Award-Winning Report by CAPLA Urban Planning Students Envisions Equitable, Accessible Public Transportation for Underdeveloped Corridors in Tucson
The nation’s 33rd largest city, Tucson, Arizona is in a unique position to grow strategically and preserve historic richness, meet housing needs and maximize economic development opportunities, says a new report by University of Arizona Master of Science in Urban Planning students.
To grow sustainably, however, requires envisioning the potential challenges and opportunities directly associated with public transportation improvements along underdeveloped corridors in the city. And that’s precisely what the report created by students Garrett Aldrete, Jacob Burg, Noah Cannold, Ben Carpenter, Longhao Guo, Melanie Olson, Chrissy Scarpitti and Nathalia Untiveros does.
The report, Thriving Transit Corridors: Driving Transit-Oriented Development Along Tucson’s Broadway Corridor, was completed in Spring 2022 under the guidance of Kristina Currans, assistant professor of urban planning at the College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture (CAPLA), in consultation with Koren Manning, Dan Bursuck and Maria Gayosso, planners with the City of Tucson. (Note that this document is the product of a student service-learning course project completed as a requirement of the Master of Science in Urban Planning program at the University of Arizona. The content in this report does not necessarily reflect the views, policies or initiatives of the City of Tucson or other community partners.)
Broadway Boulevard Study Area in Tucson, Arizona
Because of its overall excellence, as well as other criteria—ranging from originality, innovation and transferability to comprehensiveness and effectiveness—the report has been honored by the American Planning Association (APA) Arizona with the 2022 Student Project Award, the top student prize offered by the APA state chapter. Students received the award at the Arizona State Planning Conference on August 25, 2022.
“This award recognizes not only the need for more integrated and holistic planning around transit corridors, but it is also an acknowledgement of the scale of work this class took on,” says Currans. “Integrating multidisciplinary planning approaches is a challenge, but the benefits for our local neighborhoods can be expansive. The students put significant effort and thought into the project, and I am very proud of their accomplishment.”
Broadway Boulevard Corridor Study Area Sub-Area Districts
The report uses scenario planning, market-based research and specific site analyses to “imagine how different levels of transit investment can transform a corridor, and how policy and land-use tools can steer development patterns towards more equitable and inclusive outcomes,” say the students.
Their work was guided by principles designed to advance collective community objectives: equity (affordability, accessibility and quality), collaboration (transparency, inclusivity and accountability), sustainability (resiliency, connectivity and safety), mobility (multimodal, walkable and active) and identity (culture, authenticity and preservation).
Broadway Boulevard Study Area Land Coverage, Flood Zones and Storm Drains
“I continue to be impressed and inspired by the work of our urban planning graduate students,” says CAPLA Dean Nancy Pollock-Ellwand. “Their insistence on applying principles of sustainability, equity and accessibility to solve real-world planning challenges is not only admirable and but also essential for our shared future. I also thank Dr. Currans for her leadership in guiding these students to such an excellent result.”
Students focused on a four-mile section of Broadway Boulevard in midtown Tucson, a major employment corridor accounting for 8% of the region’s jobs. The large arterial connects downtown Tucson to the predominantly residential eastern side of the city.
Broadway Boulevard Study Area Pedestrian Infrastructure Deficiencies
Three scenarios were created that represent three scales of transit investment and service—realistic trends (high-capacity transit), an optimistic future (bus rapid transit) and a more aspirational investment (streetcar transit).
“Each transit investment reflected a different need and range of impact on land uses, real estate markets, housing attraction rates and affordability rates, among others,” say the students. Though the report does not provide a recommendation for which type of transit should be pursued, it importantly identifies “viable and research-based opportunities for the City of Tucson to prepare for roaring markets and the urban growth that follows public transportation and can be applied to various corridors.”
Broadway Boulevard Corridor Transit Station Location Suitability Analysis
The report also analyzes opportunities for enhancing the transit corridor by identifying infill opportunity sites, including the outcomes of a transit station suitability analysis and infill capacity study, and exploring potential opportunities for an extension of recent existing overlay zones to encourage more affordable housing for the corridor and city.
“The Broadway corridor remains one of the most substantial economic corridors in the City of Tucson,” conclude the students. “With transit investment, the opportunities for more sustainable, equitable and accessible development are substantial.”