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MTC Mourns Loss of Dr. Martin Wachs, Transportation Giant

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UCLA photo

Dr. Martin Wachs — a giant in the field of transportation, who authored several books, wrote hundreds of articles and taught thousands on the subject — died Sunday. He was 79.

Dr. Wachs was a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Civil & Environmental Engineering and of City & Regional Planning at the University of California, Berkeley, where he directed the Institute of Transportation Studies.

Earlier, he spent 25 years at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he was Chairman of the Department of Urban Planning for 11 of those years. After leaving the university in 1996, Dr. Wachs became the Director of the Transportation, Space, and Technology Program at the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica.

In semi-retirement, Dr. Wachs taught courses and conducted research at UCLA in transportation policy, worked on transportation policy projects at RAND and served as a policy expert.

MTC Executive Director Therese McMillan was a longtime friend and called Dr. Wachs a mentor.

"With the passing of Dr. Martin Wachs, the transportation community — and the human community — lost both a giant, and a kind and caring heart," McMillan said. "I got to know 'Marty' as a young professional, during his time at UC Berkeley heading up the Institute of Transportation Studies, and teaching at the College of Environmental Design, my alma mater. And while I didn’t have the privilege of sitting in his classroom, I had the joy of being his student nonetheless — with his commitment to advancing young talent, and especially women at a time we were still trying to shoulder our way to equitable standing in the field."

McMillan said Dr. Wachs' legacy is immense.

"Marty’s accomplishments are too numerous to articulate, but his greatest was his ability to communicate, listen and share — even in difficult moments," she said. "His stamp on countless individuals as mentor and friend will stand equally strong — I  like to think more so — alongside his prodigious research contributions. He will be missed, but forever remembered with deepest gratitude." 

Before landing at UCLA in 1971, Dr. Wachs received a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering (Urban and Regional Planning) from Northwestern University in 1967, an M.S. in Civil Engineering (Urban and Regional Planning) from Northwestern University in 1965 and a B.C.E. in Civil Engineering from City University of New York in 1963.

Dr. Wachs also wrote four books and 180 articles on subjects related to relationships between transportation, land use, and air quality; transportation systems; and the use of performance measurement in transportation planning.

His research addressed issues of equity in transportation policy, problems of crime in public transit systems, and the response of transportation systems to natural disasters, including earthquakes.

His other areas of interest included professional ethics, transportation and aging, transportation and land use, transportation and the environment, transportation finance, and urban transportation planning.

Dr. Wachs was a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, two Rockefeller Foundation Humanities Fellowships, a UCLA Alumni Association Distinguished Teaching Award, the Pyke Johnson Award for the best paper presented at an annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board (TRB), and the Carey Award for service to the TRB.

Recently, he was a member of the Advisory Committee on Research and Development for the California Department of Transportation and completed his term as the first Chair of the Advisory Panel for the Travel Model Improvement Program of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

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