Alumni Spotlight: Carlos F. Daganzo

Professor Carlos F. Daganzo (PhD ’75), one of the world’s most well-known transportation scientists, earned his PhD under Professor Donald Cleveland. 

“I was touched by the confidence that my advisor and mentor Don Cleveland, had in me,” Daganzo says. “He allowed me to choose to research the topics I wanted, to use self-study rather than coursework to speed up my progress, and even to teach a graduate level course.  All this helped develop my independence and later flourish as an academic. I have tried to do the same with my own PhD students.”

Today, Daganzo is a Chancellor’s Professor of the graduate school in civil and environmental engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. In 2014 he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering. Noted for his contributions to econometrics, logistics, freight operations, network theory, traffic flow, and transit operations, Daganzo has also sole-authored four research books.

Recently his work has focused on public transportation systems. About ten years ago, after working in the area of logistics (big picture freight transportation) for a long time, Daganzo became interested in understanding the big picture of people transportation at the city scale. 

“I felt this was important because the world was and is rapidly urbanizing, and transportation systems can help shape how cities become,” Daganzo says. “I also saw that the methods and ideas my students, collaborators and I had developed for organizing the movement of freight on a large scale could be applied to understand how best to organize the movement of people in cities. I started to do this considering all modes of transportation (individual and collective in their existing and emerging forms) and quickly learned that collective transportation should be the dominant mode in the largest and densest cities. For this reason, it became a focus of my efforts.”

Currently, the U-M CEE department is working to bring transportation studies back to the department, as the program ended with the retirement of Professor Cleveland in 1988. 

Daganzo explains the importance of transportation: “It underpins the world’s commerce; it is the reason why cities are the way they are; and is a major contributor to the greenhouse effect.”

In addition, Daganzo adds, “the field of transportation is young and in the process of being developed.  Whereas other more mature fields In CEE build on fundamental ideas hundreds of years old, the fundamental ideas of transportation science are still being developed.  This should be exciting to inquisitive minds. For these reasons, I believe transportation should be an area of emphasis at top engineering schools everywhere.”

Daganzo’s advice for current students is: “I have always tried to look at real world problems without allowing the problem solving tools I’m most comfortable with shape my understanding of the issues. I believe that a good understanding of the issues and a good, unfiltered understanding of how things actually work are the basis for the inspiration that leads to path-breaking ideas.”

Daganzo’s favorite memories from his time at U-M include “sledding at the hill right out the door on crisp winter weekends and, of course, football at the stadium on many fall Saturdays.”

Summary of Professor Carlos F. Daganzo

A member of the National Academy of Engineering, he is also a co-founder, chairman of the board, and principal scientist of Via Analytics, a California benefit corporation devoted to improving mobility through technology. He has served as Convenor of the oldest international symposium on transportation and traffic theory (the ISTTT) and as an Associate Editor of Transportation Research (Part B, methodological) and Transportation Science. Daganzo's former students hold faculty positions at top ranked schools of engineering, business and management all over the world. He has authored "Fundamentals of Transportation and Traffic Operations" (Pergamon-Elsevier, 1997) – an internationally used and translated graduate level textbook. Noted for his contributions to econometrics, logistics, freight operations, network theory, traffic flow, and transit operations, Daganzo has also sole-authored four research books: "Multinomial Probit: The Theory and its Application to Demand Forecasting" (Academic Press, 1979), "Logistics Systems Analysis" (1st, 2nd and 3rd and 4th eds, Springer, 1991, 1996, 1999, 2005), “A Theory of Supply Chains” (Springer, 2003) and “Public Transportation Systems: Basic Principles of System Design, Operations Planning and Traffic Control” (published online, 2010). The latter contains the blueprint for Barcelona’s new high-performance bus system, which Daganzo co-designed. The Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain, bestowed on him an honorary doctorate, partly in recognition for this work. The ISTTT Symposium of 2011 was dedicated to him in recognition of his cumulative contributions to transportation science.


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