Scholarly Works, School of Public and International Affairs

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  • The Implications of Human Mobility and Accessibility for Transportation and Livable Cities
    Sanchez, Thomas W.; Ye, Xinyue (MDPI, 2023-10-12)
    Understanding human movement and transportation accessibility has become paramount in shaping the very fabric of our communities [...]
  • The landscape and evolution of urban planning science
    Haghani, Milad; Sabri, Soheil; De Gruyter, Chris; Ardeshiri, Ali; Shahhoseini, Zahra; Sanchez, Thomas W.; Acuto, Michele (Elsevier, 2023-05)
    The science of urban planning has drawn on a wide range of disciplines and research perspectives. This makes it challenging to define the boundaries and directions of the field. Here, nearly 100,000 articles on urban planning are analysed to objectively determine divisions, temporal trends and influential references and actors of urban planning. In terms of the structural composition, four broad divisions are identified: (1) governance and policy, (2) economics and markets, (3) housing and (4) built and natural environment. In terms of the temporal evo-lution, the earliest trends were related to "welfare economics", "agglomeration economies", "urban economics", and "urban growth machine". During the 1980s and 1990s, the focus moved towards "regional policy and development", "social welfare", and "urban renaissance". This trend continued during the 2000s and 2010s, heading to "urban morphology", "participatory planning", "urban sociology", "global cities", and "political economy". The field has recently headed towards areas of "resilience", "smart cities" and "urban green space". These transitions have been derivative, and the paradigm shifts have been very gradual. Another key observation is a notable increase in author connectivity and international collaboration. The results provide objective insights into how the science of urban planning has historically transitioned and where it is headed.
  • Where theory and practice meet: Good government, merit-based civil service, and HRM courses
    Guy, Mary E.; Mastracci, Sharon (Routledge, 2023-03)
    MPA programs are the only place where public sector human resource management (HRM) is taught. When HRM is not among the list of required courses, programs forgo their responsibility to teach the next generation of public servants why merit-based civil service is crucial to a functioning democracy. The danger of ignorance is reflected in an Executive Order issued in 2020 that would have removed job protections from thousands of federal civil servants. While the Order was rescinded in 2021, it has many advocates and remains on the agenda. This is a wake-up call to MPA programs to require students to learn why job protections are the bedrock of good government, a bedrock as foundational as a free press and more foundational than budgeting skills. However, 97% of MPA programs require a budgeting course but only 72% require an HRM course. If theory and practice meet in MPA classrooms, then HRM has to be there.
  • Planning on the Verge of AI, or AI on the Verge of Planning
    Sanchez, Thomas W. (MDPI, 2023-06-28)
    The urban planning process is complex, involving social, economic, environmental, and political systems. Knowledge of how these systems interact is the domain of professional planners. Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) present planners with a ripe opportunity to critically assess their approaches and explore how new data collection, analysis, and methods can augment the understanding of places as they seek to anticipate futures with improved quality of life. AI can offer access to more and better information about travel patterns, energy consumption, land utilization, and environmental impacts, while also helping to better integrate these systems, which is what planners do. The adoption process will likely be gradual and involve significant time and resources. This article highlights several topics and issues that should be considered during this process. It is argued that planners will be well-served by approaching AI tools in a strategic manner that involves the topics discussed here.
  • Portfolio management: A new direction in public sector strategic management research and practice
    Roberts, Patrick S.; Edwards, Lauren Hamilton (Wiley, 2023-05)
    Portfolio management is widely used by large government agencies and nonprofits, but it is rarely discussed in public administration scholarship. Portfolio management tools can illuminate groups of projects that should be considered as priority investments by highlighting the relationship of risk to outcomes. This article explores historical and theoretical reasons for the neglect of portfolio management, and then proposes using portfolio management to update a classic strategic management framework to guide organizational choices in public administration. Though portfolio management ideas originated in the private sector, public sector portfolio management differs from its private sector counterpart by trading off risk with public value or mission outcomes rather than financial outcomes. Portfolio management is a tool to incorporate risk to mission in investment decisions. It holds promise for adding an intermediate-level implementation tool to develop theories of public value. The paper concludes with hypotheses for future investigation.
