SPUR Research

In-depth reports, white papers and policy recommendations

Advanced Publications Search

The Bigger Picture: Seven Ideas for Downtown San José

Making the most of big plans for new development, a major rail expansion and a project to re-envision public green space

SPUR’s Bigger Picture series proposes ideas for key locations in San Francisco, San José and Oakland. Each provides an opportunity to tackle major regional challenges through local planning processes. Our first report looks at the western side of downtown San José, where a major rail station expansion, a park re-envisioning process and a record number of proposed developments are signaling big changes for the neighborhood.
Read the report

The Bigger Picture

Bold ideas for San Francisco, San José and Oakland

SPUR’s Bigger Picture series proposes ideas for key locations in San Francisco, San José and Oakland. Each exploration represents an opportunity to tackle major regional challenges through local planning processes. And, conversely, each suggests how big investments in infrastructure can — if planned carefully — bring about positive transformation for the immediate neighborhood.
Read the report

The Economic Contributions of Expanding Healthy Food Incentives

Broad expansions of healthy food incentives would provide powerful economic benefits – for families, grocers, and farmers, as well as more broadly among the state economies where incentive programs are expanded. The findings in this study demonstrate that state and federal policymakers would be wise to double down on their support for these programs.
Read the report

Ladders Out of Poverty

The potential for unrestricted cash transfers in the Bay Area

Tens of thousands of households in the Bay Area struggle to pay their bills each month, a situation only worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. The region should look to the promise of unrestricted cash transfer programs, which give people money with no specific requirements on how it is spent. SPUR looks at the successes of existing programs and offers five possible options to consider.
Read the report

Coexistence in Public Space

Engagement tools for creating shared spaces in places with homelessness

As more and more Bay Area residents find themselves without homes, many have defaulted to living in public parks, plazas and squares. For other users of these spaces, the presence of unhoused residents renders them unwelcoming or even unsafe. How might we design and manage public space for coexistence, so that people of all backgrounds can find joy, belonging and safety there?
Read the report

Freeways of the Future

Delivering a fast and reliable regional bus network on existing freeway lanes

Imagine a fast, reliable and coordinated regional express bus network operating on a system of freeway express lanes connecting transportation hubs throughout the Bay Area and beyond. SPUR recommends six broad actions to support the development and implementation of a coordinated regional express bus vision through institutional reforms, infrastructure coordination and policies to convert existing freeways into a central part of the region’s equity solutions.
Read the report

Integrating Planning With Nature

Building climate resilience across the urban-to-rural gradient

Over the next century, the San Francisco Bay Area will face three major challenges: adapting to a changing climate, adding infill development to accommodate a growing population, and maintaining natural and working lands in the face of development pressure. A new report outlines how nature-based solutions can maximize community preparedness for future climate conditions while providing a wide variety of benefits to people and ecosystems.
Read the report

Mending the Net

Fixing the holes in California’s social safety net

Long before the COVID-19 pandemic and economic slowdown, California had the highest poverty rate in the nation. The state is also one of the worst at getting benefits to those who need them, with some programs missing over a million eligible people. Streamlining and automating the application process would help Californians receive the public support they have a right to.
Read the report

Keeping the Lights On

Addressing the rent crisis for small businesses, landlords and lenders

The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent shelter-in-place orders have thrown businesses — and especially small businesses — into survival mode. Are there ways to help businesses so that pandemic-induced failures don’t ripple through the real estate and lending industry? In collaboration with small business owners and advocates, this fall SPUR offers ideas for addressing the rent challenges for small businesses, landlords and bankers.
Read the report

A Regional Transit Coordinator for the Bay Area

Making our many transit systems work as one integrated regional network

The Bay Area’s two dozen different transit services would be easier for riders to use if they functioned like a single network. This type of coordination is complex, but that’s not why it hasn’t been done. The real reason is that it’s not anyone’s responsibility. In a new report, SPUR recommends establishing an institution that could coordinate transit operations across a cohesive regional network.
Read the report

