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Urban Planning, Design and Policy

MIT's top ranked city planning program is training the next generation of transportation planners and policy makers. Urban mobility is shaped by political decisions and land-use patterns. Researchers and students are investigating these relationships and creating new planning tools to promote a sustainable, equitable future. Active student projects include transit-oriented development policies for emerging cities and mobility solutions for informal settlements.

The research labs and faculty working in this area are shown below. You can see a full listing of the people and labs involved with the MIT Mobility Initiative by navigating to the people page and the labs page.


Jim Aloisi

Lecturer of Transportation Policy and Planning

Research Interests:

Urban Transportation, Equity, Public Realm Design, Public Transportation Funding and Service Delivery

Joseph F. Coughlin

Director, MIT AgeLab

Research Interests:

Consumer Behavior, Behavioral Science, Global Demographics

Chris Knittel

George P. Shultz Professor of Applied Economics

Research Interests:

Economics, Finance and Accounting

Carlo Ratti

Professor of Urban Technologies and Planning, SENSEable City Lab Director

Research Interests:

Education, Transportation and Mobility, Urban Information, Technology, and Media and Analytics

Fred Salvucci

Senior Lecturer and Senior Research Associate

Research Interests:

Infrastructure, Urban Transportation, Public Transportation, Institutional Development in Decision-Making.

Sarah Williams

Associate Professor of Technology and Urban Planning

Research Interests:

Semi-formal Transportation, Urban Information, Technology, Media Design, Data Action, Urban Design, Data Visualization and Privacy

John Attanucci

Lecturer, Research Associate and Manager of the MIT Transit Research Program

Research Interests:

Transportation Planning, Transit Management and Operations, Transit Information and Decision Support Systems

Fábio Duarte

Principal Research Scientist and Lecturer of Transportation Policy and Planning

Research Interests:

Urban Technologies, Transportation and Planning, Social Construction of Technologies

Kent Larson

Principal Research Scientist

Research Interests:

Advanced Simulation and Augmented Reality for Urban Design, Mobility-on-Demand Systems

Daniel Roos

Japan Steel Industry Professor, Emeritus, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Research Interests:

Technology and policy, Transportation systems, Industry studies, Information systems

Kathleen Thelen

Ford Professor of Political Science

Research Interests:

Political Economy, Historical Institutionalism, Labor Politics, Social Policy, Advanced Industrial Countries

Chris Zegras

Professor of Transportation and Urban Planning

Research Interests:

Environmental Planning and Management, Healthy Communities and Active Living, Transportation and Mobility, Urban Economics

Eran Ben-Joseph

Professor of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning

Research Interests:

Environmental Planning and Management, Healthy Communities and Active Living, Transportation and Mobility, Urban Design

Joseph Ferreira

Professor of Urban Studies & Planning

Research Interests:

Transportation and Mobility, Urban Information, Technology, and Media and Analytics

Sandy Pentland

Toshiba Professor of Media Arts & Science

Research Interests:

Computational Social Science, Organizational Engineering, Wearable Computing, Image Understanding

Andres Sevtsuk

Charles and Ann Spaulding Career Development Associate Professor of Urban Science and Planning

Research Interests:

Spatial Analysis, Walkability, Public Transport, Business Location Patterns, Urban Design

Chintan Vaishnav

Senior Lecturer, Operations Management

Research Interests:

Information Technology and Systems, Development, and Public Policy

Jinhua Zhao

Professor of Cities and Transportation, Founder and Faculty Director, MIT Mobility Initiative

Research Interests:

Urban Transportation, Travel Behavior, Public Transit, Automated and Shared Mobility, Machine Learning

Rounaq Basu

Postdoctoral Associate, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, MIT

Research Interests:

Sustainable Cities, Equity, Transportation and Mobility, Healthy Communities and Active Living, Urban Information, Technology, and Media and Analytics

Jason Jackson

Ford Career Development Assistant Professor of Political Economy

Research Interests:

Community Development, Economic Development, Law and Policy, Machine Learning, Transportation and Mobility

Sergey Paltsev

Deputy Director of the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change

Research Interests:

Energy Transition, Policy Scenarios, Climate Policy, Regional Analysis

Anson Stewart

Research Scientist

Research Interests:

Spatial Analysis, Urban Transportation, Public Transportation

Matthias Winkenbach

Director of the MIT Megacity Logistics Lab; Director of the MIT CAVE Lab

Research Interests:

Multi-tier Distribution Network Design, Urban Logistics, Last-Mile Delivery, Urban Freight Policy, Data Analytics and Visualization

Siqi Zheng

Samuel Tak Lee Professor, CRE, DUSP and SA+P

Research Interests:

Urban and Environmental Economics and Policy; Environmental Sustainability


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Age Lab

The MIT AgeLab was created in 1999 to invent new ideas and creatively translate technologies into practical solutions that improve people's health and enable them to “do things” throughout the lifespan. Equal to the need for ideas and new technologies is the belief that innovations in how products are designed, services are delivered, or policies are implemented are of critical importance to our quality of life tomorrow.


