Over its long history, IURD has sponsored research in numerous areas and across many disciplines. IURD emphasizes interdisciplinary and cooperative study with the aim of fostering joint learning among faculty, students and practitioners and helping researchers to recognize interdependencies in order to grasp the larger context of the problems that they are studying.

Featured Faculty Research

dan chatman

IURD Faculty Affiliate and Assistant Professor of City and Regional Planning

Daniel G. Chatman



city of san diego sustainbilityAnalyzing the Economic Benefits and Costs of Smart Growth Strategies, 2012-2014

(Funded by the California Air Resources Board, with Randall Crane of UCLA, Karen Chapple of UC Berkeley, and J.R. DeShazo of UCLA).

This project is a study of how smart growth strategies likely to be adopted under SB 375 will influence economic costs and benefits among different groups in California, with a focus on municipalities and households. Smart growth strategies aim to reduce sprawl and counter the effects of population growth on global climate change. They include imposing urban growth boundaries, reforming zoning codes to allow denser development, reducing off-street parking requirements, re-zoning underused industrial land for residential uses, deregulating in-law units, subsidizing dense housing near transit stops, and improving public transit.

In California regional planning, “smart growth” also refers to long-range plans that are intended to modify how growth would happen under the “status quo.” The sustainable community strategy followed by the San Diego Association of Governments, for example, aims for both a higher share of multi-family housing, and a higher share of new housing near transit and infill areas, to achieve greater density, consume less land, and reduce vehicle miles traveled.

Implementation of these strategies or plans will depend on numerous factors. Incentives have been introduced to influence these decisions, and more are planned, but their effectiveness is unproven. This project addresses one major set of issues: the economic costs and benefits of smart growth strategies, both from a global perspective and from the perspectives of local agencies and other interest groups. Four to six cases of smart growth strategies implemented in California will be used to demonstrate different economic benefit-cost scenarios.

The final document will describe where smart growth strategies are most likely to have benefits, and the obstacles to adopting smart growth strategies there. Crucially, the analysis may also yield examples of smart growth policies that will not have net economic benefits in all places. (Photo courtesy City of San Diego)


fixed transit photo courtesy metroAn Exploration of Fixed Guideway Transit Criteria Revisited, 2010-2013

(Funded by the Transit Cooperative Research Program of the National Academy of Sciences; with Robert Cervero of UC Berkeley and Don Emerson of Parsons Brinckherhoff, and current and former DCRP students Ian Carlton, Emily Moylan, Erick Guerra, Dana Weissman, Jin Murakami, and Paolo Ikezoe, with contributions from Dan Tischler, Daniel Means, Sandra Winkler, Kevin Sheu, and Joe Zissman).

This study was undertaken to develop a relatively sophisticated data-driven “indicator-based” method for predicting the potential success of proposed light rail and heavy rail transit services in the United States. The research was focused on two measures of usage as compared to projected capital cost: project-level ridership, and regionwide person miles traveled (PMT). The study team assembled a geographically detailed station-level database of nearly all recently developed light and heavy rail projects in the United States: about 55 projects from 27 metropolitan areas, along with supplementary information and guidance from elite interviews and focus groups, and six case studies. The goal was a method that would predict the likelihood of project success based on the conditions present in the corridor and within the metropolitan area as a whole, including industry-specific employment information, parking prices and availability, levels of road congestion, and other spatial measures ranging from the station-area level to the level of the metropolitan region.

The project includes the development of a handbook and spreadsheet tool developed to help policymakers and laypeople evaluate potential light and heavy rail alignments, as well as better understand how potential changes in land use and other factors might make projects more cost-effective. While the indicator-based method will not provide a final answer on whether to make any particular rail investment, it should guide decisions on whether a proposed project merits investing in more detailed planning and analysis. It is anticipate to be completed and posted on the web in the coming months.


Previously featured research.



Research Areas:

Community/Neighborhood Development

Building Support for Transit-Oriented Development: Do Community Engagement Toolkits Work?


Economics/Economic Development

Regional Resilience in the Face of Foreclosures: Evidence from Six Metropolitan Areas

Surveying San Francisco Merchants in Five San Francisco Commercial Districts

Richmond Regional Equity Demonstration Initiative (REDI)

Evaluation of Collaborative Regional Initiatives (CRIs) for the James Irvine Foundation

Engaging Young People and Schools in Urban Planning and Social Change

Social Enterprise for Learning (SEfL)


Public Education

Smart Schools, Smart Growth: Investing in Education Facilities and Stronger Communities

Engaging Young People and Schools in Urban Planning and Social Change

Social Enterprise for Learning (SEfL)


Sustainable Development

Connecting Cairo to the Nile: Renewing Life and Heritage on the River

Developing Criteria for Prioritizing Expenditures for a Sustainable Future and Policy Briefs on Why We Need To Act Now

A Living Mediterranean River: Restoration and Management of the Rio Real in Portugal to Achieve Good Ecological Condition

Transportation Applications for Developing Tourist Enclaves: Lessons From Koh Lanta, Thailand

A Master Plan for Sustainable Tourism Development: Koh Lanta Yai, Krabi Province



Valuing Rail Transit: Comparing Capital and Operating Costs to consumer Benefits

Suburban Transformations: From Employment Centers to Mixed-Use Activity Centers

Histories of Transit-Oriented Development: Perspectives on the Development of the TOD Concept

The Effects of Transportation Corridors' Roadside Design Features on User Behavior and Safety, and Their Contributions to Health, Environmental Quality, and Community Economic Vitality: a Literature Review 

Are TODs Over-Parked?