Bart Roberts, research assistant professor of UB's Regional
Institute, and his son, Brady, at Crescent Beach, Fort Erie,
We asked Bart Roberts, research assistant professor of UB's
Regional Institute, to tell us about his work in, and thoughts on
What are you doing to help UB become more sustainable?
A key part of UB’s commitment to sustainability is
supporting solutions for more sustainable living in our region and
world. This critical transfer of capacity and new knowledge occurs
through the university’s many partnerships with
sustainability-based organizations and initiatives in Buffalo
Niagara. The UB Regional Institute/Urban Design Project in the
School of Architecture and Planning plays a vital role in this
mission by engaging regional partners in public scholarship and
sponsored research around the issue of sustainable planning and
As a research professor at UBRI/UDP, I work with faculty
and community partners to bring objective research and professional
capacity to efforts that create more sustainable and equitable
land use, transportation, and economic and
community-based systems in Buffalo Niagara. By helping to bring the
knowledge of the university to issues impacting the broader
community, I believe my colleagues and I are working to make both
UB and our region more sustainable.
What kinds of sustainability related research/projects do you
pursue at UB?
I primarily work on applied research and planning projects
focused on creating more sustainable communities in the region.
This broad focus has led me to: provide regular technical
assistance on Smart Growth to the WNY Regional Economic Development
Council, Co-chaired by President Satish Tripathi; direct research
support for the Buffalo Promise Neighborhood, a community
partnership investing in academic and community supports for
schoolchildren and families living in the neighborhood surrounding
UB's South Campus; and manage a large regional planning effort
funded by a $2 Million grant from US Department of Housing and
Urban Development as part of the Federal interagency Partnership
for Sustainable Communities.
You may know the third project I mentioned as One Region
Forward, a regional planning initiative to promote more sustainable
forms of development. This project is part of one of the most
exciting and progressive planning movements occurring across the
country today. When the planning period is over, we will be
one of a few dozen regions across the country with a federally
recognized “Regional Plan for Sustainable Development,”
a roadmap for how our region can coordinate Federal, State and
local investments for long-term economic, environmental and social
sustainability. By producing this plan, our region will be granted
priority status for certain Federal funding opportunities today and
into the future.
But, we are taking this planning opportunity to create much more
than just a plan. Part of the work includes developing tools and
resources for civic leaders to implement sustainable practices
locally. It includes creating a broad platform for public education
around sustainability related to land use, transportation, housing,
food access, and climate change. Through all of this, One Region
Forward is working to create partnerships from the public, private
and nonprofit sectors to sustain collaboration for implementation
well beyond completion of the plan.
How are students involved in your sustainability work?
Like many of the research centers across the university, the
Regional Institute / Urban Design Project offers excellent
opportunities for talented and passionate students to contribute to
our research and public policy and planning work. Through the One
Region Forward initiative, we have been able to bring on graduate
students from the departments of urban and regional planning,
architecture, geography, and the Law School to assist on all
aspects of the project. Some of the ways students contribute
include Geographic Information Systems mapping, precedence and best
practice research, data analysis, and community outreach and
What is the one thing you would like people to know that you do
in your personal life to further sustainability?
I live in a walkable neighborhood accessible to my work and
where I shop, eat and drink. This allows me to walk to the grocery
store, farmer’s market or my neighborhood bar, ride my bike
or take the bus to work, or stroll with my wife and son to the
Of course, I’d be lying if I said the primary reason I live
this way is because it contributes to sustainable environmental
outcomes. I live where I do because it offers me a quality of life
I couldn't get in a “less sustainable” neighborhood
environment. It saves me money by making it possible to not
own a car. I am healthier because I am more prone to walk or ride
my bike and buy fresh, local produce and food. It also makes it
easy for me to spend quality time with my family out in the open
air and not in a car. Living sustainably for me in this regard is
not a sacrifice, it is a blessing.
How could UB improve its sustainability efforts?
As someone who works at the UB Downtown Gateway building, is
part of the South Campus-based School of Architecture and
Planning, and frequents offices, services, and events on the
North Campus, I am often left wanting more from the public
transportation options connecting the three campuses. I typically
do not drive to work, so travelling between our three campuses
using UB-sponsored transportation or the NFTA system can be very
difficult and time consuming.
The Office of Sustainability is doing great work to promote
multiple options for transportation, like the new bike sharing
program. In the long term, however, I believe for UB to be a true
linear campus, we will need seamless and efficient public
transportation among the three campuses. If we can get that right,
it has the potential to make our university really unique and an
even more robust economic engine to the region than it already
Learn more about Roberts' research.