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A powerful educational tool that also achieves planning results for communities is spreading from Oregon to universities around the world.

The Sustainable City Year Program, or SCYP, is part of the Sustainable Cities Initiative, a cross-disciplinary organization supported by NITC and based at the University of Oregon.

With the guidance provided in a new NITC report, replicating the program will be easier than ever.

What makes the SCYP so successful is its unique approach to teaching: students in various disciplines are recruited to work on real-world projects and create solutions for communities, free of charge. Community partners are chosen through a competitive selection process. 

In a NITC technology transfer project, "Disseminating the Sustainable City Year Program (SCYP) Educational Model," the program’s co-founders Nico Larco and Marc Schlossberg have published a specific set of strategies and resources to help universities construct similar experience-based learning programs.

  • Download the report here.

"One of the great things...

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May 13, 2011
Content Type: Professional Development Event

The video begins at 1:55.

Abstract: This year, the Sustainable City Year (SCY) program is working with the City of Salem (Oregon, USA) and is directing 25 faculty, 28 courses, 10 disciplines, and about 80,000 hours of student and faculty effort toward the city's sustainability related projects and priorities.  The talk will discuss SCY’s program structure, numerous transportation related projects, and tangible outcomes. 

In this model of education, students get hands on experience in working with city officials while city officials and citizens get a range of new ideas from the next generation of thinkers and practitioners.  This model is, at the same time, a fairly radical re-conceptualization of transportation education as well as a somewhat simple approach to incorporate.

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Recently OTREC took a look at suburbia to see how many people were walking and biking to local destinations.
Traditionally, studies of suburban locations have found that due to the low density of suburban areas and their single-land-use patterns, active transportation is rare.
In a research project by Principal Investigator Nico Larco and Co-Investigator Robert Parker, of the University of Oregon, active transportation was found to be more common than expected in suburban areas with commercial strip destinations.
In their project “Overlooked Destinations: Suburban Nodes, Centers, and Trips to Strips,” Larco and Parker observed active travel behaviors around typical suburban commercial sites. They examined six strip malls -- four in Portland, Ore. and two in Atlanta, Ga. -- to map out the “pedshed,” or walkable zone surrounding these sites.
Investigators were surprised by what they found.
For each site, they created detailed pedestrian-network GIS maps. They compared the network extents of maps that included only publicly available, street centerline data with maps that included pedestrian...
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If the posters lining the wall showed how visionary the Sustainable City Year model can be, the Salem city officials attending the May 20 reception testified how practical it can be as well. The reception recapped the work of the second Sustainable City Year, now drawing to a close.

Sustainable City Year is a program of the Sustainable Cities Initiative, one of three OTREC initiatives. In the program, 500 students on two campuses worked on 16 projects to help Salem meet sustainability goals.

Although work continues in Salem and at the University of Oregon and Portland State University, May 20 was an opportunity to thank the participants and punctuate a second successfully year, following the inaugural efforts in Gresham, Ore. Next year’s Sustainable City Year will focus on Springfield, Ore.

Linda Norris, Salem’s city manager, couldn’t say enough about the contributions the program made to her city. Students in 29 classes on the two campuses put in 80,000 hours of time. Sustainable City Year’s choosing Salem was like magic, Norris said.

The students didn’t just treat their work as a hypothetical problem to solve; they poured themselves into the projects and the goals behind them. “When we heard how seriously they were taking this, and how much they cared about this community, it really did give me goose bumps,” Norris said.

Salem did not have money to get many of the projects started without Sustainable City Year, Norris said. But now that...

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In many cases, living in suburbia means relying on an automobile for most trips, even short trips to nearby stores. If housing developments incorporated better paths and sidewalks, however, would anyone use them?

Researcher Nico Larco found that people who live in well-connected developments are significantly more likely to walk and bicycle than those in developments only accessible by automobile. He details his findings in this OTREC report.

Larco, an assistant professor of architecture at the University of Oregon, found that people who live in well-connected developments walked to their nearby commercial strips nearly twice as often as did people in less-connected developments. In addition, a greater percentage of residents in well-connected developments reported sometimes walking or cycling.

Despite suburbia’s reputation for large single-family homes, more than a quarter of suburban housing units are higher density. In fact, the suburbs are home to more than 9 million multifamily housing units, with 5 million more projected for the last 20 years. Although these units tend to be near commercial centers, a lack of pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure makes trips using these modes difficult.

For this research project, Larco developed criteria for measuring connectivity in trips taken from, to and through multifamily suburban developments. Studied developments were rated as “well...

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Ten OTREC researchers, staff, and students participated in the Transportation Research Board and University Transportation Center Transportation Systems for Livable Communities Conference last week in Washington, D.C. The conference brought together researchers and practitioners from transportation, housing and public health.

Highlights of the conference included an insightful discussion on defining livability. Despite inconclusive debate on the definition, participants agreed that for the concept to be embraced it can neither be dictated nor prescribed.  Performance measures also were a recurring theme of the two-day conference. Concepts explored included: re-evaluating outdated measures such as volume-to-capacity ratio and level of service to better reflect different modes, shifting thinking from mobility to accessibility and proximity, and data standardization and measurement methodologies. To complete the livability picture, the multigenerational and socioeconomic considerations need to be included.

The following four OTREC research projects were highlighted during the conference poster session:

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Think people who live in suburban developments don't walk and bike? They do, particularly if the development is well-connected. University of Oregon assistant professor Nico Larco has shown this with his OTREC projects.

He explains some of the work himself in this video.

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designBridge is a student-based organization at the University of Oregon that exposes students to real architectural and planning projects in their community. The organization promotes studentsí engagement in their community while providing them with professional experience that will benefit them in their careers. In this OTREC-funded education project, led by Professor Nico Larco, the students of designBridge undertook the design and construction of a new transportation shelter for Roosevelt Middle School in Eugene, Oregon. The project results include not only the completion of the shelter but also the continued development of a service learning program that can effectively address small community transportation-related needs. To learn more about the project, down the final report at: http://otrec.us/project/247

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Suburban multifamily housing makes up the fastest-growing housing market in the country. Townhouses, condos and apartment complexes bring density to suburbia. They are also often located close to commercial areas. For these reasons, they offer the potential for active transportation and mixed-use development. Yet this potential rarely becomes a reality. Professor Nico Larcoís OTREC project explores why inaccessible, disconnected forms of suburban multifamily development dominate. The project draws on interviews with architects, planners, developers, and property managers of developments in four states. It proposes ways in which current practices might shift in order to create more livable, less congested, and multi-modal suburban communities. To read the report in it’s entirety go to: http://otrec.us/project/152

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The Spring 2009 issue of OTREC's newsletter is now available, with news from students and faculty on all four OTREC campuses. The feature article examines UO Professor Nico Larco's work on "sustainable suburbs." Also included: highlights of recently completed research reports, an interview with OSU's Jason Ideker, and updates from our student groups. Do you know what OIT is doing with the National Park Service? Did you hear how PSUís Miller Grant is addressing sustainable transportation? Are you aware of the conferences and training opportunities that will be nearby this summer? Spend your next break with the OTREC Newsletter! Please email us if you would like a hard copy or to receive email notification of future issues.

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