Dr. Susan Handy, distinguished professor of environmental science and policy and director of the National Center for Sustainable Transportation at University of California, Davis (UC Davis) is the 2024 recipient of the Thomas B. Deen Distinguished Lectureship. Handy, also chair of UC Davis’s graduate program in Transportation Technology and Policy, is recognized for her contributions to the advancement of knowledge on travel behavior, as well as to the practice of transportation planning and education.
During Handy’s more than 30 years of academic service, she has focused on strategies for reducing automobile dependence, including bicycling as a mode of transportation. Her research is motivated by the goal of a more sustainable transportation system, one that meets needs across all segments of society while minimizing environmental and societal harms now and into the future. She has published more than 125 peer reviewed journal articles, including 29 in Transportation Research Record (TRR), as well as scores of technical reports, book chapters, and short articles. She is the author of Shifting Gears, forthcoming from MIT Press.
The Deen Lectureship recognizes the career contributions and achievements of an individual in one of the areas covered by TRB’s Technical Activities Division. Originally known as the Transportation Research Board Distinguished Lectureship, the award was renamed in 2002 in honor of the eighth TRB executive director, Thomas B. Deen, who served with distinction from 1980 to 1994. Honorees are invited to present overviews of their technical area of expertise, including evolution, present status, and prospects for the future. TRB also publishes each lecture in a volume of the Transportation Research Record. Handy will deliver her lecture, “Shifting Gears: Reflections on the Role of Researchers in Shaping the Ideas that Shape Transportation,” on January 8, 2024, as part of TRB’s 2024 Annual Meeting.
From the beginning of her academic career, she has been among the most prominent researchers contributing to the understanding of the link between the built environment and travel behavior. In her studies of travel behavior, Handy has conducted more than 20 original surveys over the course of her career, in addition to using in-depth interviews, to produce a deeper understanding of travel behavior than is possible from conventional travel surveys. Early studies focused on the role of neighborhood design in shaping non-work travel behavior and showed that more traditionally designed neighborhoods were associated with less driving and more walking.
Her work with collaborators on the question of residential self-selection – whether people who prefer modes other than driving choose more traditionally designed neighborhoods – raised the bar for studies on this topic. No less influential have been her studies of bicycling behavior in which she explores the role of attitudes in explaining the use of bicycling as a mode of transportation. Several of her papers focus on bicycling among children and adolescents, a key stage of life in the formation of attitudes that may influence bicycling patterns and behavior throughout life.
Handy has served the Transportation Research Board in a variety of capacities for the last 30 years. She currently serves as an associate editor of TRR. She has served as a member of several TRB standing committees, including the formerly named committees on Telecommunications and Travel Behavior, Transportation and Land Development, Women’s Issues in Transportation, and Transportation Education. She chaired the Committee on Telecommunications and Travel Behavior for two terms, and she was the paper review chair for the Committee on Women’s Issues in Transportation for several years. She has also served on the organizing committees of several TRB conferences, including two of the conferences on Women’s Issues in Transportation. She has served on multiple Cooperative Research Program panels including chair for the TCRP Project Panel on Integrated Urban Models for Simulation of Transit and Land Use Policies.
Handy earned her doctor of philosophy, city and regional planning from the University of California, Berkeley; master of science, resource planning program, civil engineering from Stanford University; and bachelor of science and engineering, engineering and management systems program, civil engineering from Princeton University. Before joining academia, she held planning and analysis roles at the Center for Urban Analysis, Santa Clara County, San Jose, Calif. and at the Metropolitan Transportation Committee, Oakland, Calif.