Daniel B. Hess, PhD

Professor - Department of Urban and Regional Planning
dbhess@buffalo.edu - Hayes 227 - (716) 829-5326

Daniel B. Hess portrait at metro station. Photo by Timo Ilves.

Photo of Hess by Timo Ilves.

Daniel Hess is a professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at UB. Hess served as chairperson of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning from 2017 through 2022. Central to Hess's research is addressing interactions between housing, transportation, land use, and other public concerns. He develops new pathways for understanding the complex socio-economic and ethnic landscape of cities and spatial inequalities. He also explores equal access to resources from urban neighborhoods, focusing especially on the changes in gay neighborhoods and the LGBTQ+ population diffuses to other metropolitan locations.

Note: Daniel Hess is on sabattical during the 2023-24 academic year as he pursues research tied to a Fulbright Scholar Award. Residing at Tadeusz Kościuszko Cracow University of Technology in Poland, Hess is teaching urban planning and urban design courses, and continuing his research on the large, standardized apartment buildings built during the socialist era. Read more

Hess guides his research, scholarship and teaching with a drive to understand cities as more walkable and suitable to the mobility needs of all ages, a passion he connects to his upbringing in Kenmore, a first-ring suburb of Buffalo with ‘old urbanism’ features. His interests were further defined while working as a transportation planner in Boca Raton, Florida. Walking to work one day along a busy, multi-lane highway he was stopped by a police officer concerned with his safety (because he was walking, not driving). According to Hess, “I then knew I wanted to pursue a career in urban planning so that I could help educate the next generation of urban planners with a holistic understanding of urban transportation systems that don't favor the automobile system over other modes of travel.”

The recipient of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, Hess has taught core courses in the environmental design bachelor’s program, directed award-winning studios in the Master of Urban Planning program, and led eight study abroad courses in England, Estonia, Latvia and Russia. A dedicated teacher and mentor, Hess engages students in all aspects of his research, including collection of primary data and the design and implementation of analysis methods. Hess says his continued connection with graduates of the program keeps his teaching and instruction current while building professional networking opportunities for students.

A member of the faculty since 2002 and former associate chairperson and chairperson of the department, Hess is also a 1997 graduate of UB's Master of Urban Planning program. 

Big changes are on the horizon. We can expect transformations related to autonomous vehicles to happen fast and significantly change urban landscapes and travel behavior.

 - Daniel B. Hess

Daniel B. Hess and co-author Alex Bitterman of Alfred State University discuss findings from their book, "The Life and Afterlife of Gay Neighborhoods."

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In his scholarship, Hess explores metropolitan form and urban planning practice and policy, sometimes interactively and sometimes separately, but always as a means to improve city functions and urban life.

His research contributes to discussions that seek to re-evaluate relationships between transport and land use to address various pressing societal concerns, including pollution, congestion, and metropolitan sprawl. He accomplishes this by focusing his intellectual inquiry on connections between transportation and land use planning and resulting impacts on health, environment, and social aspects of community. Through spatial analysis of urban phenomenon, he examines connections between urban public policy, population groups, and built environments with a focus on equity in access to transportation, housing and essential services. 

Hess’s research spans urban planning history and post-socialist urban space, which he has developed in Estonia and the Baltic States as a Fulbright Scholar in 2011 and in 2016-2017 as a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow at the Centre for Urban and Migration Studies at the University of Tartu, Estonia. During his time there he researched how the legacy of town planning and the wide-ranging effects of various occupations affect local and national planning systems and planning practice. Additionally he has sought to understand housing systems and historical and current population dynamics to explore the effects of inherited segmentation from Soviet times.

He is the author of countless peer-reviewed articles and co-editor of Springer: Housing Estates in Europe: Poverty, Ethnic Segregation and Policy Challenges (Springer, 2018). He is also co-editor of the journal Town Planning Review (Liverpool University Press).

Featured Projects and Publications

  • Minus Minimums
    Eliminating parking minimums can reduce unnecessary parking supply and encourage development constrained by excessive minimum requirements. Land use, location, and transportation demand initiatives affect the quantity of off-street parking supplied in response to market conditions. Our findings suggest mixed-use developers are likely to take advantage of the ability to provide less parking in highly accessible locations. Though many developers quickly pivot to the newfound possibilities of providing fewer parking spaces, others continue to meet earlier requirements. Cities of all types stand to benefit from undoing constraining parking policies of the past and allowing developers to transform parking lots to “higher uses.”
  • Exclusivity in the street railway era
    Professor of urban planning Daniel B. Hess and Evan Iacobucci examine the role of historic entry gateways to American streetcar suburbs as markers of exclusivity. 
  • Housing Estates in the Baltic Countries
    Professor of urban planning Daniel B. Hess and Tiit Tammaru of the University of Tartu, Estonia are editors of this book focusing on the formation and later socio-spatial trajectories of large housing estates in the Baltic countries—Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.