  • Comparison of different spatial temperature data sources and resolutions for use in understanding intra-urban heat variation
    Kianmehr, Ayda; Lim, Theodore C.; Li, Xiaojiang (Elsevier, 2023-09)
    In this study, we investigate the compatibility of specific vulnerability indicators and heat exposure data and the suitability of spatial temperature-related data at a range of resolutions, to represent spatial temperature variations within cities using data from Atlanta, Georgia. For this purpose, we include various types of known and theoretically based vulnerability indicators such as specific street-level landscape features and urban form metrics, population-based and zone-based variables as predictors, and different measures of temperature, including air temperature (as vector-based data), land surface temperature (at resolution ranges from 30 m to 305 m), and mean radiant temperature (at resolution ranges from 1 m to 39 m) as dependent variables. Using regression analysis, we examine how different sets of predictors and spatial resolutions can explain spatial heat variation. Our findings suggest that the lower resolution of land surface temperature data, up to 152 m, and mean radiant temperature data, up to 15 m, may still satisfactorily represent spatial urban temperature variation caused by landscape elements. The results of this study have important implications for heat-related policies and planning by providing insights into the appropriate sets of data and relevant resolution of temperature measurements for representing spatial urban heat variations.
  • Civil society priorities for global health: concepts and measurement
    Smith, Stephanie L. (Oxford University Press, 2023-05-22)
    The global health agenda--a high stakes process in which problems are defined and compete for the kind of serious attention that promises to help alleviate inequities in the burden of disease--is comprised of priorities set within and among a host of interacting stakeholder arenas. This study informs crucial and unanswered conceptual and measurement questions with respect to civil society priorities in global health. The exploratory two-stage inquiry probes insights from experts based in four world regions and pilots a new measurement approach, analysing nearly 20 000 Tweets straddling the COVID-19 pandemic onset from a set of civil society organizations (CSOs) engaged in global health. Expert informants discerned civil society priorities principally on the basis of observed trends in CSO and social movement action, including advocacy, program, and monitoring and accountability activities-all of which are widely documented by CSOs active on Twitter. Systematic analysis of a subset of CSO Tweets shows how their attention to COVID-19 soared amidst mostly small shifts in attention to a wide range of other issues between 2019 and 2020, reflecting impacts of a focusing event and other dynamics. The approach holds promise for advancing measurement of emergent, sustained and evolving civil society priorities in global health.
  • Does the economic DNA of the city exist?
    Manthapuri, Sadhana; Hall, Ralph P. (Elsevier, 2023-05)
    Local economic development (LED) is a place-based planning approach. Global best practices and research focus on different contemporary marketing strategies to harness local resources for economic growth. The theoretical evolution of LED can be divided into two categories: the era before and the era after the emergence of sustainable and smart development. Many theories developed during these eras had themes/components focused on advancing LED, with each theory contributing a new idea to understanding the existing local economic structure. This research focuses on the contributions of, and connections between, different economic theories with the ambition of creating a comprehensive understanding of local economic structure. This paper advances ‘Economic DNA’ as one way to conceptualize and understand LED. The research amalgamates fourteen theories related to LED to present a theoretical foundation for “economic DNA theory”. The overarching question that this research tries to answer is do cities have a unique economic DNA that significantly impacts the city's direction of growth. If yes, what constitutes its economic DNA, and how robust is the DNA to change/mutation over time?
  • Racial-ethnic exposure disparities to airborne ultrafine particles in the United States
    Saha, Provat K.; Presto, Albert A.; Hankey, Steven C.; Marshall, Julian D.; Robinson, Allen L. (IOP Publishing, 2022-10)
    Ultrafine particles ('UFP'; <100 nm in diameter) are a subset of fine particulate matter (PM2.5); they have different sources and spatial patterns. Toxicological studies suggest UFP may be more toxic per mass than PM2.5. Racial-ethnic exposure disparities for PM2.5 are well documented; national exposure disparities for UFP remain unexplored due to a lack of national exposure estimates. Here, we combine high-spatial-resolution (census block level) national-scale estimates of long-term, ambient particle number concentrations (PNC; a measure of UFP) with publicly available demographic data (census block-group level) to investigate exposure disparities by race-ethnicity and income across the continental United States. PNC exposure for racial-ethnic minorities (Asian, Black, Hispanic) is 35% higher than the overall national mean. The magnitudes of exposure disparities vary spatially. Disparities are generally larger in densely populated metropolitan areas. The magnitudes of disparities are much larger for PNC than for PM2.5; PM2.5 exposure for racial-ethnic minorities is 9% higher than the overall national mean. Our analysis shows that PNC exposure disparities cannot be explained by differences in income. Whites of all incomes, including low-income Whites, have substantially lower average PNC exposures than people of color of all incomes. A higher proportion of traffic and other PNC sources are located near many minority communities. This means that the exposure disparities are structural and strongly tied to where certain subsets of the population live and that simply reducing PNC emissions nationwide will not reduce these disparities.
