Paul Hess

Professor (he/him)
Sidney Smith Hall, Room 5067


Fields of Study

Areas of Interest

  • Streets as public space
  • Public space design
  • Active transportation planning
  • Pedestrian environments
  • Urban design
  • Development control
  • Urban and suburban form
  • Planning history


I am a planner committed to understanding the world using social science methods with a strong interest in urban design and design thinking. I value research that has clear connections to current policy questions and embed my research in questions of equity, power relations, and struggles over how public spaces are created, shaped, and used and by whom.

Broadly, my research examines urban and suburban built environments, how they are shaped by planning and urban design ideas and practices in both historical and contemporary terms, and how people use and experience them. Recent projects include understanding Toronto's emerging planning system in the early post-war period, the impact of new infrastructure on cycling use, and changing street and public space design, foregrounding questions of access, equity, and publicness. I draw on qualitative and quantitative methodologies from several sub-fields in planning including planning history, urban design, urban morphology, and transportation behaviour, particularly active modes of travel.

I especially welcome students interested in the design and use of public space related to issues of publicness and equity. Recent students have worked on active transportation and public space topics in diverse settings including Toronto, New York, Moscow, and Mexico City.


Paul Hess, Michael Piper, and Andre Sorensen. 2022. “Can We Retrofit Suburban Arterials? Analyzing the Walkability and Retrofit Potential of Four Toronto Region Corridors” Journal of the American Planning Association. In press.

Hess, Paul, and Sneha Mandhan. 2022. “Ramming Attacks, Pedestrians, and the Securitization of Streets and Urban Public Space: A Case Study of New York City.” Urban Design International.

Mitra, Raktim, Avet Khachatryan, and Paul M. Hess. 2021. “Do New Urban and Suburban Cycling Facilities Encourage More Bicycling?” Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment 97 (August): 102915.

Whitney, Ryan A., Paul M. Hess, and Claudio Sarmiento-Casas. 2020. “Livable Streets and Global Competitiveness: A Survey of Mexico City.” Journal of Planning Education and Research, February, 0739456X20904428.

Hess, Paul, Kelly Gregg, and Ryan Whitney. 2019. “Modernism, Pedestrians, and Public Space.” In Modernism, Pedestrians, and Public Space, edited by Tridib Banerjee and Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, 612–23. Routledge Handbooks Online.


BA, Reed College; MUP, University of Washington; PhD, University of Washington

Administrative Service

Associate Chair and Director, Graduate Programs in Planning, 2011 – 2015; 2018 – 2020.