Applying Research to Practice. Transportation research at the University of Oregon focuses on applied, policy-relevant, sustainability and equity-based topics.  Researchers from city planning, public administration, architecture, business, computer science, law, journalism, and other disciplines often focus  on some combination of sustainable land use, street re-design, and behavior and policy change needed to increase the share of trips made by space-efficient, low carbon, healthy, affordable, and more equitable modes of transport such as walking, biking, transit, and e-scooters. The dramatic rise of ridehailing and the development of autonomous vehicles represents enormous disruption and opportunity to all communities as to how they are able to (or not) address their important environmental, social, and economic challenges.  Our research aims to help policymakers and communities proactively address these technological disruptions with enough evidence to make the best decisions possible.

Undergraduate and Graduate Students Engage in UO Transportation Research. Cross-disciplinary research is often supported by the Sustainable Cities Institute (SCI), Urbanism Next Center, and the National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC). Applied coursework, often through the Sustainable City Year Program (SCYP) gives students additional opportunities to apply research to practice while still in the classroom. LiveMove, the UO’s Transportation & Livability student group, regularly brings in national transportation experts to engage with researchers, students, and the broader community on emerging, national transportation issues.  And the UO’s regularly offered study abroad course in Denmark and the Netherlands focused on “Designing Cities for People on Bike” provides additional opportunity for students to link innovative practice to their own research.

Sampling of Applied Research Projects

Investigating Effects of TNCs on Parking Demand and Revenues. Principal Investigators: Anne Brown and Ben Clark. For the past century, cars—and even more so, the storage of cars—have dictated urban form. With cities dedicating more space to parking than even streets and roads, parking has become baked into city land use, regulations, codes, ordinances, master plans, and even finances. So what happens when a car trip no longer ends in a parking space? Both transportation network companies (TNCs) and, eventually, autonomous vehicles (AVs), enable personal mobility without parking. This project answers three questions, using Seattle as a case study. First, what is the relationship between TNC use and parking demand and revenue ? Second, what localized factors—such as transit ridership, land use, TNC use, and car ownership—explain weekly temporal and spatial patterns of parking demand and revenue? And third, how can TNCs inform planning for the future introduction of AVs?

Rethinking Streets for Bikes: An Evidence-Based Guide to 25 Bike-Focused Street Transformations. Principal Investigators: Marc Schlossberg (PPPM), John Rowell (PPPM), and Roger Lindgren (OIT, Civil Engineering). As the use of bicycle, and other forms of micromobility, increases in communities everywhere, it is more important than ever that communities have the confidence to meet these new transportation realities successfully. The case studies within present a diverse look at high-quality bicycle transportation infrastructure implementation from a range of community types. Each case study includes information on design, community context, system connectivity, and other insightful information to raise the bar on what is possible and lower the risk in doing it somewhere else. This book, as well as the first volume in the Rethinking Streets series, is designed for all who engage in the exciting work of improving local transportation systems, including elected officials, professional planners and engineers, urban designers, community organizations and associations, and the public in general. This is a resource – and free at – please go and use it!

Equity Outcomes of Mobility on Demand Pilot Programs. Principal Investigator: Anne Brown (PPPM). LA Metro, the largest transit operator in the country, has recently partnered with Via to provide subsidized first-last mile trips to three existing Metro stations. Does this innovative partnership change who can access transit? And does it change how people access transit? Findings from this project will guide LA Metro and other transit agencies seeking to leverage new technologies to extend transit access to all travelers.

Applying an Equity Lens to Automated Payment Solutions for Public Transportation. Principal Investigator: Anne Brown (PPPM). As transit agencies modernize their fare payment systems, opportunities to pay with cash are reduced. Still, about 15% of adults in the United States are without a bank account or credit card account and many rely on restrictive cell-phone data plans or don’t have access to a smartphone. These shares are even higher for public transit users. As transit fare technologies move further from cash, these un- and under-banked and digitally excluded riders will find it more difficult to conveniently pay their transit fares. This project will research and evaluate practices to address equity issues in cashless fare payment systems. The project will produce a set of recommendations for best practice and least-cost approaches to mitigating and reducing barriers for un- and under-banked and digitally-excluded riders.

Matching the Speed of Technology with the Speed of Local Government: Developing Flexible Codes and Policies Related to the Possible Impacts of Autonomous Vehicles on Cities. Principal Investigators: Heather Brinton (Law) and Marc Schlossberg (PPPM). Advances in technology such as the advent of autonomous vehicles (AV’s), the rise of E-commerce, and the proliferation of the sharing economy are having profound effects not only on how we live, move, and spend our time in cities, but also on urban form and development itself.  These technological changes are being introduced much faster than how local government code and policy can typically react, especially because the issues at play and their possible impact remain almost entirely outside the knowledge base or skill set of the vast majority of city staff or leadership. The goal of this project is to develop a set of model policy and code that cities can largely adapt and adopt quickly to help local communities ensure their mobility values and goals sustain through this coming transportation disruption by matching the speed of local decision making with the speed of technological disruption.

Bike Connect. Principal Investigators: Stephen Fickas (Computer Science) and Marc Schlossberg (PPPM). This project is developing and deploying technology that helps cyclists and transportation infrastructure communicate, giving the cyclists the ability to ‘call’ a traffic signal in advance to help make a green light happen when arriving and have the traffic signal communicate with the cyclist to inform them of the wait time until the signal changes in their favor. This work is part of a larger agenda to bring people on bike and scooter in as active participants in the vehicle-to-infrastructure and vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems, rather than just as objects for future cars to avoid.

Key Research Partners

Sustainable Cities Institute

The Sustainable Cities Institute (SCI) is an applied think tank  that focuses on sustainability and cities through applied research, teaching, and community partnerships. Researchers work across disciplines that match the complexity of cities to address sustainability challenges, from regional planning to building design and from enhancing engagement of diverse communities to understanding the impacts on municipal budgets from disruptive technologies and many issues in between.

Urbanism Next Center

The Urbanism Next Center at the University of Oregon is the source for information about the potential impacts of emerging technologies — autonomous vehicles, E-commerce and the sharing economy— on city development, form, and design and the implications for sustainability, resiliency, equity, the economy, and quality of life.  Urbanism Next staff, researchers, and students engage in: 1) short-term and long-term research; 2) advising and consulting directly with cities; 3) partnering with others in the academic, public, private, and non-governmental sectors to understand new trends, opportunities, and threats; and 4) are developing a national clearinghouse of information on these interconnected topics.  Visit Urbanism Next for more information, including a graphic summary of many topics being addressed, a video describing the work, and a collection of white papers and research reports developed so far.

National Institute for Transportation and Communities

The National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC) is one of five U.S. Department of Transportation national university transportation centers.  The University of Oregon is one of six members, along with the University of Utah, University of Arizona, Portland State University, University of Texas at Arlington, and Oregon Tech, and many researchers have received research support from NITC to address one of its main themes of: increase access to opportunities, improve multi-modal planning and shared use of infrastructure, advance innovation and smart cities, and develop data, models and tools.  NITC also provides student scholarships, dissertation fellowships, and support for campus-based student organizations.