization of cities, a deeply rooted and lasting car culture, and the elimination of public transportation in Detroit and across the U.S. As such, the following study introduces a contextually relevant review of mobility in the U.S., mobility in Detroit, and current public transit in Detroit, serving to make a case for, as well as inform and guide, its objectives and methodology. Elaborating on the consequential lack of public transit infrastructure, the analysis suggests the introduction of transit oriented development (TOD) and smart mobility strategies for public transportation in the form of a proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system in Metro Detroit. Using a GIS-based approach with ArcGIS Pro, the methodology includes: building a network dataset from which to simulate mobility in Metro Detroit, determining and weighing various influences of demand for public transit to inform placement of BRT routes and stops, and running Location-Allocation and Service Area modeling across various proposed BRT scenarios. Then, comparing resulting scenarios via metrics of weighted demand, weighted distance, and accessibility, an optimal BRT scenario is suggested. The study then concludes by commenting on the broader implications of BRT implementation, the matrixed approach to BRT decision-making, the role of transit-oriented development in satisfying BRT criteria, as well as additional limitations and areas for further analysis.
I would like to start by expressing deep gratitude for the opportunity to study smart cities and sustainability at such a holistic matrix of environmental, social, political, and economic influences. To me, this program packaged the emotional energy reasonably surging from a generation thrown into an alarming tipping point of anthropogenic climate change, transforming it into a tactical skill set of strategic GIS modeling, creative orchestration of smart city drivers, and deepened curiosity for pushing new boundaries, all aimed to bolster resilience, inclusivity, and sustainability. The concept of sustainability always has and always will occupy my time, space, and energy; yet, only now, am I armed and equipped with these actionable, measurable, and scalable tools to serve this space. As always, it takes a village. A very special thanks to everyone who has invigorated and shared a passion for sustainability, who has expressed curiosity in this project, who has checked in to motivate and recenter me, who has helped and understood my spanglish, and who has encouraged and infused an environment of creativity, abundance, inclusivity, vulnerability, connection, and balance, along the way. To the Universidad de Complutense Madrid, to all faculty members of the Masters in Ciudades Inteligentes y Sostenibles, to my respective classmates, and to my patient thesis tutor Javier Gutiérrez Puebla, for collaborating to create this learning and launching experience. To Bama, Earl, Julie, Sue, Claire, Alex, and Lily, for planting roots grounded by love, openness, and connection, making it easy and fun to grow. To my husband Alexander Saavedra for turning a year of uncertainty and chaos into an opportunity to evolve into an even more powerful team, perfectly balancing a light-hearted and deeply evolved space. And a special shoutout to my hypewoman classmate friend Anahi Marcela González Ferreira, my urban-planning-minded Detroiter friend Gabe Gedda-Shaheen, my public-transit-enthusiast friend Liz Kashouris, my everything-in-between bestie Gauree, for all the inspiration. May we all find joy, purpose, strength, and community in playing an authentic role to serve and align with our environment. I’m thankful, excited, and committed in a journey to realize mine.
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