  • The COVID-19 impacts on bikeshare systems in small rural communities: Case study of bikeshare riders in Montgomery County, VA
    Almannaa, Mohammed; Woodson, Cat; Ashqar, Huthaifa; Elhenawy, Mohammed (Public Library of Science, 2022-12)
    The shared and micro-mobility industry (ride sharing and hailing, carpooling, bike and e-scooter shares) saw direct and almost immediate impacts from COVID-19 restrictions, orders and recommendations from local governments and authorities. However, the severity of that impact differed greatly depending on variables such as different government guidelines, operating policies, system resiliency, geography and user profiles. This study investigated the impacts of the pandemic regarding bike-share travel behavior in Montgomery County, VA. We used bike-usage dataset covering two small towns in Montgomery county, namely: Blacksburg and Christiansburg, including Virginia Tech campus. The dataset used covers the period of Jan 2019-Dec 2021 with more than 14,555 trips and 5,154 active users. Findings indicated that a bikeshare user's average trip distance and duration increased in 2020 (compared to 2019) from 2+ miles to 4+ and from half an hour to about an hour. While there was a slight drop in 2021, bikeshare users continued to travel farther distances and spend more time on the bikes than pre-COVID trips. When those averages were unpacked to compare weekday trips to weekend trips, a few interesting trip patterns were observed. Unsurprisingly, more trips still took place on the weekends (increasing from 2x as many trips to 4x as many trips than the weekday). These findings could help to better understand traveler's choices and behavior when encountering future pandemics.
  • Overview of Walking Rates, Walking Safety, and Government Policies to Encourage More and Safer Walking in Europe and North America
    Buehler, Ralph; Pucher, John (MDPI, 2023-03-24)
    Walking is the most sustainable means of daily travel for short trip distances and is a key component of the overall transport system. This paper documents variation in walking rates among countries, cities in the same country, and in different parts of the same city. Our international analysis of official government statistics shows that walking rates are highest for short trips, higher for women than for men, decline with increasing income, and remain constant as age increases. Walking fatality rates are much higher in the USA compared with the other countries we examined, both per capita and per km walked. Government policies that would increase walking rates while improving pedestrian safety include: integrated networks of safe and convenient walking infrastructure; roadways and intersections designed for the needs of pedestrians; land-use regulations that encourage mixed uses and short trip distances; lower city-wide speed limits and traffic calming in residential neighborhoods; reduced supply and increased price of parking; traffic laws that give priority to pedestrians; improved traffic education for motorists and non-motorists; tax surcharges on large personal vehicles; and strict enforcement of laws against drink and distracted driving. Five decades of success with these policies in many European cities provide practical examples for car-oriented cities to follow, especially in North America.
  • Reducing risk to historic assets: drivers and barriers of NGO disaster planning engagement
    Velez, Anne-Lise K.; Daniel, Joseph (2023-02-15)
    This study examines the prevalence of and shifts in preservation NGO engagement in disaster planning around historic assets across the U.S. We identify drivers and barriers to planning, leader opinions on what may increase planning engagement, and change in these areas from 2014 to 2020. Data comprise 73 NGO leader interviews from 2014 and 75 survey responses from 2020. Analysis shows a slight increase in NGOs engaged in any type of disaster planning from 2014 to 2020, with more staff generally meaning more planning. While increased staff were considered most likely and regulations least likely to increase engagement in 2014 and 2020, public support and technical assistance were seen in 2020as more likely to increase engagement. This study expands scholarship on NGO disaster planning and practical knowledge regarding areas for collaboration between government and NGOs in overcoming barriers and planning for disasters caused by natural hazards.
