Florida State University

College of Social Sciences & Public Policy

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DURP Planning Studio Wins National Award

The American Planning Association (APA) has awarded its top student honor to the Florida Planning and Development Lab (FPDL), a graduate-level applied studio within the Florida State University Department of Urban and Regional Planning (DURP). The student group was awarded the AICP (American Institute of Certified Planners) Student Project Award for Contribution of Planning to Contemporary Issues for its key participation in a study of the future of autonomous vehicles (AV), aka self-driving vehicles or robot cars, funded by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT).

For the study, “Envisioning Florida’s Future: Transportation and Land Use in an AV World,” the students in the fall 2015 semester FPDL studio developed an innovative visioning process to identify policy decisions and infrastructure investments necessary to guide the transition to a transportation system dominated by AVs.

The planning students facilitated sessions at the Florida Automated Vehicles Summit in Jacksonville, Fla., in December 2015, where engineers, planners, elected officials, and AV-industry professionals collaboratively brainstormed about how AVs could reshape the built environment and transform Florida’s communities. During these sessions, the students conducted visioning exercises based on table “games” they created to immerse participants in what the urban environment might look like when self-driving vehicles become a reality.

The student team utilized the latest in geographic information system (GIS) and publishing software to develop original aerial maps complete with designated routes for participant “travelers,” prompt cards to guide the discussion, and session brochures to reinforce rules and assumptions bounding the conversation.

Following the summit, the team applied qualitative social science research methods to transcribe, code, and analyze the feedback received from the sessions. From this came clear visions for how AVs would impact the form and function of right-of-ways, access management, signage/signalization, parking, and opportunities for redevelopment.

“These students have produced a transformative vision of how AVs could reshape our urban spaces,” said Lindsay Stevens, DURP planner-in-residence, director of FPDL, and co-principle investigator on the $300,000 FDOT AV research project. “They developed a number of recommended steps for state and local agencies to leverage AV technology toward the creation of a transportation system that is safer and more efficient and urban environments that are attractive and people-friendly.”

“These students have certainly earned this award for paving the way for the positive changes that can result from this technology,” said Co-Principle Investigator Tim Chapin, professor of urban and regional planning and dean of the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy, which houses DURP and FPDL. “And in doing so, they reaped the benefits of the applied FPDL program. By working on hands-on projects for real-world clients, they gain the skills, experience, and professional connections they need for their future career success.”

The FPDL contributions to this project have garnered other awards for the group. In 2016, the studio received the Florida Planning and Zoning Association’s Innovation Award and the Student Project Award from the APA Florida chapter.

The student team members were V. Christiansen, John Cowart, Jordan Crandall, Will Crowley, Scott Dogali, Diana Elsner, Mavrick Fitzgerald, Julian Marcos, Stephano Miranda, Joshua Pelfrey, Yes Segura, Leslie Stout, and Alexandria Washington.

In addition to Stevens and Chapin, the faculty and staff on the project team included Professor of Geography Mark Horner and, from the DURP faculty, Associate Professor Mike Duncan, Senior Planner Jeremy Crute, and Adjunct Professor Ann Rokyta.

The Florida Planning and Development Lab is a place-based learning studio that draws upon academic and professional resources to provide innovative planning for the sustainable growth and long-term viability of communities. While working toward their master’s degrees, students in each semester-long FPDL studio course provide technical assistance and capacity to public and private partners throughout the state. FPDL operates much the same as a consulting firm, securing hands-on, professional project work. DURP master’s students in their final year carry out this contract work through a capstone studio course.

The lab has undertaken projects on topics ranging from housing to neighborhood redevelopment, transportation, ecotourism, land stewardship, population growth, and sea level rise for such client partners as the city of Tallahassee, Pasco County, FSU, Kennedy Space Center and Eglin Air Force Base, and several private firms and nonprofit organizations. Several of these projects have also won APA awards in recent years.

The student team will be presented the award at the APA National Conference in New York City in May 2017.

FPDL students lead working sessions at the statewide AV summit in 2015.