NITC dissertation fellow Susan Petheram explores land use in Utah

Susan Petheram

Susan Petheram, a Ph.D. candidate in the Metropolitan Planning, Policy, & Design program at the University of Utah, has recently been awarded a NITC dissertation fellowship.

NITC fellowships are awarded to fund research on surface transportation topics that fit under the NITC theme of safe, healthy, and sustainable transportation choices to foster livable communities. Petheram's research focuses on the integration of transportation and land use, and on building healthy communities through transit access.

Her dissertation research involves evaluating some of the effects of the light rail system in Salt Lake County. Scarcely more than a decade old, the TRAX light rail system has three lines in service as of 2013, and some of the transportation researchers at the University of Utah are taking advantage of this living laboratory to explore the effects of a light rail system upon the neighborhoods and suburbs that it serves. 

Calvin Tribby, for example, another NITC fellow from the University of Utah, is observing the new transit opportunities' effect on public health. Petheram's research focuses on a different angle: the light rail's effect on property values.

In particular, she is interested in finding out whether positive effects on property values will extend beyond the traditional "half-mile circle" used in transit-oriented development (TOD) planning. A half-mile is generally estimated to be the furthest a commuter would be willing to walk to get to a transit stop.

A TOD neighborhood typically has a center with a transit station, surrounded by relatively high-density development with progressively lower-density development spreading outward from the center. Petheram's research has looked into ways to use the real estate market to establish light rail station catchment areas, analyzing residential property values with respect to their distance from a light rail station.

Since 2002, Petheram has also worked as a planning and preservation consultant with CRSAa Salt-Lake-City-based design and planning firm with an emphasis on green design for the built environment.

A native of Iowa, Susan moved to Utah 15 years ago with her husband. They have two kids, ages 7 and 10, and live in the historic Sugar House neighborhood of Salt Lake City.
When not engaged in research, she enjoys various outdoor activities, playing soccer and cooking with her kids, photographing historic buildings, and reading paperback mysteries.

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