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Planning Lab Wins Another Project Award

The American Planning Association (APA) Florida has selected “Envisioning Florida’s Future: Transportation and Land Use in an Automated Vehicle World” for its Student Project Award to be presented at the organization’s conference in Tampa in September 2016. It is the fifth time a student planning project at Florida State University has won the award since the state APA began presenting them in 2009.

The project, which envisions the future of Florida as the use of automated vehicles (AV) becomes widespread, came out of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning (URP) Florida Planning and Development Lab (FPDL). The study is part of the Florida Department of Transportation’s ongoing research focus on automated vehicles, which includes a grant of more than $300,000 to URP in 2014 to study how “robot car” technologies could enhance mobility for aging populations and the transportation disadvantaged.

Thirteen students in the Fall 2015 lab, under the direction of URP Planner-in-Residence Lindsay Stevens, identified policy decisions and infrastructure investments necessary to guide the transition to a transportation system dominated by AVs. They accomplished this task by conducting a visioning session at the 2015 Florida AV Summit hosted by the Florida Department of Transportation in Jacksonville in December 2015. The summit gathered planners, engineers, elected officials, and AV-industry professionals to brainstorm about how AVs could reshape the built environment and transform Florida’s communities. The students ran 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.

Following the AV summit, the student team applied qualitative social science research methods to transcribe, code, and analyze the feedback received from the discussion to develop clear visions for how AVs would impact the form and function of right-of-ways, access management, signage/signalization, parking, and opportunities for redevelopment. The student team then recommended steps that state and local agencies could take to leverage AV technology.

The study report, authored by Stevens, planning Professor Tim Chapin (interim dean of the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy), Senior Planner Jeremy Crute, and others, lays out a transformative vision of how AVs could reshape our urban spaces to be more attractive and people friendly and create a safer and more efficient transportation system. According to the study's findings, automated vehicles would allow reduction and narrowing of traffic lanes, create convenient drop-off lanes close to destinations, decrease the need for parking lots, improve the lives and mobility of transportation-disadvantaged populations such as aging and disabled adults, and improve the safety of pedestrians and cyclists.

FPDL is a nationally recognized 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. Students in the lab 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.

The quality of the work and the valuable contributions to community partners have brought FPDL numerous awards from the APA, including Student Project Awards for 2009, 2012, 2013, and 2015.

The report is available for viewing at this link. For more information about FPDL, please visit this link.