Research Programs

The Center for Urban Studies, established in 1966 under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, is a multidisciplinary research institute located within the College of Urban and Public Affairs.

The Center's primary research emphases are in urban policy analysis and in urban and regional planning. Other areas of research include the following:

  • Urban Services
  • Determinants of Property Value
  • Transportation
  • Regional Development and Economic Analysis
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Regional Decision-Making
  • Solid Waste, Waste Prevention, and Recycling

Urban Services

The Center has investigated various aspects of urban services cost and delivery, the interrelationship of local government infrastructure finance and growth management, and the implementation and evaluation of recycling programs. For example, the center's research of double taxation has led to major service changes in the Portland metropolitan area.

Determinants of Property Value

Center research efforts have evaluated the impacts of public housing, restitution centers, creative financing, transit stations, and urban growth boundaries on property value.


The Center's transportation research program includes studies of bus route-level patronage modeling, trip chaining, traffic impact fees, the location of truck data collection sites on Oregon's interstate and primary highways, analysis of automatic traffic recorders, the integration of social service client transportation with transit district special needs programs, ride sharing in Oregon, transit finance in Oregon, profiles of transit managers, statistical validation of transit automatic passenger-counter data, exurban travel behavior, parking, and the impact of the Portland Transit Mall.

Part of the Center's work in transportation includes involvement by its director and faculty in the Transportation Northwest Regional Center, one of ten regional research centers of the National Transportation Centers Program, housed at the University of Washington.

Regional Development and Economic Analysis

The Center has been engaged in the study of structural changes in the state's wood products industry, particularly as these changes relate to employment and economic development, and it has also analyzed solid waste trends in the Portland area.

Geographic Information Systems

The Center engages in a variety of GIS-related research. This includes system implementation and information integration at Tri-Met, BPA (Bonneville Power Administration), City of Portland, and the USFWS (US Fish and Wildlife Service); emergency management and GIS for Clackamas County, Oregon; developing a regional spatial data infrastructure for the NWLISN (Northwest Land Information System Network) and the State of Oregon GIS Service Center; and a number of projects featuring GIS use by community activists. The Center staffed the Oregon Land Records Committee, which fosters and coordinates land records modernization and GIS implementation at the local government level. Annual weeklong GIS Fundamentals workshops have been jointly sponsored at PSU by the Center for Urban Studies and the Department of Geography. Center staff takes an active role in the local URISA (Urban and Regional Information Systems Association) chapter and participates in planning the annual GIS-in-Action Conference, held in Portland. Current research focuses on geographic information systems in transportation (GIS-T), particularly sharable digital road map databases, and in adapting GIS to monitoring land use change.

Regional Decision-Making

The Center conducted a major study of the decision-making that led to the Mt. Hood Freeway withdrawal and the construction of the Banfield Light Rail Transit Line. Other research has focused on the revitalization of suburban CBDs, the allocation of road user funds to local governments, the effects of population decentralization on transit service delivery, and consensus building for regional transportation planning.

Solid Waste, Waste Prevention, and Recycling

The Center's subunit, Community Environmental Services, conducts research and service projects in the areas of solid waste management, recycling, and waste prevention. Research includes a longitudinal study of residential solid waste generation, waste characterization analysis for the private sector, and analysis of organic waste diversion programs. Research funding provided by the City of Portland, the Port of Portland, Washington County, the City of Vancouver and Metro as well as private companies. CES also provides recycling and waste prevention technical assistance to the business and multifamily sectors through contracts with local governments including the City of Portland, Metro, City of Gresham, City of Troutdale, Washington County, and the City of Vancouver.. [See Community Environmental Services below for more information]

The mission of the Center is to promote and facilitate the conduct of research and community service for faculty and students on urban issues relevant to the metropolitan area. The Center is an established and ongoing link between the University and the community. The Center provides the infrastructure by which the assets of the University can be accessed by the community, and a means by which the University can access the community as a research laboratory.