Transit in Transition

The 2021 UCLA Arrowhead Symposium Series: Transit in Transition considers the current state of public transit in the United States and transit’s options for the future.  The pandemic accelerated the pre-existing trend of declining ridership.  Transit agencies have built fixed route and rapid transit infrastructure to serve commercial centers and downtowns, but expanding remote work brings uncertainty to recovery of demand in these areas.

The more flexible bus is the workhorse of many transit systems, including Los Angeles, and has catered to lower-income transit users.   An enhanced focus on equity often brings additional resources for the bus and meeting the public’s mobility needs through alternative shared mobility options.

How should transit agencies define success?  Is it increasing ridership, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, decreasing traffic congestion, providing access to opportunities, or something else?  And how do they achieve this success in the future, given broader socio-economic trends that impact transit use?

We will highlight the work from the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies Public Transit Initiative and the University of California Institute of Transportation Studies Public Transit and Shared Mobility Recovery program.

Schedule

Speakers

Director and Professor

Asha Weinstein Agrawal

Assistant Professor

Tierra Bills

Executive Director

David Bragdon

Executive Director

Therese McMillan

Transportation Equity Research Fellow

Regan Patterson

Executive Director

Michael Pimentel

President and CEO

Robert Puentes

Director

Susan Shaheen

Director of Transportation

Jeffrey Tumlin

Director and Professor

Brian D. Taylor

Research Project Manager

Jacob Wasserman

Associate Professor

Kari Watkins

Director and Professor

Asha Weinstein Agrawal

Asha Weinstein Agrawal works at San José State University, where she is Director of MTI’s National Transportation Finance Center, the MTI Education Director, and a Professor of Urban and Regional Planning. Her research agenda is guided by a commitment to the principles of sustainability and equity: what policy and planning tools can communities adopt to encourage environmentally-friendly travel and improve accessibility for people struggling with poverty or other disadvantages?

Dr. Agrawal has researched transportation funding policy for more than 20 years with a focus on holistic evaluation of the pros/cons of different tax and fee options for raising transportation revenues, as well as public opinion about different tax and fee options. Dr. Agrawal has been the lead researcher on numerous state and national public opinion surveys on the topic, and she has also analyzed hundreds of public opinion polls on transportation finance and other transportation topics.

Dr. Agrawal is actively involved with service to the professional planning and policy community. She has been invited to present her research on transportation finance to policymakers at hearings held by the California Transportation Commission and California Senate Transportation Committee, among others. In addition, she is regularly invited to serve on committees and expert panels such as NCHRP Synthesis Project on Forecasting Transportation Revenue Sources: Survey of State Practices (2015) and MTC’s Regional Means-Based Transit Fare Pricing Study Technical Advisory Committee (2015 – 2017).

Dr. Agrawal’s research on contemporary policy issues is regularly cited in the popular media. Stories quoting her or citing her work have appeared in such outlets as The Washington Post (on gas taxes and mileage fees), CBS Evening News (on mileage fees), ABC News/KGO-TV (on mileage fees), the San Diego Union-Tribune (on transit fare policy), WBUR (on the history of traffic congestion), and the San Francisco Chronicle (on transportation taxes).

Assistant Professor

Tierra Bills

Dr. Tierra Bills is an incoming Assistant Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering and Public Policy at UCLA. She is currently an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Wayne State University in Detroit. Prior to that, Bills was a Michigan Society Fellow and an assistant professor at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She has also served as a lecturer at Strathmore University in Nairobi, Kenya, and as a research scientist at IBM Research Africa, where she used data from smartphones to analyze the quality of transportation. Bills is a co-principal investigator on two current National Science Foundation grants studying transit issues in resource-constrained communities. She received her Ph.D. and M.S. in civil and environmental engineering, and transportation engineering from UC Berkeley, as well as a B.S. in civil engineering technology from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.