Undue Burden

Reforming Bay Area sales taxes

Sales taxes are a common revenue-raising tool, but they also play a role in reinforcing structural inequality. Every consumer pays the same tax rate at the register, but low-income households pay a higher percentage of their income. In a new report, SPUR explores three options for instituting a low-income sales tax credit or supplement to help create a more equitable tax code.
Read the report

Value Driven

How pricing can encourage alternatives to driving alone and limit the costs that driving imposes on others

Roads and parking are expensive to build, but they’re mostly free for drivers to use as much as they’d like. This kind of free access imposes serious costs on others: traffic, climate change, air pollution, and heart and lung disease. SPUR’s new report Value Driven shines a light on the invisible costs of driving and offers five pioneering strategies to address them.
Read the report

More for Less

How to plan and deliver the Bay Area’s major transit projects in less time, for less money and with better public value

Around the world, building major transit projects is notoriously difficult. Yet the Bay Area has an especially poor track record: Major projects here take decades from start to finish, and our project costs rank among the highest in the world. SPUR offers policy proposals that will save time, save money and add up to a reliable, integrated and frequent network that works better for everyone.
Read the report

Infrastructure Bay Area

A proposal for a new institution to help successfully deliver the region’s most significant transit projects

SPUR’s report More for Less examines how the Bay Area can reverse its poor track record of delivering large, complex public transit projects on time, on budget and without major defect. This companion report details one of our most significant recommendations: to establish Infrastructure Bay Area, a specialized entity that would lead the procurement and delivery of all the region’s major transit projects.
Read the report

Does State Tax Policy Discourage Housing Production?

California’s housing crisis is due in part to a failure to build enough new housing. Many California cities view housing as less fiscally beneficial to build than other types of development. SPUR and California Forward explore whether cities that receive a low share of the state property tax would have an incentive to produce more housing if their share of the property tax was increased.
Read the report

Model Places

Envisioning a future Bay Area with room and opportunity for everyone

Over the next 50 years, the San Francisco Bay Area is expected to gain 4 million people and 2 million jobs. In a region where a crushing housing shortage already threatens quality of life, how can we welcome new residents and jobs without paving over green spaces or pushing out long-time community members? SPUR partnered with AECOM to envision an equitable and sustainable future region.
Read the report

The Future of Transportation

Harnessing private mobility services to support the public good

Will the rise of new mobility services like Uber and bike sharing help reduce car use, climate emissions and demand for parking? Or will they lead to greater inequality and yet more reliance on cars? SPUR proposes how private services can work together with public transportation to function as a seamless network and provide access for people of all incomes, races, ages and abilities.
Read the report

From Copenhagen to Tokyo

Learning from International Housing Delivery Systems

Different countries have vastly different ways of organizing their housing policies and real estate markets. Could some of them hold solutions to the Bay Area’s housing crisis? To find out, SPUR and AECOM explored housing delivery in Copenhagen, Berlin, Vienna, Amsterdam, Tokyo and Singapore. Each has a compelling and noteworthy approach that could inform future policy innovation in the Bay Area.
Read the report

Keeping the Doors Open

Immediate recommendations for assisting ground floor businesses in reopening

COVID-19 has accelerated the urgency of determining how to best support human and economic activity, particularly on main streets and commercial corridors. SPUR recommends actions for cities to undertake immediately to assist businesses in opening promptly following the gradual lifting of shelter-in-place restrictions.
Read the report

Safety First

Improving hazard resilience in the Bay Area

The Bay Area is both a treasured place and a hazardous environment where flooding, wildfires and earthquakes are common today. These hazards are likely to become more frequent, larger and more damaging as climate change puts the region’s people, built environment and natural habitats at risk. As a region exposed to multiple hazards, how can we manage for all of them at the same time?
Read the report