Port of Long Beach
Institute of Transportation Studies graduates keep people moving. Photo courtesy of Port of Long Beach

As our expanding population outgrows an aging infrastructure, transportation is becoming an increasingly important topic in Orange County and statewide.

It also has significant implications for the U.S. economy, considering that transportation-related goods and services account for about 20 percent of the nation’s gross national product.

“The safe and efficient movement of people and goods is vital to our modern society. Transportation systems provide access to opportunities and activities involving work, recreation, family and friends,” says Stephen G. Ritchie, professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of UC Irvine’s Institute of Transportation Studies. “Transportation plays a powerful role in our quality of life and our economic well-being.”

ITS is helping the university remain at the forefront of the transportation landscape. The institute prepares graduate students across several disciplines to take on the most challenging transportation problems facing the county, state and nation.

Established at UC Berkeley by the state Legislature in 1948 to promote research, education and the development of new technology related to transportation, the interdisciplinary institute also has a branch at UC Davis.

Meet four UCI institute graduates who are having an impact in the transportation field:

Raquel Girvin
Noise Division manager of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Environment and Energy
Doctorate in transportation science, 2006

Background: The FAA’s mission is to provide the safest, most efficient air transportation system in the world. Girvin helps fulfill this goal by addressing environmental impacts of air traffic. Her work establishing aircraft noise standards, supporting land-use compatibility around airports and encouraging airport noise abatement procedures lessens the effect of increased air traffic on communities. Girvin also initiates and funds research to lessen airport noise. 

Quote: “To solve transportation problems, you need a broad base of knowledge. I thought the transportation science program was perfect because it gave me a wide understanding of transportation issues and the transportation system as a whole.”

Adrian Moore
Vice president, Reason Foundation
Degree: Doctorate in economics, with a concentration in transportation, 2000

Background: Moore directs policy research at the Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank in Los Angeles. His team focuses on traffic congestion and mobility issues — particularly how toll roads and public-private partnerships can help solve transportation problems around the country. Moore’s work with planning agencies across the state led to his appointment to the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission, which Congress created to address transportation funding issues.

Quote: “UCI was a spectacular place to study transportation economics. Through ITS, people studying transportation in the economics, engineering and planning departments all interacted, shared ideas and worked together.

“Now that I’m out in the real world, I often work with engineers and planners more than economists, so that experience has been invaluable. ITS and the University of California Transportation Center remain important to my work, since I regularly consume their research, interact with folks from both centers and partner with members on research projects.”

Kia Mortazavi
Executive director of development, Orange County Transportation Authority
Degree: Master’s in civil engineering, 1983

Background: Mortazavi plans and develops high-profile county transportation projects. Commuters on the 91 Express Lanes are beneficiaries of his work. His group’s analyses, recommendations and implementation of new programs and improvements — including a westbound lane project on the 91 in 2004 — have led to faster and more reliable commutes for thousands of drivers.

Quote: “The faculty and the transportation program at UCI are excellent. Research opportunities in transportation analysis and modeling got me where I am today, because the work I did at ITS as a graduate student opened the door for an internship with OCTA.”

Eric Shen
Director of transportation planning, Port of Long Beach 
Degree: Master’s in civil engineering, 1995

Background: Shen oversees the planning, design and development of transportation strategies for one of the world’s busiest seaports. He also is part of a team of scientists working to implement Green Port Policy programs that could reduce congestion and air pollution from goods movement, benefitting the environment as well as local residents.

Quote: “The ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles handle nearly 40 percent of the nation’s container goods, creating thousands of well-paying jobs but also affecting our already-congested transportation network and aging infrastructure. I work closely with many transportation planners and policy specialists at all levels of government to advocate new transportation policies and legislation to address these issues.

“In Southern California, there’s no doubt that the demand on our transportation system far exceeds the capacity of our infrastructure. Maintaining safe, efficient and reliable transportation services for cars, bikes, buses and pedestrians within confined roadways requires vision and passion — the core value of civil engineering and transportation planning.

“My experience with ITS while pursuing my bachelor’s and master’s helped me establish my rewarding career in transportation.”

Originally published in Vol. 1, Iss. 5 ZotZine