Remembering Marty Wachs
April 15, 2021|Robert Puentes
The transportation world lost one of its most distinguished and impactful voices this week with the passing of Martin Wachs. Marty was a transportation engineering and planning professor/practitioner mostly in the University of California system in Los Angeles and at Berkeley, as well as the RAND Corporation. He wrote hundreds of articles, served on numerous boards and commissions, and likely taught many of the people reading this article. His impact on transportation and urban planning scholarship is difficult to overstate.
Marty was a close colleague of ours at Eno. In 2017, he was the first-ever recipient of the Eno Thought Leader Award which we, appropriately, presented to him at our Leadership Awards Dinner. The award was created to recognize exemplary achievement in the field of transportation research and scholarship. It acknowledges individuals that have a demonstrated body of rigorous, timely, and impactful work. Everyone who knew him agreed there was no one better suited for the award.
Over the years, Marty contributed to many Eno articles, reports, webinars, and conferences, including Eno’s Transportation Quarterly journal. His first article in 1969 came when Marty was fresh off his Ph.D. from Northwestern University and while he was on active duty as a Captain with the U.S. Army. His article that year focused on the role urban highways play in shaping patterns of growth and development. Clearly, Marty was ahead of his time and would continue to be throughout his career.
In 2016, I had the distinct pleasure of serving with Marty on a jury to review proposals to rebuild New York City’s Port Authority bus terminal, the busiest and most complex on Earth. Marty volunteered to chair the group, run the intense meetings and presentations, arrive at consensus among the jurors, and—in true style—author an article in the Transportation Research Board’s monthly journal on the experience.
Just before the pandemic, Marty worked with us at Eno to produce and convene a three-day workshop at the Pocantico Conference Center in upstate New York. The workshop brought together two dozen transportation scholars, executives, and other experts to explore challenges to transportation governance and considered whether they can be addressed through institutional reform. The subject matter was difficult, and the discussion was wide-ranging, but never one to shy away from controversial topics, Marty jumped in with both feet and was instrumental to its success. Most recently, he served on our Centennial steering committee.
I could go on about Marty’s work on transportation funding and finance, ballot measures, traffic congestion, and the environment. But for all his achievements, Marty was a hell of a nice guy and extraordinarily generous with his time. We lost not just a colleague but a friend. Thankfully, the many lives he touched means his legacy will live on for a long time.