Transportation Equity Expert to Join UCLA Engineering, Public Affairs Faculty
Courtesy of Terri N. O’Neal
Bills’ appointment is part of a UCLA-wide “Rising to the Challenge” initiative spearheaded by the Ralph J. Bunche Center to expand the scope and depth of scholarship that address racial equity issues. Announced in June 2020 by Chancellor Gene Block and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Emily Carter, the program was established to help UCLA advance diversity, equity and inclusion. The plan includes the recruitment of 10 new faculty members over five years whose scholarly work addresses issues of Black experience.
“Professor Bills brings the expertise at the nexus of engineering and public policy, which will greatly benefit our students as they tackle challenges in designing more equitable transportation systems,” said Jayathi Murthy.
“In order to help our students achieve technological breakthroughs that will improve the quality of life and society, we need to recruit faculty who understand the complex and entrenched inequities along racial and socioeconomic lines and address them in their research and teaching,” said Jayathi Murthy, Ronald and Valerie Sugar Dean of Engineering at UCLA Samueli. “Professor Bills brings the expertise at the nexus of engineering and public policy, which will greatly benefit our students as they tackle challenges in designing more equitable transportation systems.”
Bills’ research interests include equity analysis, travel behavior modeling, community-based data collection and transportation-performance measurement. At UCLA, she will teach two courses — Transportation Equity, and Travel Behavior Analysis and Forecasting.
Bills is currently an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Wayne State University in Detroit. Prior to that, Bills was a Michigan Society Fellow and an assistant professor at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She has also served as a lecturer at Strathmore University in Nairobi, Kenya, and as a research scientist at IBM Research Africa, where she used data from smartphones to analyze the quality of transportation. Bills is a co-principal investigator on two current National Science Foundation grants studying transit issues in resource-constrained communities. She received her Ph.D. and M.S. in civil and environmental engineering, and transportation engineering from UC Berkeley, as well as a B.S. in civil engineering technology from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.
“Too often in the past, political expediency led to the routing of transportation systems like freeways and rail lines without adequate concern for their negative impacts on poorer, mostly ethnic neighborhoods,” said Gary Segura, Dean of the Luskin School of Public Affairs at UCLA. “The health and economic fallout of those decisions continues to have severe societal impacts, especially in congested urban areas. Future city planners and civil engineers alike will benefit from the expertise of Professor Bills in learning how to create more equitable transportation systems that avoid repeating past mistakes.”