David Proffitt

David Proffitt


David has 19 years of experience helping maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of transportation on the local, state, and national level.

  • Access Ohio (statewide plan), Pennsylvania and West Virginia LRTPs
  • Mississippi DOT freight master plan
  • 7 freight-oriented projects
  • Interstate 15 Corridor System Master Plan  


American Institute of Certified Planners

  • NEPA
  • Qualitative analysis of policy documents
  • GIS
  • Statistical analysis
  • Climate Action Planning
  • Sustainability
  • Policy Analysis


  • Public engagement from the International Association for Public Participation (IAPP)
  • Member, American Planning Association
  • Affiliate, Transportation Research Board
  • Member, Women’s Transportation Seminar
  • Green Accessibility Project
  • Building Planner Commitment
  • State-of-the-Practice in Connecting and Coordinating Transportation and Land Use Planning 
  • Improving Decision Making for Transportation Capacity Expansion: Qualitative Analysis of Best Practices for Regional Transportation Plans
  • PhD, City and Metropolitan Planning, University of Utah, 2020 (Expected)
  • Master of Urban & Environmental Planning, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, Arizona State University, 2011
  • BA in literature, Department of English, Arizona State University, 1998

Specialties of Excellence

David Proffitt:  David Proffitt has more than two decades of experience studying urban and natural systems. He first developed an interest in the way cities grow and change while working as a journalist covering government, business, and arts and culture for The Arizona Republic and other national media outlets, and he has worked with Dr. Reid Ewing at the University of Utah since 2012. A major focus of David’s work is identifying best practices for sustainable development, particularly how communities build resilience to the shifts in natural, economic, and human systems caused by climate change.   His background in media and communication helps him translate complex scientific research into actionable policy. 

He has managed and carried out evaluations of sustainability-focused policies ranging from urban-development strategies to reduce the urban heat islands, to pioneering state laws in California and Oregon designed to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from driving. He employs mixed methods in his research, from advanced statistical analysis to in-depth interviews and facilitated public engagement. David is affiliated with Metro Analytics to help migrate cutting-edge research into practical application with municipal clients.  


Transportation and Land Use Projects

  • “Accessibility planning in American metropolitan areas” – Transportation-planning researchers have long argued that the end goal of a transportation system is increasing accessibility, or opportunities for individuals to meet their daily needs. But the level of adoption was unknown. David covered this gap by creating an accessibility index based on content analysis of a nationally representative sample of 42 US regional transportation plans (RTPs) and identified barriers to a wider adoption of the accessibility paradigm.

    “State-of-the-Practice in Connecting and Coordinating Transportation and Land Use Planning in the U.S.A.”  – Not enough was known regarding how MPOs funded local land use planning. David helped surveyed a stratified sample of 30 U.S. MPOs weighted toward larger metropolitan areas, and then for the 10 most relevant MPOS, helped write up case studies.

    “Testing Newman and Kenworthy’s Theory of Density and Automobile Dependence” – The effects of density and automobile use was unclear. David helped test four hypotheses regarding the importance of metropolitan form and density characteristics on transportation behavior using sophisticated statistical modeling techniques. The findings suggested that it was the distribution of density within the region, rather than average density, that affected travel behavior.

    “Improving Decision Making for Transportation Capacity Expansion: Qualitative Analysis of Best Practices for Regional Transportation Plans”  – Many MPOs respond to congestion through roadway widening; some MPOs are exploring alternatives. In this study, David qualitatively analyzed a national sample of 38 regional transportation plans to identify best practices among MPOs for increasing the capacity of regional transportation networks without inducing additional traffic or unnecessary emissions, focusing on real-world examples of innovative practices.

General Background

  • David Proffitt’s research focuses on the connections between climate change, transportation, and the built environment, with his dissertation on the effectiveness of state laws in California and Oregon that use the transportation-planning process to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles. He holds a Master’s in Urban & Environmental Planning from Arizona State University, where he wrote a thesis examining the feasibility and potential impact of redeveloping the Phoenix metro’s vast system of irrigation canals as public spaces that formed the focus of a non-motorized transportation network.  


    Green Accessibility Project. Evaluated how U.S. regional transportation plans use mobility and accessibility concepts. Funded by a National Science Foundation grant. Found that U.S. plans tend to use vehicle speed as the key measure of success despite evidence that accessibility measures incorporating land use enable more environmentally friendly and socially equitable plans. 