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Center for Real Estate, and Sustainable Urbanization Lab

The goal of the Sustainable Urbanization Lab (SUL) is to establish behavioral foundations for urban and environmental planning and policies aimed at sustainable urbanization in the most rapidly urbanizing regions of the world.

The SUL will be defined by three ‘blocks’: two of which are inter-related research themes: Environmental Sustainability and Place-based Policies and Self-Sustaining Urban Growth; the third block, an educational program the China Future City Program, will continue to serve as the teaching and research center of China’s urbanization on MIT campus.


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City Form Lab

The City Form Lab at MIT focuses on urban design, planning and real-estate research. We develop new software tools for researching city form; use cutting-edge spatial analysis and statistics to investigate how urban form and land-use developments affect urban mobility and business location choices; and develop creative design and policy solutions for contemporary urban challenges. By bringing together multi-disciplinary urban research expertise and excellence in design, we develop context sensitive and timely insight about the role of urban form in affecting the quality of life in 21st century cities. CFL involves inter-disciplinary researchers and students interested in urban design, planning, transportation, spatial analysis and decision-making.


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The Community Innovators Lab (CoLab) is a center for planning and development within the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP). CoLab facilitates the interchange of knowledge and resources between MIT and community organizations. CoLab works with MIT students, faculty,
and technical resources to build collaborations with communities. Together we implement strategies that harness existing community assets and capture value to promote inclusive economic development that is environmentally sustainable, socially just, and deeply democratic. CoLab brings multi-disciplinary
expertise from urban planning, municipal government, business, community media, civil rights advocacy, and community and labor organizing.


Dayna L. Cunningham
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Connection Science Living Labs

With its novel "Living Labs" paradigm for research in the field, MIT Connection Science brings together interdisciplinary experts to develop, deploy, and test - in actual living environments - new technologies and strategies for safe, trusted, data sharing. MIT is well positioned to take a leadership role in demonstrating not only how organizations can leverage data in the future, but how we collect, manage, and use personal information, from setting appropriate privacy policies to demonstrating systems that can implement it in practice.


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Megacity Logistics Lab

The Megacity Logistics Lab brings together business, logistics, and urban planning perspectives to develop appropriate technologies, infrastructures, and policies for sustainable urban logistics operations. Their work aims to promote new urban delivery models, from unattended home delivery solutions to smart locker systems, to click & collect services, to drone delivery. They are pushing the limits of existing logistics network designs as future city logistics networks need to support omni-channel retail models, smaller store formats, increased intensity of deliveries, coordinate multiple transshipment points, engage a wider range of vehicle technologies - including electric and autonomous vehicles - and support complex inventory balancing and deployment strategies.


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Mobility Systems Center

The Mobility Systems Center, an MIT Energy Initiative Low-Carbon Energy Center, brings together MIT's extensive expertise in mobility research to understand current and future trends in global passenger and freight mobility. Approaching mobility from a socio-technical perspective, we identify key challenges, understand potential trends, and analyze the societal and environmental impact of new mobility solutions. Through developing, maintaining, and applying a set of state-of-the-art scientific tools for the mobility sector, the Center aims to assess future mobility transformations from a technological, economic, environmental, and socio-political perspective. Executive Director: Randall Field


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Senseable City Lab

The real-time city is real! As layers of networks and digital information blanket urban space, new approaches to the study of the built environment are emerging. The way we describe and understand cities is being radically transformed, as are the tools we use to design them. The mission of the Senseable City Laboratory, a research initiative at MIT, is to anticipate these changes and study them from a critical point of view.


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Transit Lab

The MIT Transit Lab leverages the value of large-scale, long-term research collaborations across transit agencies. Starting in 1992 under the leadership of Professor Nigel Wilson, the Lab has collaborated with metropolitan transit agencies and departments of transportation worldwide, developing and implementing technology for transit operations and planning. Past and ongoing research sponsors include the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), Transport for London (TfL), and Mass Transit Railway (MTR, Hong Kong). These long-term engagements, in addition to projects with other transit agencies and international research centers, provide graduate students unique opportunities for applied research.



Comparative Land Use and Transportation Planning


Focuses on the integration of land use and transportation planning, drawing from cases in both industrialized and developing countries. Reviews underlying theories, analytical techniques, and the empirical evidence of the land use-transportation relationship at the metropolitan, intra-metropolitan, and micro-scales. Also covers the various ways of measuring urban structure, form, and the "built environment." Develops students' skills to assess relevant policies, interventions and impacts.

