Transportation Research at Portland State
In 1966 the first transportation studies center was established at PSU. Since then our transportation faculty and staff expertise has grown to worldwide recognition, and expanded to include the multitude of disciplines that inform transportation decision-making: planning, engineering, economics, design, psychology, information technology and more. Our researchers do work locally with the Portland Bureau of Transportation, the Oregon DOT, Metro, TriMet, and more; as well as being tapped to take on national projects. We are also the lead campus of the National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC) — one of seven national University Transportation Centers (UTC's) funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Explore the decades of transportation research at PSU here, or dig into some of our key research areas below.
Portland State University researchers have a broad knowledge of active transportation design principles. Through our Initiative for Bicycle and Pedestrian Design program, we host annual bikeway design workshops which draw professionals from all over the globe, and research from the TREC team has informed NACTO’s Urban Bikeway Design Guide, FHWA’s Bikeway Selection Guide, the FTA’s Manual on Bicycle and Pedestrian Connections to Transit, the FHWA’s Strategic Agenda for Pedestrian and Bicycle Transportation and many other design guidebooks. Our expertise includes protected bike lanes and intersections, bike boulevards, integrating with transit, and more.
More than 6,000 pedestrians are killed every year on American streets. Portland State University researchers have worked on hundreds of local, regional and statewide pedestrian and bicycle policy, planning, and design initiatives to address this nationwide issue. At the forefront of this work is a recognition that social inequity plays a strong role in putting people at risk, so equity must be an integral part of any tools developed that are aimed at solving the pedestrian safety crisis.
Learn more about some of our most impactful research on designing for pedestrian safety and comfort here, or see all our projects on pedestrians here.
Electrification offers many promises for our transportation system. Under the leadership of TREC's sustainable transportation program manager, John MacArthur, TREC has developed a wealth of research around electric bicycles (e-bikes) to understand the potential for e-bikes to address mobility needs, increase access to active transportation options, and the potential of e-bikes to address sustainabilty goals. Findings from this research have been used in policy discussions at the local, regional, state and federal level.
Equity in Bike Share
Our researchers have established Portland State University as a center for understanding how to make bike share more equitable. Through a variety of projects supported by the Better Bike Share Partnership (BBSP) and the National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC), the team has produced reports, articles and presentations that tell the story of who is using bike share, how to engage underserved communities, and what cities are doing to make bike share better serve those communities.
Learn more about some of our most impactful research on bike share here.
Multimodal Transportation Data Research
Data-driven policy and strategy are critical to meeting transportation goals. Where there is insufficient or incomplete data, there can be no effective solutions. It’s why at Portland State University we’ve focused our research efforts over the years on filling data gaps, and why we house two national data clearinghouses – PORTAL and BikePed Portal – aimed at making transportation data more easily accessible to researchers and practitioners.
Learn more about some of our most impactful research on collecting and using multimodal data here, or see all our projects on data and modeling here.
Transportation Networks and Technology
Travel time, operating speed and reliability all influence operating costs and system efficiencies, and in turn influences how people choose to get to their destinations. Researchers at PSU use the latest technology in optimizing models to achieve short-term and long-term positive impacts on our transportation networks in large-scale urban areas. Greater capacity for modeling and measuring the performance of our networks will lead to better infrastructure planning and management strategies, ultimately leading to reduced emissions and other related health benefits.
Learn more about some of our most impactful research on transportation networks and technology, or see all of our projects here.
Integration of Transportation and Land Use
Portland State both reflects and advances a national reputation for considering land use and transportation together. Oregon laws emphasize the importance of transportation and land use in addressing greenhouse gas emissions and our research supports the state in leading this initiative, particularly in the area of modeling and forecasting tools.
We examine transit-oriented developments to see their effects on housing, jobs and society, including low-income immigrant communities. We also look at the best ways to balance access to businesses along roadways with the need to avoid conflict between various road users. Our research serves to inform thoughtful access management policy that fosters a vibrant economy and safe road users.
Transportation and Homelessness
In 2020, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimated that over half a million Americans are living without housing. This national crisis contributes to everyday transportation challenges that are compounded and made more difficult when that person does not have access to a home. TREC partners with the Homelessness Research and Action Collaborative (HRAC) at Portland State, which seeks to address the challenges of homelessness through research that uncovers conditions which lead to, and perpetuate, homelessness. Together, TREC and HRAC are starting to tackle some of the questions that lie at the intersection of transportation and homelessness.
Learn more about some of our most impactful research on transportation and homelessness here.
Planning and Economics
Transportation planning enables the efficient movement of people and goods. Our research examines the choices we make to plan, fund and implement a transportation system that serves livable communities today and for future generations. Planning for sustainable transportation also means creating systems that allow people to grow older without becoming dependent on cars. We rely on applied economic research to analyze transportation and land-use decisions in a real-world setting.
Infrastructure: Resiliency and Recovery
The strength of a transportation system depends largely on the condition of its infrastructure, from the smallest footpath to the largest freeway. And the bridges serve a crucial role in connecting those transportation systems, carrying traffic over otherwise impassible features. Considering that value, it's doubly important that bridges stand up to earthquakes, especially considering that quakes will disrupt so much else of the built environment. And so research at PSU places a special emphasis on resilience and recovery in those systems. Portland State's infraStructure Testing and Applied Resarch Laboratory (iSTAR), tests the resiliency of engineered structures and their materials by reproducing the shaking of real earthquakes.
Transit: Planning, operations and community access
Public transit systems hold promise for serving urban areas safely and efficiently. Yet challenges within transit districts and from outside factors make that service inherently difficult. Research at Portland State has offered insight to transit agencies on planning, operations and safety. And we look at the mixed-use developments designed with access to transit in mind. Our research focuses on the traffic and roadway design that affect transit planning along with operations issues such as keeping vehicles on time and evenly spaced, placing stops where they best serve goals, and scheduling drivers to promote safety and efficiency. It also includes determining which routes best meet community and agency goals and gaining a better understanding of transit users.