Fresno State Professor Gary Dong’s Seminar on NSF-Sponsored Study

Sunday, June 3, 2018

by By Stephen Kulieke. Senior Director of Communications, ITS-UC Davis

How difficult is it for residents of disadvantaged urban neighborhoods to engage in safe active transportation like bicycling and walking? How accessible are parks and green spaces? What are the physical and mental health implications for residents with limited access to these spaces? Are the obstacles especially acute in a city like Fresno, California that ranks 94th out of the nation’s 100 largest cities for park accessibility and availability and where 47% of the population lives in disadvantaged communities?

On May 25, Fresno State Associate Professor Gary (Hongwei) Dong, explored those questions at a friday seminar hosted by the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis, sponsored through ITS-Davis’ partnership with the Pacific Southwest Region University Transportation Center.

Titled, “Planning an Integrated Active Travel and Green Infrastructure System for Mental Well-Being in Disadvantaged Communities”, the seminar spotlighted Professor Dong’s ongoing project on how to plan active travel and green urban infrastructure. His study is sponsored by a research grant awarded by the Smart & Connected Communities Program at the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The NSF-funded planning grant utilizes crowdsourcing technology and traditional survey questionnaires to gather data, spark community engagement, and help prepare a research team to develop ideas for work on a larger project, Dong noted in the seminar.

He outlined the questions being asked in the seven-page survey, covering subjects like physical health and life satisfaction, which will ultimately be sent to 3,000 randomly selected Fresno residents. Dong discussed the challenges in conducting survey research (e.g. response rates, language barriers, the “digital gap” in smartphone applications, and privacy issues) and explained the concept of “neighborhood social capital” (i.e. the willingness to help and get along with your neighbors) and its direct impact on residents’ mental well-being.

Professor Dong is an associate professor in the Department of Geography and City and Regional Planning at California State University, Fresno. His research interests include transportation and land use, healthy and smart cities, and housing affordability and equity. The results of his studies are published in top international journals such as Journal of the American Planning AssociationJournal of Planning Education and ResearchJournal of Transport Geography, Landscape and Urban Planning, and Urban Studies

You can view a full recording of Professor Dong’s talk, part of ITS-Davis’ weekly seminar series, by clicking on Video Link at the URL:

About the Author:

Stephen Kulieke is the Senior Director of Communications at the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis (ITS-Davis). A former journalist and member of the Chicago City Hall Press Corps, he is a longtime communications professional and recipient of an Award of Excellence from the Public Relations Society of America.