Transportation Policy, the Environment, and Livable Communities


Examines the economic and political conflict between transportation and the environment. Investigates the role of government regulation, green business and transportation policy as a facilitator of economic development and environmental sustainability. Analyzes a variety of international policy problems, including government-business relations, the role of interest groups, non-governmental organizations, and the public and media in the regulation of the automobile; sustainable development; global warming; politics of risk and siting of transport facilities; environmental justice; equity; as well as transportation and public health in the urban metropolis. Provides students with an opportunity to apply transportation and planning methods to develop policy alternatives in the context of environmental politics. Students taking graduate version complete additional assignments.

Urban Last-Mile Logistics


Explores specific challenges of urban last-mile B2C and B2B distribution in both industrialized and emerging economies. Develops an in-depth understanding of the perspectives, roles, and decisions of all relevant stakeholder groups, from consumers, to private sector decision makers, to public policy makers. Discussion of the most relevant traditional and the most promising innovating operating models for urban last-mile distribution. Introduces applications of the essential quantitative methods for the strategic design and tactical planning of urban last-mile distribution systems, including optimization and simulation. Covers basic facility location problems, network design problems, single- and multi-echelon vehicle routing problems, as well as associated approximation techniques.

Behavioral Science and Urban Mobility


Examines the behavioral foundation for policy design using urban transportation examples. Introduces multiple frameworks for understanding behavior while contrasting the perspectives of classic economic theory with behavioral economics and social psychology. Suggests corresponding policy interventions and establishes a mapping across behavior, theory, and policy. Presents a spectrum of instruments for positively influencing behavior and improving welfare. Challenges students to critique, design, implement and interpret experiments that nudge travel behavior. Brings behavioral insights to creative design of transport policies that are efficient and equitable as well as simple, consistent, transparent, acceptable, and adaptive to behavioral changes. Students taking graduate version complete additional assignments.

Transportation Research Design


Seminar dissects ten transportation studies from head to toe to illustrate how research ideas are initiated, framed, analyzed, evidenced, written, presented, criticized, revised, extended, and published, quoted and applied. Students design and execute their own transportation research.

Advanced Seminar in Transportation Finance


Focuses on the theory and practice of transportation system finance, examining the range of relevant topics including basic public finance, politics, institutional structures, externalities, pricing, and the role of advanced technologies. Primarily oriented around land-based, surface transportation, although in their research students are welcome to examine air and maritime modes according to their interests. Explores issues across a range of contexts, including North America, Europe, Latin America, and Asia.

Transportation and Urban Development Workshop


Combines class- and field-based learning and applications and includes four basic parts: knowledge of the context (field study); global knowledge of urban development-transportation integration (e.g., in-depth case studies); application of the global knowledge to specific field site(s); generalization of application(s) to potential sites across the metropolitan area. Over the course the term, students have the opportunity to deepen their knowledge of the local context; develop an understanding of how urban development and transportation can be viably integrated, generally; design proposals for specific sites; develop the business and social and development cases for the sites; and craft a plan to better integrate urban development and transportation in the metropolitan area, involving local authorities, private investors, and citizens.

Urban Transportation Planning & Policy


The course examines urban transportation policymaking and planning, its relationship to social and environmental justice and the influences of politics, governance structures and human and institutional behavior. Through the lens of history and current events the course explores the pathway that led to today’s legacy infrastructure, legacy policies (and legacy thinking), how attitudes are influenced, and how change happens. The course will examine the tensions and potential synergies among transportation policy values of individual mobility, access, system efficiency and “sustainability”. Traditional planning methods will be assessed with a critical eye, and through that process students will learn how to approach transportation planning in a way that responds to contemporary needs and values, with an emphasis on transport justice.
Planning and policymaking will be discussed in relation to recent pandemic effects, which bring
an unprecedented level of uncertainty and complexity to the policy context. Among other
topics to be explored: the roles of the federal, state, and local government; analysis of current trends and pattern breaks; transport sector decarbonization; land use, placemaking, and sustainable mobility networks; the role of “mobility as a service”, and the implications of disruptive technology on personal mobility.

Public Transportation Analytics and Planning


Students will gain experience processing, visualizing, and analyzing urban mobility data, with special emphasis on models and performance metrics tailored to scheduled, fixed-route transit services. The evolution of urban public transportation modes and services, as well as interaction with emerging on-demand services, will be covered. Instructors and guest lecturers from industry will discuss both methods for data collection and analysis, as well as organizational, policy, and governance constraints on transit planning. In assignments, students will practice using spatial database, data visualization, network analysis, and other software to shape recommendations for transit that effectively meets the future needs of cities.

Global Ventures


Development Ventures is an exploratory Fall semester elective Action Lab on founding, financing, and building entrepreneurial ventures targeting developing countries, emerging markets, and underserved consumers everywhere.

Particular emphasis is placed on transformative innovations and exponentially scalable business models that can enable or accelerate major positive social change throughout the world.

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