University of Vermont


Wednesday July 16, 2014
Seminar And
Masters Defense

Measuring Streetscape Design for Livability
Using Spatial Data and Methods

Chester Harvey

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Seminar: 10:00am, Farrell Hall 107
Defense: 11:00am, Farrell Hall 107


Lisa Aultman-Hall, Professor, RSENR, Advisor
Austin Troy, Adjunct Professor, RSENR, Co-Advisor
Stephanie Hurley, Assistant Professor, Plant and Soil Science, Chair


City streets are the most widely distributed and heavily trafficked urban public spaces. As cities strive to improve built environment livability, is it important for planners and designers to have a succinct understanding of what contributes to quality streetscapes. While variables contributing to streetscape design are overwhelmingly myriad, the proportions and scale of buildings and trees provide an enduring streetscape skeleton onto which a skin of design details-e.g. pavement markings, architectural styling, surface materials, fixtures-can be draped. This thesis investigates how streetscape skeletons can be measured and tested for appeal among human users.
The first of two research papers identifies a concise set of skeleton variables that urban design theorists have described as influential to streetscape appeal, and which are practical to measure using widely available spatial data and an automated GIS-based method. Such an approach allows measurement of tens of thousands of street segments precisely and efficiently, a dramatically larger sample than can be feasibly collected using the auditing techniques of previous streetscape design researchers. Further, it examines clustering patterns among skeleton variables for street segments throughout Boston, New York, and Baltimore, identifying four streetscape skeleton types that describe a ranking of enclosure from surrounding buildings-upright, compact, porous, and open. The types are identifiable in all three cities, demonstrating regional consistency in streetscape design. Moreover, the types are poorly associated with roadway functional classifications-arterial, collector, and local-indicating that streetscapes are a distinct component of street design and must receive separate planning and design attention.
The second paper assesses relationships between skeleton variables and crowdsourced judgments of streetscape visual appeal throughout New York City. Regression modeling indicates that streetscapes with greater tree canopy coverage, lined by a greater number of buildings, and with more upright cross-sections, are more visually appealing. Building and tree canopy geometry accounts for more than 40% of variability in perceived safety, which is used as an indicator of appeal. While unmeasured design details undoubtedly influence overall streetscape appeal, basic skeletal geometry may contribute important baseline conditions for appealing streetscapes that are enduring and can be retrofitted to meet a broad variety of needs.
Monday September 1, 2014
Thursday November 27, 2014

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