    Building Planner Commitment. Are Oregon’s SB 1059 & California’s SB 375 Models for Climate-Change Mitigation? Mixed-methods assessment of climate change-mitigation programs in California and Oregon using content analysis, case studies, and statistical analysis 


    • Ewing, R. and Proffitt, D. (2016). “Improving Decision-making for Transportation Capacity Expansion: A Qualitative Analysis of Best Practices for Regional Transportation Plans” 
    • Proffitt, D.; Bartholomew, K.; Ewing, R. & Miller, H. J. “Accessibility Planning in American Metropolitan Areas: Are We There Yet?” 
    • Proffitt, D. Incentive Structures of California’s SB 375 and Oregon’s SB 1059: A Tale of Two State Planning Mandates. Target: Journal of Environmental Planning and Management.
    • Song, Y.; Miller, H. J.; Zhou, X.; and Proffitt, D. (2015). Modelling Visit Probabilities Within Network-Time Prisms Using Markov Techniques. Geographical Analysis, 48(1), pp. 18-42.

    Invited Talks 

    • Improving Decision-making for Transportation Capacity Expansion: A Qualitative Analysis of Best Practices for Regional Transportation Plans. 
    • Accessibility Planning: State of the Practice at U.S. MPOs


  • Proffitt, D.; Bartholomew, K.; Ewing, R. & Miller, H. J. (2017) Accessibility Planning in American Metropolitan Areas: Are We There Yet? Urban Studies. (Online) 

    Ewing, R.; Hamidi, S.; Tian, G.; Proffitt, D.; Tonin, S.; Fregolent, L. (2017) Testing Newman and Kenworthy’s Theory of Density and Automobile Dependence. Journal of Planning Education and Research. doi:10.1177/0739456X16688767. 

    Proffitt, D.; Bartholomew, K.; Ewing, R. & Miller H. J. Vehicle Miles Travelled: Putting Accessibility Planning in Practice? Urban Policy & Research. (Submitted) 

    Proffitt, D. A Neighborhood-Scale Model for Understanding Heat Island Effects of New Development. Journal of Urban Planning and Development. (Submitted) 

    Ewing, R. and Proffitt, D. (2016). Improving Decisionmaking for Transportation Capacity Expansion: A Qualitative Analysis of Best Practices for Regional Transportation Plans. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, No. 2568, pp. 1-8.  

    Song, Y.; Miller, H. J.; Zhou, X.; and Proffitt, D. (2015). Modelling Visit Probabilities Within Network-Time Prisms Using Markov Techniques. Geographical Analysis, 48(1), pp. 18-42. 

    Buckman, S.; Ellin, N.; and Proffitt, D. (2013). Desert Urbanism: Canalscape for Metropolitan Phoenix. Journal of Urban Renewal & Regeneration, 7(13), pp. 42-54. 


    Manuscripts in Preparation 

    Proffitt, D. Incentive Structures of California’s SB 375 and Oregon’s SB 1059: A Tale of Two State Planning Mandates. 

    Proffitt, D. and Ewing, R. Finding Common Ground in Climate Change: Overlap Between Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies in U.S. Climate Action Plans. 

    Proffitt, D. and Banuri, T. Tailoring Institutional Lending Guidelines to Fit Climate-Change Adaptation Needs in Developing Countries.  

    Litman, T.; Proffitt, D.; and Ewing, R. The Link Between Crime and Sprawl.  


    Book Chapters:  

    “Literature Reviews.” Research Methods for Planners, Ewing, R. (ed.). Island Press. (publication in progress).  

    “Difference of Means Testing.” Research Methods for Planners, Ewing, R. (ed.). Island Press. (publication in progress). 


    Selected Periodicals: 

    “Pod Living,” dwell. March 2005. http://www.dwell.com/articles/pod-living.html 

    “Love’s Labors Found,” dwell. June 2005. http://www.dwell.com/articles/loves-labors-found.html 

    “Houses of the Holy,” dwell. March 2004. http://www.dwell.com/articles/houses-of-the-holy.html.  

    “Hot Houses,” Metro. June/July 2003. p. 43-51.  


    Other Reports & Monographs:  

    David Proffitt, Clare Tobin-Lence, and Purba Marik. 2013. Granger Elementary Eyeglasses Program Evaluation. Report prepared for the Salt Lake City United Way, December 2013.  




    Climate Action Planning: Instructor and course developer, Department of City + Metropolitan Planning, University of Utah. Fall 2016.  

    Land Use & Transportation: Graduate Teaching Assistant, Department of City + Metropolitan Planning, University of Utah. Spring 2013.  

    Theory and Ethics of Planning: Graduate Teaching Assistant, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, Arizona State University. Spring 2010.  

