Ben-Akiva honored for lifetime achievement in transportation research
By Denise Brehm
Civil & Environmental Engineering
Professor Moshe Ben-Akiva, the Edmund K. Turner Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and director of the MIT Intelligent Transportation Systems program, received the Dupuit Prize from the World Conference on Transport Research Society (WCTRS) at its conference at the University of California, Berkeley, in June. The Dupuit Prize, the highest honor presented by the society, is named after Jules Dupuit, often credited as the founder of transportation research.
Ben-Akiva was honored for his outstanding body of scientific work, significant reputation internationally in transport policy, involvement in the creation of global networks, and his service to the WCTRS.
“There must be very few transport researchers in the world who do not know the name Ben-Akiva,” said Roger Vickerman, professor of European economics at the University of Kent, in his presentation of the award. “Similarly very few can fail to have used at least some of his research as an input to their own work. From his early work on discrete choice modeling to his current interests in intelligent transport systems his name has been at the forefront of work of the highest quality.”
“There are many of his own graduate students who have developed significant careers in transport research and many others who have benefited from his experience as a member of their thesis examination panel. An even wider group has benefited from [his] summer course…and a yet wider group from his textbook with Steven Lerman on “Discrete Choice Analysis,” still the core text in the field after more than 20 years,” said Vickerman.
Like Dupuit, Ben-Akiva is a civil engineer by training who works largely in the areas of economics and econometrics as applied to transportation issues.
“Economic historians refer to Dupuit as a full-time engineer and a part-time economist who pioneered mathematical microeconomics,” Ben-Akiva said in accepting the award. “I am proud to say that I was also schooled in civil engineering—at the Technion in Israel—and later became interested in economics and econometrics while pursuing graduate studies in transportation at MIT. The richness of transportation and the crucial role it plays in our lives is what makes this field exciting…And the excitement of discovery is always accompanied by new and more challenging problems that invariably require the combined skills of civil engineering and economics.”
“The Dupuit Prize means a lot to me; it is significant milestone in my professional life. It is rewarding to receive this recognition from such a dedicated and talented group of researchers,” said Ben-Akiva.
Ben-Akiva has worked on the development of sophisticated integrated traffic management technology for more than a decade. His research team recently completed a milestone with a new system—Dynamic Network Assignment for the Management of Information to Travelers (DynaMIT)—whose components work together in real time to access information about traffic flow and incidents, accurately anticipate how drivers will respond, and make sound decisions about guiding and re-routing drivers and relaying that information to them.
Ben-Akiva, who has been on the MIT faculty since 1973, received the Samuel M. Seegal Prize in May from the MIT School of Engineering. The Seegal Prize recognizes professors who “inspire students in pursuing and achieving excellence.”
The Dupuit Prize is Ben-Akiva’s second lifetime achievement award. In August 2006, the International Association for Travel Behaviour Research presented him with its Lifetime Achievement Award for “his profound contributions in many areas of discrete choice.” In presenting it, John Polak, professor of transport demand at Imperial College, London, said, “It is no exaggeration to say that wherever one looks in the area of research and application of discrete choice methods, one sees Moshe’s hand at work.”