Professor Emeritus of Urban Studies and Planning
Economic Development, Transportation, Policy Analysis, Regional Science
Ph.D., University of California Los Angeles; B.S., Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Professor Rufolo joined the faculty at Portland State in 1980 after working for six years, first as an economist, then as a senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank in Philadelphia. His work at P.S.U. centers on research and public policy analysis related to public finance, transportation, urban economics, and regional economic development. Dr. Rufolo has taught more than 20 courses related to economics and public policy in urban and regional contexts. These classes include Economics of Urban Transportation, Regional Economic Development, and Economics of State and Local Finance.
Professor Rufolo’s research philosophy centers on understanding the economic efficiency, effects and implications of public policies. For the past 10 years, he has studied congestion pricing as a method for managing and financing the road system. His largest research project in this field was an experiment done by the state of Oregon to replace fuel taxes with mileage charges. Dr. Rufolo was largely responsible for managing, evaluating, and analyzing the data. The Oregon Department of Transportation equipped approximately 250 vehicles with GPS systems that determined their positions and allocated their mileage by time and zone to various different categories. One group of vehicles was given a flat pricing schedule, and another group was given a congestion pricing schedule that increased the cost of driving substantially during periods of peak congestion. Dr. Rufolo was interested in how people changed their behavior according to the pricing and what characteristics affected the changes. One finding was that the availability of substitutes, like transit access, made it easier for people to reduce their miles driven during peak periods. The data also showed that people reduced their driving during off-peak periods as well, rather than shifting driving to these periods. As a follow-up, Dr. Rufolo is currently looking at the technical and administrative costs of implementing systems similar to the one used in the mileage charge study.
Professor Rufolo believes that students should be involved in solving problems. Students should be able to take theories and available data and analyze likely outcomes. Additionally, they should be able to determine how these likely outcomes differ from their initial predictions. In his class on state and local finance, for example, students assess different types of taxes and determine how the tax burden shifts depending on different elasticities of demand. In addition to such in-classroom problem-solving experiences, Dr. Rufolo creates opportunities for graduate students to get hands-on experience; he involved four graduate research assistants in the analysis of the mileage charge data with the state of Oregon.
Much of Professor Rufolo’s work outside of the university centers on informing policy-makers about the effects of their decisions. In addition to research and teaching, he has been active in government budgeting and forecasting, and serves on numerous councils and commissions. These include the Advisory Council to the Task Force on State and Local Revenue Restructuring, Oregon Department of Transportation’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Cost Allocation, the Governor's Council of Economic Advisors, the City of Beaverton Budget Committee, the Advisory Committee on the Budget for Tri-Met, and the Investment Advisory Committee for the city of Portland.