Executive Director

David Bragdon

David Bragdon is the executive director of TransitCenter. His career spans multiple modes of transportation, in both the public and private sectors. David served nearly eight years as the President of the Metro Council in the Portland, Oregon metropolitan area – the only directly elected regional government in the nation, responsible for land use and transportation planning, natural lands conservation, solid waste recycling and disposal, and operation of regional facilities like the Oregon Zoo and Oregon Convention Center. He subsequently assisted New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s update of Gotham’s sustainability plan. Prior to his public service, David worked in the international freight industry, including positions with a cargo airline and a maritime shipping company, where he accomplished tasks like procuring jet fuel in the then-Soviet Union and organizing cotton shipments to Bangladesh. He also drove a taxi for a year. But the buses and subways of New York are his original passion, so he happily joined TransitCenter in 2013 to launch its new philanthropic mission.DA

Executive Director

Therese McMillan

Therese W. McMillan has served since March 2019 as MTC’s Executive Director and as the top executive for the Association of Bay Area Governments. Ms. McMillan, who received her Bachelor of Science degree from U.C. Davis in 1981, a master’s degree in Civil Engineering Science from U.C. Berkeley in 1983, and a master’s in City and Regional Planning from U.C. Berkeley in 1984, previously worked for 25 years at MTC, including more than eight years as MTC’s deputy executive director for Policy before her 2009 appointment by then-President Barack Obama to serve as deputy administrator of the Federal Transit Administration, which was followed by service from 2014 to 2016 as Acting FTA administrator before serving from April 2016 to February 2019 as Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s chief planning officer.

Transportation Equity Research Fellow

Regan Patterson

Dr. Regan F. Patterson is the Transportation Equity Research Fellow at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF). Prior to joining the CBCF, she was a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. Dr. Patterson earned her Ph.D. in environmental engineering at UC Berkeley. Her research focuses on the intersection of sustainable transportation and environmental justice. She uses air quality models to quantify traffic-related air pollutant emissions and concentrations in urban, disenfranchised communities. Dr. Patterson holds a B.S. in chemical engineering from UCLA and an M.S. in environmental engineering from UC Berkeley.

Executive Director

Michael Pimentel

Michael Pimentel is the Executive Director of the California Transit Association, a nonprofit trade organization representing California’s transit industry, including more than 85 public transit agencies in the state. In this role, Michael steers the Association’s advocacy and education efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic and serves as the Association’s chief advisor on policies and programs impacting air quality and the climate.

Prior to joining the Association, Michael held various legislative positions in the Administration of Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. in which he focused on mass transportation issues.

Michael received a Master of Public Policy from the University of California, Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy, and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley. He was a fellow with the New Leaders Council in 2015 and served on the Advisory Board for the organization’s Sacramento chapter through 2020. He is an active member of the Young Professionals in Transportation – Sacramento.

President and CEO

Robert Puentes

Robert Puentes is President and CEO of the Eno Center for Transportation a non-profit think tank with the mission of improving transportation policy and leadership. Prior to joining Eno, he was a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program where he directed the program’s Metropolitan Infrastructure Initiative. He is currently a non-resident senior fellow with Brookings. Before Brookings, Robert was the director of infrastructure programs at the Intelligent Transportation Society of America.

Robert has worked extensively on a variety of transportation issues, including infrastructure funding and finance, and city and urban planning. He is a frequent speaker to a variety of groups, a regular contributor in newspapers and other media, and has testified before Congressional committees. He holds a master’s degree from the University of Virginia where he served on the Alumni Advisory Board, and was an affiliated professor with Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute.

Director

Susan Shaheen

Susan Shaheen was among the first to research and write about the changing dynamics in shared mobility and likely scenarios automated vehicles might gain prominence. She is a professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. She is a Co-Director of the Transportation Sustainability Research Center of the Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS), Berkeley and Director of the UC ITS’ Resilient and Innovative Mobility Initiative. She has a Ph.D. from UC Davis and a M.S. from the University of Rochester.

Director of Transportation

Jeffrey Tumlin

Jeffrey Tumlin was named Director of Transportation of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency in December 2019. He oversees the Municipal Railway (Muni), parking, traffic engineering, bicycle and pedestrian safety, transportation accessibility, and taxi regulation for the City & County of San Francisco. 

Jeffrey is the former director of strategy at Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, a San Francisco-based transportation planning and engineering firm that focuses on sustainable mobility. Previously he served as Interim Director of the new Oakland Department of Transportation. 

