Transportation Economics

The program of study and research in Transportation Economics leads to a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D) in Economics with a Concentration in Transportation Economics. This program is an option within the regular Ph.D. program offered by the Department of Economics, allowing students to substitute some additional transportation-related courses for a portion of their requirements in advanced micro- and macro-economic theory. Students also take advantage of Irvine's unusually large and strong concentration of faculty in transportation economics within the economics department.

Several economics faculty have active research programs specialized mainly in transportation, while others find frequent transportation applications for research in such areas as econometrics, public choice, industrial organization, urban economics, and economic geography. This work is both applied and theoretical, and is published both in specialized transportation journals and in general economics journals or journals specialized in related fields of economics.

The faculty are frequently augmented by post-doctoral researchers who add richness to the backgrounds and experience accessible to students through interactions in a friendly, collegial atmosphere. Recently we have had post-doctoral researchers with degrees from University of Pennsylvania and University of Minnesota. We have also benefitted from frequent faculty visitors with specializations in transportation economics.

The department is able to provide financial support to a number of students through research grants and a fellowship program especially targeted to transportation economics. These supplement the regular departmental sources of support including Chancellor and Regents Fellowships and a large number of teaching assistantships. Recently graduate students have been employed on grants to study the demand for electric vehicles, effects of the reliability of the transportation system on travel behavior, traveler response to the first congestion pricing experiment in the United States (which is here in Orange County), market effects of natural gas pipeline deregulation, effectiveness of inspection and maintenance programs on vehicle emissions, firm-strategic implications of transit privatization, and automobile ownership and use.

Students receive a mix of theoretical, empirical, and public-policy training suitable for academic, public-sector, and private-sector settings. Recent Ph.D. graduates and post-doctoral scholars have taken positions at universities, research institutes, consulting firms, and public agencies.

One of the program's popular features is an informal lunchtime discussion series that brings together faculty and graduate students from economics, political science, urban planning, and civil engineering to discuss papers drawn from the recent literature in applied transportation economics.

In addition to the two-quarter graduate sequence in transportation economics, many students in transportation choose additional courses among the department's offerings in the closely related fields of urban economics, industrial organization, and discrete choice econometrics, as well as related courses offered by other departments in urban planning and civil engineering. The following list includes some of the most useful courses:

  • Econ 210A-B Microeconomic Theory I, II
  • Econ 220A-B-C-D Statistics and Econometrics I, II, III, IV
  • Econ 223A Discrete Choice Econometrics
  • Econ 241A-B Industrial Organization I, II
  • Econ 281A-B Urban Economics I, II
  • Econ 282A-B Transportation Economics I, II
  • Econ 283A Urban and Transportation Policy
  • Econ 285A-B-C Colloquium for Transportation Science