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Meet Professor James Strathman
Meet Professor James Strathman

Professor Emeritus of Urban Studies and Planning
Director, Center for Urban Studies

Transportation, Regional Science
Ph.D., University of Iowa; M.A., University of Pennsylvania; BA, University of Iowa
Office: Urban Center 350C

Professional Biography

Professor Strathman serves as the director of the Center for Urban Studies, a position he has held since 1998, and as a professor of Urban Studies and Planning whose research interests include transportation, regional development and methods for estimating implicit markets. As the center's director, has has taken on about 50 externally funded projects, the majority of which have related to transportation. Approximately half of these transportation project have centered on transit operations and planning; the remainder cover mixed topics including highway safety, intelligent transportation systems and transportation planning. Professor Strathman joined Portland State University in 1982 as a research associate with the Center for Urban Studies and as an assistant professor.


Over the past 25 years, Dr. Strathman's transit research has focused on operations planning, performance and management, scheduling, financing mechanisms, operator absenteeism, safety, and market and customer research. A common theme throughout his research is tying theoretical foundations of a discipline to empirical analysis.

These themes are apparent in several research projects that Dr. Strathman conducted. A recent project funded by the Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium (OTREC) and TriMet assessed transit operator attendance and safety incidents. In this research, Dr. Strathman looked at absence patterns of operators over a three-year period and asked to what extent absence was related to operator assignments, on-time performance, work delivery, customer satisfaction, and safety. Analysis showed that all of these factors were indeed related to operator absenteeism. Joint funding ensured that the research had both scholarly and practical relevance. Not only could the research have significance in the discipline of transportation, but it also could help improve operating conditions for TriMet.

In a similar study, safety was analyzed in terms of operator demographics, assignments, work delivery, and customer satisfaction. The results echoed those of the study of operator absenteeism; again, relationships were found between transit safety and the factors above. Professor Strathman is quick to point out that much of this research is now possible as a result of automated data collection methods using intelligent transportation system (ITS) technologies.

Typically, a graduate research assistant (GRA) is assigned to each of Dr. Strathman's projects. In addition to providing new information to the field, these projects also provide meaningful research experience to the GRA and facilitate his or her success in finishing the program. Often they publish papers related to their assigned projects, and their dissertations are sometimes related to their GRA research.


Similar to the way he conducts his research, Dr. Strathman's teaching style reflects the values he places on conceptualization and theoretical review and their connections to empirical evidence. He believes that material must be clearly presented and demonstrate relevance within and among disciplines. Ultimately, this will lead to diversity and differentiation between graduates and a strong understanding of concepts and methods. In the past year, Dr. Strathman has taught Impact Assessment, Urban Economic and Spatial Structure, and Sustainable Transportation.


Professor Strathman believes that Portland is best characterized by its self-reliance and entrepreneurial spirit. These characteristics are reinforced by it geographic isolation, natural amenities, and open and accepting people who often work together to find the best way forward.

In addition to his service to the university, Dr. Strathman is a member of Oregon Department of Transportation's Research Advisory Committee and is on the board of advisers of TransNow.