Planning for the transportation of tomorrow

Urban planning studio to develop framework for implementing smart mobilities in WNY

Planning studio meets with GBNRTC.

Professor Bumjoon Kang (rear left) and Lisa Kenney of the Greater Buffalo-Niagara Regional Transportation Council (seated next to him) discuss shared mobility with students during a recent class meeting with the transportation agency, which is acting as client for the studio.

by Tyler Madell

Published February 18, 2019

What will the transportation systems of the future look like in Western New York? How do we plan for this future on the regional scale?

These are the questions that students in a graduate urban planning studio will address as they develop a framework for implementing smart mobilities in Western New York. Under the direction of Bumjoon Kang, UB assistant professor of urban planning, students will seek to understand how to integrate smart mobilities including the potential for autonomous vehicles into our planning priorities moving forward.

The School of Architecture and Planning's studio courses allow students to work collaboratively in small groups alongside professionals in the region tackling hot topics in their fields under the mentorship of faculty. This particular studio will work with the Greater Buffalo-Niagara Regional Transportation Council (GBNRTC) to supplement their recently adopted transportation plan Moving Forward 2050.

In preparing for the future of transportation, urban planning must consider the effects of new (or smart) mobility, a network of shared, electric, and autonomous travel options that relies upon technology and data to create an integrated and seamless transportation system.

Last week the class met with GBNRTC's Smart Mobility Advisor, Lisa Kenney, to discuss the scope of the studio. Major themes of Kenny's vision of the region's future transportation system centered around themes of regional connectivity, equity and imagination of what mobility hubs (points of connectivity for smart mobilities) would look like given the region's unique climate.

Students walked away from the meeting feeling energized about the project. According to first year MUP student Sydney Zuckerman, "It was refreshing to feel like our client trusted the studio and the students within it, and it's exiting to know we'll be at the forefront of directing planning for smart mobility in the region. We have the the freedom to focus on the aspects of smart mobility that we're most interested in."

When it comes to smart mobility and associated new technologies, there are many uncertainties both locally and globally. It remains to be seen how state and federal regulations will shape implementation of new technologies. Students will have to think about these considerations as well as the characteristics of development in Western New York including sprawl, inequities and declining use of public transit.

In the coming weeks the studio will continue to refine the scope of the project and determine which sites in the region will be best suited as mobility hubs. Students interested in gaining more experience with urban design will have opportunities to determine just what these mobility hubs will look like.