  • The geopolitical orientations of ordinary Belarusians: survey evidence from early 2020
    O'Loughlin, John; Toal, Gerard (Routledge, 2022-03-20)
    Examining geopolitical orientations in a representative survey of Belarus in early 2020, we adopt a critical geopolitical perspective that highlights geopolitical cultures as fields of contestation and debate over a state’s identity, orientation, and enduring interests. We examine support among 1210 Belarusians to four foreign policy options for the country–neutrality as the best foreign policy, joining the European Union, staying in the Eurasian Economic Union, or developing close relations with both these organizations. We also analyze responses to where Belarus should be on an 11-point scale from aligned with the West to aligned with Russia. In early 2020, Belarusians indicated divided geopolitical preferences in the same way as other post-Soviet societies along demographic, ideological, and attitudinal cleavages. Lukashenka’s quarter-century dictatorship has left Belarus in a condition of nascent (geo)political polarization. The 2020 electoral crisis alone did not polarize Belarus; it was already a dividing polity.
  • Transformative learning to promote transformative evaluation of food system praxis
    Otieno, Dickson; Niewolny, Kimberly L.; Archibald, Thomas G.; Schenk, Todd; Nunoo, Nicole (Frontiers, 2023-01-09)
    Evaluation ideally plays an important role in determining the value and impact of community food system initiatives and movements, providing recommendations for informed decision-making, learning, and programmatic adjustments. Given that community food system work is characterized by critical praxis rooted in deconstructing dominant epistemologies and addressing social and systemic injustices—including discourses and practices from agroecology, food justice, and food sovereignty movements—simple, technical-rationalist approaches to evaluation are inadequate and inappropriate. In parallel with recent developments in critical food system work, the field of evaluation has evolved toward more critical and transformative approaches—including Culturally Responsive and Equitable Evaluation, indigenous evaluation, feminist evaluation, all generally regrouped within the framework of the transformative evaluation paradigm. At the nexus of these trends, to meet the rising demand for critical evaluative thinkers ready to grapple with the complex, dynamic, and contested questions of community food system praxis evaluation, there is a need to equip emerging evaluators with the requisite knowledge of evaluation approaches. To be ready to be critically reflective evaluators, in food system praxis and beyond, the next generation of emerging evaluators must engage fruitfully and in practically wise ways with the complex and contested aspects of critical food system work. Reflecting on the burgeoning literature on evaluator education and evaluation capacity building (ECB), and given the centrality of critical praxis and transformation in both food system work and evaluation alike, we posit that transformative learning theory has a potential role to play in preparing evaluators to meet these challenges. As such, the purpose of this conceptual paper is to highlight the intersections between critical evaluation approaches and critical food system praxis, and propose transformative learning theory as one way to help emerging evaluators prepare to meaningfully grasp and engage with the complexities manifest at this nexus of critical food evaluation praxis.
  • Community-engaged heat resilience planning: Lessons from a youth smart city STEM program
    Lim, Theodore C.; Wilson, Bev; Grohs, Jacob R.; Pingel, Thomas (Elsevier, 2022-10-01)
    While recognition of the dangers of extreme heat in cities continues to grow, heat resilience remains a relatively new area of urban planning. One barrier to the creation and successful implementation of neighborhood-scale heat resilience plans has been a lack of reliable strategies for resident engagement. In this research, the authors designed a two-week summer STEM module for youth ages 12 to 14 in Roanoke, Virginia in the Southeastern United States. Participants collected and analyzed temperature and thermal comfort data of varying types, including from infrared thermal cameras and point sensors, handheld weather sensors, drones, and satellites, vehicle traverses, and student peer interviews. Based on primary data gathered during the program, we offer insights that may assist planners seeking to engage residents in neighborhood-scale heat resilience planning efforts. These lessons include recognizing: (1) the problem of heat in neighborhoods and the social justice aspects of heat distribution may not be immediately apparent to residents; (2) a need to shift perceived responsibility of heat exposure from the personal and home-based to include the social and landscape-based; (3) the inextricability of solutions for thermal comfort from general issues of safety and comfort in neighborhoods; and (4) that smart city technologies and high resolution data are helpful “hooks” to engagement, but may be insufficient for shifting perception of heat as something that can be mitigated through decisions about the built environment.