For more than twenty years, he has led station area, downtown, citywide, and campus plans, and delivered various lectures and classes in 20 U.S. states and five countries. His major development projects have succeeded in reducing traffic and CO2 emissions by as much as 40 percent, and accommodated many millions of square feet of growth with no net increase in motor vehicle traffic. These projects have won awards from the U.S. General Services Administration, Institute of Transportation Engineers, American Planning Association, American Society of Landscape Architects, Congress for the New Urbanism, and Urban Land Institute. 

He is the author of Sustainable Transportation: Tools for Creating Healthy, Vibrant and Resilient Communities (Wiley, 2012).

Director and Professor

Brian D. Taylor

Professor Taylor explores how society pays for transportation systems and how these systems in turn serve the needs of people who – because of low income, disability, location, or age – have lower levels of mobility. Topically, his research examines travel behavior, transportation economics & finance, and politics & planning. A principal focus of his research is the politics of transportation economics & finance, including (1) alternative ways to evaluate the access and economic effects of traffic congestion on people, firms, and regional economies, (2) the history of freeway planning and finance, (3) emerging trends in pricing road use, (4) the equity of alternative forms of transportation pricing and finance, (5) linking of subsidies to public transit performance, and (6) measuring equity in public transit pricing and finance.

Research Project Manager

Jacob Wasserman

Jacob Wasserman is a Research Project Manager at the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies. With a background in transportation equity, finance, and demand management, Wasserman coordinates research into public transit and other mobility issues, with recent projects on pre-pandemic transit ridership trends, homelessness in transit environments, and sources and gaps in transit ridership data. Prior to joining ITS, he worked for the Cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New Haven on capital budgeting and active transportation. He also served as a Transportation Justice Fellow for Bay Area Rapid Transit Director Lateefah Simon, coordinating passage of the system’s Safe Transit sanctuary policy. Wasserman has a Master of Urban and Regional Planning from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

Associate Professor

Kari Watkins

Dr. Kari Edison Watkins, P.E., is the Frederick Law Olmsted Associate Professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Her teaching and research interests revolve around multi-modal transportation planning and the use of technology in transportation, especially as related to transit planning and operations and improved traveler information.

At the University of Washington, Dr. Watkins’ research focused on transit travel time reliability and the effects of transit traveler information. She co-created the OneBusAway program to provide real-time next bus countdown information and other transit information tools for transit riders in greater Seattle-Tacoma. OneBusAway has won numerous awards and Dr. Watkins dissertation was awarded the Council of University Transportation Centers (CUTC) Wootan Award for best dissertation in transportation policy and planning. As a long-time cyclist, Dr. Watkins has recently begun to explore cyclist infrastructure preferences through survey research and crowdsourced cycling data through the Cycle Atlanta program. Dr. Watkins was recently recognized by Mass Transit Magazine as a Top 40 under 40 and she is a three-time invitee to the National Academy of Engineers Frontiers of Engineering.

Prior to her doctoral studies, Dr. Watkins worked for a decade as a senior transportation engineer at Wilbur Smith Associates in New Haven, Connecticut. In line with her years in industry, Dr. Watkins’ teaching focus is on including multimodal transportation concepts throughout the curriculum and sending top-notch engineers into the workforce through practical experience in the Senior Capstone course.

Sponsors

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About the Symposium

Since 1991, the UCLA Lake Arrowhead Symposium has tackled the connections between transportation, land use, and the environment.  Arrowhead’s diverse and influential group of policymakers, private sector stakeholders, public sector analysts, consultants, advocates, and researchers dive into these pressing policy issues every day. Here we’ve collected some of their insights from the Symposium, as well as information on their ongoing work and updates on upcoming events. Learn more about the symposium’s history.

The UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies, which presents this UCLA Arrowhead Virtual Series, acknowledges the Gabrielino/Tongva peoples as the traditional land caretakers of Tovaangar (the Los Angeles basin and So. Channel Islands). As a land grant institution, we pay our respects to the Honuukvetam (Ancestors), ‘Ahiihirom (Elders) and ‘Eyoohiinkem (our relatives/relations) past, present and emerging.

Furthermore, we recognize that the UCLA Lake Arrowhead Conference Center sits on the territory and ancestral land of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians (Yuhaaviatam).