USC Center for Sustainable Cities

Improving cities through research, education, and community outreach

Research & Publications

The main focus of CSCS research is sustainable urban form. The spatial structure of cities–the location and intensity of housing, jobs, and public services—is a critical factor in urban sustainability.  CSC explores how cities can be designed to achieve sustainability goals.

Metropolitan areas are at the core of sustainability issues; large populations and extensive, resource intensive economic activity generate environmental pollution and consume scarce natural resources. Disruptive technologies and practices, such as increasing e-commerce, car and ridesharing services, and the emergence of autonomous vehicles, present both challenges and opportunities for experiments in urban form and transportation. The Center is committed to research and planning that advances sustainable urban form, recognizing and responding to social equity problems, and incorporating participatory processes.

Land Use and Transportation

The spatial organization of cities is closely linked with urban transportation and mobility, and urban transportation is a leading contributor to air pollution and other negative environmental impacts. Transportation investments are often made to influence city form; rail transit is used to promote transit-oriented development, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure are aimed at promoting more non-motorized trips. Similarly, land use decisions are made to influence travel.  Density bonuses are offered to promote development around transit stops, and parking spaces are replaced with street parklets to promote a more livable urban environment. CSC’s focus on spatial structure complements the transportation and mobility focus of METRANS.

Cities and Climate Change

Climate change will – and indeed in some locations already does – affect metropolitan areas in many ways. Rising sea level will affect coastal cities, making them more vulnerable to floods and infrastructure failures. Some of our most critical transportation infrastructure is at risk.  There is a need for both mitigation and adaptation research to reduce climate change impacts. CSC examines infrastructure vulnerabilities and potential solutions.  CSC also examines land use strategies that can reduce both GHG emissions and vulnerability of urban populations.

Sustainable Land Use Policies and Governance

Solving sustainability problems involves public action through collaborations with private and non-profit organizations, implementation of regulatory policies, investments in new technology development, etc. Thus government plays a key role. CSC conducts research on governance issues in sustainable land use. These include effective policy design, evaluation of policy outcomes, and collaborative decision-making.