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Two Oregon elementary schools recently had their parking lots redesigned by the students.

5th grade classes at Beaverton’s Chehalem Elementary and 5th and 6th graders at Tobias Elementary in Aloha took part in a NITC education project, Investigations in Transportation, co-sponsored by Portland State University, the Portland Metro STEM Partnership and the Oregon Department of Transportation.

The students' work yielded functional changes which will likely be made to the parking lots at both schools, resulting in better traffic flow and increased capacity.

William Becker, the director of PSU’s Center for Science Education, and Carol Biskupic-Knight began the NITC project in collaboration with the Portland Metro STEM Partnership, where Biskupic-Knight is the director of the STEM teachers academy.

The unit was designed to teach students real-world applications of core concepts in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). After exploring several potential engineering challenges at their schools, both groups of students chose to work on the “Parking Lot Dilemma.”

Transportation professionals from ODOT visited the...

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Some people go to great lengths searching for parking, but perhaps none more so than Eran Ben-Joseph. Ben-Joseph, head of the Joint Program in City Design and Development at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, had a different mission than most: find a well-designed lot to highlight in his site-planning course.

 “Students always ask, ‘Can you show us some good parking lots?’” Ben-Joseph said. “And it was mind-boggling how you just couldn’t find enough.”

Ben-Joseph’s search led to his latest book, “ReThinking a Lot: The Design and Culture of Parking.” Ben-Joseph details his exploration of parking Sept. 10 as the keynote speaker of the Oregon Transportation Summit.

Some parking lots are well vegetated or handle runoff well, Ben-Joseph said. But few stand up as well-planned, well-designed case studies. In part, he said, you get what you ask for. And communities haven’t held lots to comparable standards as buildings or roads.

“From a regulation standpoint, I found that in most cases, the code is very minimal,” Ben-Joseph said. “It might say, ‘You need one tree for every five cars, enter here, exit here,’ but not how to lay it out.”

Parking lots make an easy target, Ben-Joseph said. But he didn’t set out to attack them any more than to defend them.

“Parking is as much of a hot potato as politics is now...

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