Professor Emeritus Marty Wachs Passes Away


The transportation community deeply mourns the loss of Emeritus Professor Marty Wachs of the Departments of Civil & Environmental Engineering and City & Regional Planning at the University of California, Berkeley (and UCLA where he was a Distinguished Professor Emeritus in Urban Planning). His dedication to students, teaching, and research are truly inspiring. He has left a legacy in many areas of transportation research, including his pioneering work on social equity, environmental quality, and community values.

Professor Wachs received his PhD in Urban and Regional Planning from Northwestern University in 1967. After an illustrious tenure at UCLA from 1971 to 1996, he joined the Berkeley faculty in 1996 with a joint appointment between Civil & Environmental Engineering and City & Regional Planning. Following his retirement from University of California, Wachs served as Director of Transportation, Space, and Technology at the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, California.

Wachs was a leading researcher on transportation finance and policy, examining the effects of increased fuel efficiency and electronic toll collection on transit system revenues. He was also a leader of environmental justice, convinced that citizens needed information to understand the potential for discrimination in public transit services. He authored Environmental Justice & Transportation: A Citizen’s Handbook, which received accolades from policy makers and advocacy groups alike.

At the national level, Wachs was an active member of the Transportation Research Board, serving as Chair of the TRB Executive Committee in 2000. He also chaired a TRB committee examining the federal Congestion Management and Air Quality Improvement program at the behest of the U.S. Congress.  The result of the committee’s work was a 508-page report, The Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program: Assessing Ten Years of Experience, which received coverage in newspapers and scientific journals and led Wachs to testify before Congress on the subject.

“His high visibility in the domain of transportation policy and finance brought prestige to the already strong transportation programs at Berkeley,” said Samer Madanat, former UC Berkeley professor of civil and environmental engineering who served as ITS Berkeley director after Wachs retired. 
Madanat, who is now dean of engineering at New York University Abu Dhabi, added that Wachs “was a highly sought expert by the California legislature on questions of highway finance, and argued strongly in favor of use-based taxes to maintain the health of the Highway Trust Fund.”

At the University of California, Wachs founded the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS), and served as Director for ITS Berkeley, two units of one of the best-known university transportation centers in the world. In addition to his outstanding professional and university service, Wachs was recognized as an excellent instructor, receiving the “Teacher of the Year Award” in 2001 and the “Faculty Advisor of the Year” in 2001 and 2002 in City & Regional Planning.

Professor Susan Shaheen, who first met Wachs when she was a post-doctoral scholar, shares that he was a "dedicated mentor and advisor to me throughout my career, leaving a notable impression. Since retiring from UC Berkeley, he continued to inspire me with his depth and breadth of knowledge on so many topics. He always found time to support me and many others in their research, teaching, and service—offering thoughtful and steadfast guidance. Up until his passing, he was actively providing valuable counsel on my latest research and role as Chair of the Transportation Research Board’s Executive Committee (a position he held two decades before me)."

Professor Wachs will be deeply missed and cherished by many on our campus, across the UC system, and the globe. His wife Helen has asked that members of the transportation community share their memories of her husband by emailing

In lieu of flowers or gifts, the Wachs family has requested that those interested in making a contribution to honor Marty’s legacy consider giving a gift in his memory to the UCLA Urban Planning Professors Emeriti Fund. The Department of Urban Planning uses proceeds from this fund given in his name toward the Martin Wachs Fellowship in Transportation, which provides financial assistance to promising students studying transportation policy and planning at UCLA. Gifts can also be made by check payable to the UCLA Foundation. Please include “Fund #90695Q” in the memo field and mail to the UCLA Foundation, PO Box 7145, Pasadena, CA 91109.

The Wachs family would also be honored by gifts made in Marty’s memory to other causes or charities important to you.

Published 04/13/2021