    Online Journalism: Adjunct instructor, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communication, Arizona State University. Fall 2007 – Fall 2009.  


    Other Courses Prepared to Teach 

    Climate-Change Policy: Adaptation & Mitigation Strategies from Local to Global 

    Climate Resilience: Planning for Global Climate Change and Urban Heat Islands 

    Transportation and Land Use 

    Environmental Planning 

    Policy Analysis: Framing Questions and Quantifying Impacts 

    Sustainable Urban Development 

    Research Methods 

Education & History


  • Ph.D. in Metropolitan Planning, Policy + Design with a focus on urban environmental policy and transportation planning, City + Metropolitan Planning Department, University of Utah (expected, Summer 2020)

    Master of Urban & Environmental Planning, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, Arizona State University (2011)

    B.A. in Literature, Department of English, Arizona State University (1998)

    Graduate Researcher, Building Planner Commitment: Are Oregon’s SB 1059 & California’s SB 375 Models for Climate-Change Mitigation? Mixed-methods assessment of climate change-mitigation programs in California and Oregon using content analysis, case studies, and statistical analysis (dissertation research). Secured $75,000 grant from the National Institute for Transportation in Communities. (2015 – Present)

    Graduate Research Assistant, Green Accessibility Project. Evaluated how U.S. regional transportation plans use mobility and accessibility concepts. Funded by a National Science Foundation grant. Found that U.S. plans tend to use vehicle speed as the key measure of success despite evidence that accessibility measures incorporating land use enable more environmentally friendly and socially equitable plans. (2013 – 2015)

    Fulbright researcher, Pune, India. Researched strategies to mitigate the urban heat island in Pune, Maharashtra, a fast-growing metropolitan area in western India. Modelled urban microclimates using ENVI-met software. Showed that street trees, white roofs on informal housing, and building siting to take advantage of wind patterns could cool the city as much as 3 degrees Celsius. (2011 – 2012)

    Assistant Planner & Writer/Editor, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Lower Sonoran Field Office, Phoenix. Wrote section of resource management plan detailing effects of climate change on management district the size of Delaware. Edited plan and coordinated review by resource specialists at BLM field and state offices. Published plan online for public review. (2009 – 2011)

    Business Editor/Features EditorThe Arizona Republic, Phoenix. Directed coverage of business news in daily newspaper, weekly business publications, and monthly magazine. Led redesign of bizAZ magazine; recruited and facilitated magazine advisory board composed of Arizona business leaders. Created and executed a new editorial plan for weekly Arizona Business Gazette. Planned design and editorial direction of City Life, an arts, dining, and entertainment publication aimed at transit riders; grew weekly circulation to 50,000 readers. (2007 – 2009)

    Online Editor, azcentral.com, Phoenix. Managed dynamic newspaper homepage, growing site traffic 70 million page views per month. Created deep reader experiences by packaging video, photos, and interactive content. (2005 – 2007)

    Senior EditorArizona Monthly Magazine, Phoenix. Planned, assigned, and edited magazine sections at 75,000-circulation monthly; collaborated with other editors on overall editorial content and story presentation. Conceived and wrote stories ranging from newsmaker profiles to architecture, business, and culture features. (2004 – 2005)

    Associate EditorAmerica West Magazine, Phoenix (2003 – 2004) Directed editing process, managing staffers and freelancers at 125,000-circulation monthly. Planned and assigned stories to national network of writers, illustrators, and photographers.

    News Writer, Metro Source News Wire, Scottsdale, Ariz. Wrote news and feature stories for radio wire service with 1,000 client radio stations nationwide. (2001 – 2003)

    Reporter/Copy Editor, The Arizona Republic, Phoenix Wrote newspaper stories on crime, education, arts, entertainment, and politics. Created The Style Council, a tongue-in-cheek advice column syndicated nationally. (1997 – 2001)


  • Fellow, Eno Transportation Center Future Leaders Development Conference, 2017 

  • Nelson Medal for Outstanding Doctoral Scholarship, 2017 

  • Best thesis presentation, National Transportation and Communities Summit. Sept. 15, 2015. Portland, Ore. 

Professional Skills

  • Qualitative analysis using Nvivo.  

  • Spatial analysis using ArcGIS.  

  • Statistical analysis using R, SPSS, and Excel.  

  • Microclimate modeling using ENVI-met.  

  • Web publishing experience using Photoshop, FinalCut Pro, Soundtrack, ePlanning, and HTML.  

  • 3-D modelling using SketchUp and Google Earth.  

  • Graphic design using Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign.