Research Papers

Transit-Oriented Development Opportunities Among Failing Malls

By Hilda Blanco, Alexander Wikstrom

National Center for Sustainable Transportation


This paper explores opportunities for the redevelopment of failing regional shopping malls as Transit-Oriented Developments (TODs) to improve transit ridership, focusing on Southern California. In effect, the study suggests an alternative to the typical sequence of first providing transit infrastructure and then changing land uses and densities to develop a TOD around new transit stations. Instead, the study suggests that failing shopping malls can provide the footprint for their redevelopment as TODs that could then be linked to transit lines. The study focuses on several major topics and reviews recent literature on the following steps in the argument for this policy: 1. The rationale for redeveloping declining malls as TODs, the supporting federal and California policies for TODs, and evidence for how different characteristics of TODs and their combination can reduce vehicle miles traveled, air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions; 2. The issues that hinder the development of TODs around transit stations, e.g., difficulties in up-zoning, land assembly; loss of existing affordable housing; 3. Changes in retail, focusing on factors affecting the closing of shopping malls, e.g., the effect of Internet shopping on shopping malls, and the increasing failure of shopping malls; and 4. The potential and rationale for the redevelopment of failing regional malls into TODs. In conclusion, the paper identifies follow-up studies to test the viability of the approach, including: a. identifying failing malls in specific metropolitan regions; b. analyses of potential sites as transit markets—including studies of the density of the development around failing malls, population characteristics, current level of transit service, etc.; c. studying the feasibility of providing different types of transit stations adjacent to the identified redevelopment sites; d. the development of a model (s) of how such malls could be redeveloped, including the steps to achieve TOD objectives, and, especially, modeling the types of housing, the number of housing units, as well as different mixes of affordable and market rate housing that such TODs could contain at different height and bulk standards, alternative retail and housing mixes, as well as different parking restrictions; and iii e. proto-types of public-private partnerships (Friedman 2016) that could be used in the redevelopment process, for example, in the case of California, examining the feasibility of raising revenue with California’s scaled back tax increment financing, and potential rezoning and affordable housing scenarios. Such studies would also require an understanding of different lender-owner arrangements in the failing malls, and the feasibility of redevelopment and public private partnerships under different shopping mall lender-owner arrangements.

The effect of firm size on fracking safety

By Jonathan Eyer

Resource and Energy Economics, 53


Large firms are becoming increasingly dominant in the natural gas production industry. At the same time, regulators and environmental groups are concerned about potential environmental damage associated with hydraulic fracturing. However, small firms are protected from the full extent of their damages, while large firms must internalize a greater portion of their social costs. This paper examines the effect of firm size and liability on environmental safety in the context of hydraulic fracturing in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale across three dimensions of size. Impacts of firm size on safety are found across legal, regulatory, and brand dimensions of size with the largest effects being driven by changes in regulatory liability. These safety gains are sizable as violation rates would be approximately twice as high if firms at remained at 2008 sizes.

Characterizing permafrost active layer dynamics and sensitivity to landscape spatial heterogeneity in Alaska

By Yonghong Yi, John S. Kimball, Richard H. Chen, Mahta Moghaddam, Rolf H. Reichle, Umakant Mishra, Donatella Zona, Walter C. Oechel

The Cryosphere


An important feature of the Arctic is large spatial heterogeneity in active layer conditions, which is generally poorly represented by global models and can lead to large uncertainties in predicting regional ecosystem responses and climate feedbacks. In this study, we developed a spatially integrated modeling and analysis framework combining field observations, local-scale ( ∼ 50m resolution) active layer thickness (ALT) and soil moisture maps derived from low-frequency (L+P-band) airborne radar measurements, and global satellite environmental observations to investigate the ALT sensitivity to recent climate trends and landscape heterogeneity in Alaska. Modeled ALT results show good correspondence with in situ measurements in higher-permafrost-probability (PP ≥ 70%) areas (n = 33; R = 0.60; mean bias = 1.58cm; RMSE = 20.32cm), but with larger uncertainty in sporadic and discontinuous permafrost areas. The model results also reveal widespread ALT deepening since 2001, with smaller ALT increases in northern Alaska (mean trend = 0.32±1.18cmyr−1) and much larger increases (> 3cmyr−1) across interior and southern Alaska. The positive ALT trend coincides with regional warming and a longer snow-free season (R = 0.60±0.32). A spatially integrated analysis of the radar retrievals and model sensitivity simulations demonstrated that uncertainty in the spatial and vertical distribution of soil organic carbon (SOC) was the largest factor affecting modeled ALT accuracy, while soil moisture played a secondary role. Potential improvements in characterizing SOC heterogeneity, including better spatial sampling of soil conditions and advances in remote sensing of SOC and soil moisture, will enable more accurate predictions of active layer conditions and refinement of the modeling framework across a larger domain.

