John West

John West

Assistant Professor of Urban Planning


Room:Ab 328

I am interested in the intersection of urban planning and intellectual history, with a focus on how the ideas of post WWII economists came to influence the ways that planners think about urban governance. My scholarly interests include planning history, urban history and planning theory. I am currently working on a book titled Rule of Choice: How economic theory became contested planning practice in New York City. Through this project I analyze how economic ideas developed by economists in the 1950s became mainstream planning ideas by the early 2000s in New York City. For this research I have collected documents from the archives of William Vickrey and Milton Friedman, two economists whose work shapes planning thinking today. Base on this research, I recently published a pair of articles on efforts to reorganize and rationalize bridge, tunnel and road tolls to reduce congestion in New York City. These articles examine how the idea of congestion pricing, which was devised by William Vickrey, moved to the forefront of ideas for improving mobility. I am currently revising an article that examines data management systems in public education and their impact on community and parental participation in public decisions. Finally, I am in the initial phases of a project on urban decline and shrinking cities in partnership with the City of Muncie.

I graduated from Kenyon College in Ohio with a degree in Sociology and a particular interest in classical social theory. After school, I worked in youth empowerment and urban agriculture non-profits in New York City and Chicago. Working at non-profits in poor communities I became interested equity and advocacy planning. I worked as a professional planner in a local firm in Chicago, Illinois, and then as an intern for several public planning agencies while completing my Masters in Urban Planning and Policy at University of Illinois Chicago. I also have a PhD in Urban Planning from Columbia University in New York City where Robert Beauregard served as my thesis chair.

After having arrived at Ball State in the fall of 2015, I am currently teaching a year-long course on planning history and theory and classes on research, thesis development, and writing for graduate students. This fall I will teach an elective that looks at land banks and uses for abandoned properties. I believe that planning strives to build vibrant, inclusive communities. My favorite thing about teaching is creating a classroom environment with my students that models and enacts these ideals. When students are confident, interested and motivated enough to actively shape our collective learning experience, I feel like class is a success. To this end, I seek to incorporate active learning, student participation and student-led classroom activities to the greatest extent possible in all of my courses.

Selected publications

West, John, (2016) “Making Market Rationality: Material Semiotics and the Case of Congestion Pricing in New York City.” Accepted for publication in a special section of Urban Geography, “Locating Rationalities in Planning: Market Thinking and Its Others in the Spaces, Institutions and Materials of Contemporary Urban Governance.”

West, John, Juan Rivero, and Ben Teresa. (2016) “Introduction: Locating Rationalities in Planning: Market Thinking and Its Others in the Spaces, Institutions and Materials of Contemporary Urban Governance.” Provisionally accepted for publication as an introduction to a special section of Urban Geography.

West, John, (2015) “Translation: Making Roadways into Markets in New York City.” In Planning in a Material World, edited by Robert Beauregard and Laura Lieto. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Scholars Press.

Course Schedule
Course No. Section Times Days Location
Hist and Thry of Pla 220 1 0930 - 1050 M W AB, room 101
Spec Proj in Urbn Pl 498 2 0930 - 1045 T R AB, room 004
Spec Proj Urb and Re 598 2 0930 - 1045 T R AB, room 004
Plan Capstone Resear 695 1 1700 - 1815 T R AB, room 004
Plan Capstone Res Me 696 1 0000 - 0000
Plan Capstone Res Me 697 1 0000 - 0000
Urban Transportation 531 1 1830 - 2115 W AB, room 316