The potential of infrastructure ‘as solution’ is currently at the forefront of American political consciousness. Historic levels of investment in infrastructure proffer seismic material, economic, and symbolic transformations at a near-continental scale. However, the present policy context for infrastructure planning in the U.S. is confounded by a mosaic of decision-making authorities that hamper the development of cohesive approaches to sustainable and equitable development. This situation underscores the need to identify how urban infrastructure futures are assembled and scaled as simultaneously continuous and emergent, old and new, and marked by the diverse capacities of various stakeholders. This paper makes a case for the importance of ‘seeing like a region’ when examining transformative approaches to infrastructural change. Through a case study of the Southwest Pennsylvania Commission (SPC), we question how infrastructural futures are constructed, experienced, and changed by the stakeholders that inhabit these regions. Our analysis pays particular attention to the challenges faced by regional planning organizations when navigating the spatial-temporal frames of incremental and radical change. As the SPC operates with limited staff capacity, high regulatory burdens, and short time horizons for budgeting processes, incremental changes to infrastructure often are the best hope for solving regional challenges of structural inequality and uneven access to resources. Yet incrementalism raises equity concerns, notably regarding how to build meaningful public engagement across a regional footprint.
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About the speaker
Michael Glass is the director of the Urban Studies Program at the University of Pittsburgh. He is an urbanist who works at the intersection of geography and planning. His primary research is on city-region governance and planning, housing, and urban infrastructure; he has regional expertise in Southeast Asia, North America, and Australasia. He is the co-editor of Urban Violence, Resilience and Security: Governance Responses in the Global South (Edward Elgar, 2022), Performativity, Politics, and the Production of Social Space (Routledge, 2014) and co-author of Priced Out: Stuyvesant Town and the Loss of Middle-Class Neighborhoods (NYU Press, 2016).
His most recent research examines the ways that infrastructure shapes regions and influences regional equity. He has published extensively in leading international journals and is on the editorial boards of Asian Geography Journal, Journal of Urban Affairs, and Regional Studies, Regional Science. He is also the Regional Studies Association's Territorial Ambassador to the United States.
Glass, M.R., Seybolt, T. & Williams, P., editors. (2022). Urban Violence, Resilience, & Security: Governance Responses in the Global South. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishers.
Woldoff, R., Morrison, L. & Glass, M.R. (2016) Priced Out: Stuyvesant Town and the Loss of Middle-Class Communities. New York: NYU Press.
Glass, M.R. & Rose-Redwood, R., editors. (2014) Performativity, Politics, and the Production of Social Space. New York: Routledge.