S163 Urban Form, Urban Heat and Implications for Future Development in the Context of the Durham-Orange County Light Rail Project

Sunday, 10 January 2016
Hall E ( New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center)
Elizabeth M. B. Doran, Duke University, Durham, NC

Our environment deeply shapes who we are as people. It not only dictates our ability to provision resources such as food, water and shelter, it also impacts our health, well-being and the context in which cultural norms shape our behavior, particularly commuting. Increasingly, humans are the architects of their primary environments with more than half the global population living in cities as of 2011. In the United States, that percentage is much higher with more than 80 percent of the population living in urban areas. In an effort to improve the circulation of people in these environments, public transportation options are often utilized. One increasingly popular option for cities is light rail technology with examples of successful projects in Charlotte, North Carolina; St Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota; and, Phoenix, Arizona. Research has demonstrated improved health benefits resulting from access to public transportation options that, for instance, increase walking and activity. Careful attention, however, to human comfort in the design and implementation of such projects has also been noted to ensure the highest possible comfort and safety of passengers. In 2010, planning for a light rail project in the triangle region of North Carolina commenced and is ongoing.

The objective of the research presented here is therefore to conduct a baseline analysis of the urban climate in areas that will be impacted by the construction of the proposed Durham-Orange County Light Rail project. Findings will inform both zoning regulations around future station locations in Durham County as well as the future design of those planned stations.

To achieve the research objective, multiple methods are employed to both characterize the urban heat island and the urban form. These results are correlated to assess the level of agreement between the multiple methods of the two research communities: that studying urban climate, and that engaged in planning and design. To characterize the urban heat island the following methods are utilized: (1) a stationary sensor array coincident with proposed future station locations, (2) mobile transect analysis, and (3) remote sensing analysis. The current urban form is also characterized using (1) cluster analysis, (2) local climate zone methods, and (3) national land use methods.

In partnership with the Planning Department at the City of Durham and Triangle Transit the findings of this study will be translated into recommendations for consideration in the design of future transit stations and inform zoning policy around future station locations. Recommendations will consider current climatological and urban form conditions as observed during the summer of 2015, the possible impact of future development (both positive and negative) based on land-use projections, and provide recommendations for possible mitigation and improvement interventions including material selection, urban canopy, and design.

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