Systematic Comparison of the Influence of Cool Wall versus Cool Roof Adoption on Urban Climate in the Los Angeles Basin

By Jiachen Zhang, Arash Mohegh, Yun Li, Ronnen Levinson, George Ban-Weiss

Environmental Science & Technology, vol. 52, no. 19


This study for the first time assesses the influence of employing solar reflective “cool” walls on the urban energy budget and summertime climate of the Los Angeles basin. We systematically compare the effects of cool walls to cool roofs, a heat mitigation strategy that has been widely studied and employed, using a consistent modeling framework (the Weather Research and Forecasting model). Adoption of cool walls leads to increases in urban grid cell albedo that peak in the early morning and late afternoon, when the ratio of solar radiation onto vertical walls versus horizontal surfaces is at a maximum. In Los Angeles County, daily average increase in grid cell reflected solar radiation from increasing wall albedo by 0.80 is 9.1 W m-2, 43% of that for increasing roof albedo. Cool walls reduce canyon air temperatures in Los Angeles by 0.43 K (daily average), with the peak reduction (0.64 K) occurring at 09:00 LST and a secondary peak (0.53 K) at 18:00 LST. Per 0.10 wall (roof) albedo increase, cool walls (roofs) can reduce summertime daily average canyon air temperature by 0.05 K (0.06 K). Results reported here can be used to inform policies on urban heat island mitigation or climate change adaptation.

Characterization of vegetation and soil scattering mechanisms across different biomes using P-band SAR polarimetry

By Seyed Hamed Alemohammad, Alexandra G. Konings, Thomas Jagdhuber, Mahta Moghaddam, Dara Entekhabi

Remote Sensing of Environment


Understanding the scattering mechanisms from the ground surface in the presence of different vegetation densities is necessary for the interpretation of P-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) observations and for the design of geophysical retrieval algorithms. In this study, a quantitative analysis of vegetation and soil scattering mechanisms estimated from the observations of an airborne P-band SAR instrument across nine different biomes in North America is presented. The goal is to apply a hybrid (model- and eigen-based) three component decomposition approach to separate the contributions of surface, double-bounce and vegetation volume scattering across a wide range of biome conditions. The decomposition makes no prior assumptions about vegetation structure. We characterize the dynamics of the decomposition across different North American biomes and assess their characteristic range. Impacts of vegetation coverseasonality and soil surface roughness on the contributions of each scattering mechanism are also investigated. Observations used here are part of the NASA Airborne Microwave Observatory of Subcanopy and Subsurface (AirMOSS) mission and data have been collected between 2013 and 2015.

Willful Waters

By Vittoria de Palma, Alexander Robinson

Places Journal


Collaboration as an Organization Design for Shared Purpose

By Paul S. Adler, Charles Heckscher

Toward Permeable Boundaries of Organizations? Research in the Sociology of Organizations


“Shared purpose,” understood as a widely shared commitment to the organization’s fundamental raison d’eˆtre, can be a powerful driver of organizational performance by providing both motivation and direction for members’ joint problem-solving efforts. So far, however, we understand little about the organization design that can support shared purpose in the context of large, complex business enterprises. Building on the work of Selznick and Weber, we argue that such contexts require a new organizational form, one that we call collaborative. The collaborative organizational form is grounded in Weber’s value-rational type of social action, but overcomes the scale limitations of the collegial form of organization that is conventionally associated with value-rational action. We identify four organizational principles that characterize this collaborative form and a range of managerial policies that can implement those principles.

Research Areas


Research Topics