  • An Exploration of the Decline in E-Scooter Ridership after the Introduction of Mandatory E-Scooter Parking Corrals on Virginia Tech's Campus in Blacksburg, VA
    Buehler, Ralph; Broaddus, Andrea; White, Elizabeth; Sweeney, Ted; Evans, Chris (MDPI, 2022-12-23)
    We report shared e-scooter ridership and rider perceptions on Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus before and after introduction of mandatory e-scooter parking corrals in January 2022. The analysis relies on a panel of 131 e-scooter riders surveyed in Fall 2021 and Spring 2022. Although parking corrals were perceived favorably prior to implementation, perceptions became more negative afterwards. Respondents said corrals were not located where needed, difficult to find, fully occupied, and took too much extra time to use. After parking corrals were introduced, ridership declined 72% overall and also fell for all socio-economic subgroups. The heaviest user groups, like undergraduate males, were most likely to quit. The first study identifying desired and actual egress times for e-scooters, we found that roughly two-thirds of riders desired egress times under 2 min and one quarter under 1 min. Prior to the introduction of parking corrals, 82% of riders reported actual egress times under 2 min, and 43% under 1 min. Those who kept riding after the introduction of e-scooter corrals reported longer actual egress times and a stronger stated desire for egress times under 2 min. Communities should be careful when imposing e-scooter parking restrictions to ensure that e-scooter egress time is sufficiently low—ideally within an easy 2 min walk of popular origins and destinations.
  • When rebels govern oil
    Ahram, Ariel I. (Elsevier, 2022-12)
    Numerous oil and gas-producing countries have suffered civil war and internal conflict in the last two decades. Such political instability has had significant ramifications for global energy security. The literature addressing the connection between oil production and civil wars focuses on the contest for physical control over fields, pipelines, transport hubs, and other physical infrastructure. This overlooks how rebels make symbolic and legal claims to oil ownership that parallel the physical confrontation. Alternative national oil companies and other quasi-legal entities assert rebels’ authority to manage and dispose of oil. Here, I typologize different forms of rebel oil government and offer empirical examples of each form. I show that rebel oil governance can affect the course of conflicts, helping rebels substantiate internal control and entice international backers. More broadly, these quasi-legal rebel entities disrupt and realign global energy supplies.
  • "More Than Paint on Concrete": The Winding Path toward Bike Equity
    Cahen, Claire (Global Journal of Community Psychology Practice, 2016-09-30)
    Bike equity refers to the notion that traditionally marginalized populations face disproportionate barriers to being able to bicycle safely in the communities in which they live. Notably, low-income US residents comprise the majority of bike commuters, and yet have less access to adequate bicycling infrastructure than their middle- and high-income peers. This has resulted in disparate health, employment, and education outcomes and created an additional impediment to achieving neighborhood wellness. Through a literature review and participant observation this article argues that bike equity should become a central tenet of urban sustainability, and discusses the limited empirical evidence of the best practices for promoting bicycling within marginalized communities. This review also suggests that bike equity is an area for future community psychology practice and research.
  • Sovereignty, Responsibility and Reform: Navigating the Complexities of Hybrid Security Orders
    Ahram, Ariel I.; Alaaldin, Ranj; Cellino, Andrea; Maggi, Roberta (DCAF, 2022-06-01)
    DCAF – Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance and Crisis Response Council hosted, on 22 and 23 March 2022, a group of experts for a closed-doors workshop in Geneva, Switzerland. The convened cohort explored important themes related to the complexities and challenges of hybrid security orders. These included managing hybrid actors, the political economy of violence, the role of international actors and the state, and the need to harmonize policy tracks in transitional processes. These themes were explored notably with reference to the Iraqi, Yemeni and Libyan contexts. This post-conference report aims to present some of the key discussion points and summarise recommendations issued during the conference. This post-conference report does not constitute a verbatim rendition of discussions and experts’ opinions, and the opinions expressed herein are those of the authors alone.
  • Product Brief: Linking the AgUnity Blockchain-based Platform to the Kenyan Agricultural Sector Transformation and Growth Strategy
    Agnew, Jessica L.; Hall, Ralph P.; Kristofikova, Nurvitria (Virginia Tech, 2022-08-22)