First Kitamura Award Presented at TRB

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WINTER 2011—Two ITS Berkeley graduate students and their mentor, Professor Joan Walker, will receive the inaugural Kitamura Paper Award at the Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board on Jan. 25 at 7:30 p.m. in the Hilton Hotel's Columbia Hall. The award is named in honor of Ryuichi Kitamura, a faculty member at both Kyoto University and UC Davis, who died in 2009.

David Gaker, an ITS doctoral student, and Yanding Zheng, who received his master’s degree and now works in Singapore, collaborated with Assistant Professor Walker on the paper, Experimental Economics in Transportation: A Focus on Social Influences and the Provision of Information.

It's a very big honor to receive this award in memory of one of the leaders of transportation behavior modeling,” Gaker wrote in an email.

Ryuichi Kitamura (left)  was a leader in the areas of activity-based analysis, travel demand modeling, time-use research, dynamic analysis of travel behavior, travel survey methods, and transportation policy studies. In tribute to his commitment to student success and co-authorship of papers, the Travel Analysis Methods Section of TRB has instituted the Ryuichi Kitamura Award for the Best Paper by a Student Co-Authored with a Mentor.

The first winning paper examines the transferability of findings in behavioral economics to transportation, focusing on personalized information and social influences. As part of their research, Walker, Gaker, and Zheng designed and conducted three computer experiments using UC Berkeley students. Among their findings, they determined that social influences have a positive effect on the decision to buy a hybrid car over a conventional car, or to forgo a car altogether.

“This paper focused on the influence of social norms and environmental impact information. It emphasizes that people are heavily influenced by factors other than the durations and costs of their alternatives,” wrote Gaker in an email. “For me, I see the award as more of a sign that I have a solid starting point for my dissertation, rather than simply as a ‘job well done.’”

Zheng’s work in Singapore involves transportation modeling aimed at improving the walking environment in the island country’s Jurong Lake District.

“For me,” he wrote in an email, “this award is a fabulous reward of my Berkeley life. I really appreciate the academic environment and kind faculty members at ITS, Dr. Walker in particular, who brought me into the exciting world of behavioral analysis.”

"The award is for the best paper authored by a student-mentor combination in Ryuichi's area of expertise: travel analysis methods," added Walker. "This is fairly unique and was done to honor Ryuichi's strong commitment to and success in mentoring."

The Kitamura family, together with the two universities at which Ryuichi spent his career, UC Davis and Kyoto University, united to establish the Ryuichi Kitamura Fund to support graduate student scholarship and an exchange of ideas in the field of travel behavior research. The fund will annually award a cash prize to the student winners of the Transportation Research Board Kitamura Paper Award.