Paving the Way for Future Mobility: Bay Area Case Study Provides Key Insights for Vertiport Planning

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MTI researchers develop a framework for selecting vertiport sites based on a year-long GIS case study of the Bay Area
June 7, 2023
San José, CA

Vertiports, areas that support electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, require more research in the emerging air sector known as Advanced Air Mobility (AAM). AAM is air transportation using eVTOL aircraft to move people and cargo between places not easily served by surface transportation or existing aviation modes. New Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) research, Land Use Analysis on Vertiports Based on a Case Study of the San Francisco Bay Area, aims to establish a framework for the systematic approach to vertiport site selection and provides recommendations for AAM best practices.

The approach established by this study ensures consistency in AAM land-use planning for a region while remaining flexible enough for regional differences like local zoning or state regulations. The study is the result of a year-long regional geographic information system (GIS) case study of the San Francisco Bay Area analyzing vertiport site suitability across five counties (Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara Counties). Significantly, the study found that the number of suitable sites for vertiport placements increases with compact urban form and population density. 

“The compact urban form of San Francisco contains higher population densities and, as a result, has a higher output of suitable parcels (1392). By comparison, San Jose in its suburban form contains only 43 resultant parcels that meet high priority standards,” explain the study’s authors.

Key policy recommendations reveal that AAM land-use planning should:

  • Include participatory GIS in AAM stakeholder workshops and public meetings with 3D visualizations and auralizations to reduce fears about eVTOL aircraft noise and their aesthetics impacts.

  • Prioritize locations needing intermodality, such as hospitals and transit stations.

  • Value proximity to safe pedestrian and bicycle routes.

  • Understand that suitability varies by community and that preferences change.

  • Incorporate vertiports in Transit Oriented Development (TOD) plans and policies as a form of TOD infill and redevelopment. 

  • Incorporate GIS site suitability AAM analysis into the Transportation and Land Use sections of comprehensive plans.

  • Add vertiport as a new land use category in land development codes and zoning ordinances.

In the future, more GIS modeling-based research must extend beyond exurban places to examine vertiport site suitability across rural regions. Ideally AAM and its vertiports will become a new sustainable mechanism to connect regional areas challenged by vehicular surface traffic and congestion. With AAM comes new opportunities for public and private partnerships to boost business, emergency, and tourism services, and to economically benefit local communities.



At the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) at San Jose State University (SJSU) our mission is to increase mobility for all by improving the safety, efficiency, accessibility, and convenience of our nations’ transportation system. Through research, education, workforce development and technology transfer, we help create a connected world. Founded in 1991, MTI is a university transportation center funded by the US Departments of Transportation, the California Department of Transportation, and public and private grants, including those made available by the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017 (SB1). MTI is affiliated with SJSU’s Lucas College and Graduate School of Business.


Dr. Wenbin Wei is an MTI Research Associate and Professor in the Department of Aviation and Technology in the College of Engineering at SJSU. Dr. Kerry Rohrmeier, AICP, is an MTI Research Associate and Assistant Professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at SJSU and a former practicing land planner. This report was written with assistance from Tiffany Martinez, Michael Winans, and Heungseok Park, who were all student research assistants from SJSU.


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