UCLA Transit Photos

Attending the Annual TRB meeting in January, I sat through a very interesting presentation that was given by Dr. Brian D. Taylor. Unlike most engineering science presentations which are usually cluttered with formulas and derivations, this presentation was a lot more artistic. Dr. Taylor presented a recent research project that was performed by UCLA’s Institute of Transportation Studies. The title of this project is “Zen in the Art of Travel Behavior: Using Visual Ethnography to Understand the Transit Experience”. This project, however, seems to be the dissertation work of Camille Fink, a PhD student. The photos included in this post are only a few examples from that repository. Hover your mouse on the photos to see the comments of the riders.

This research project attempts to capture the thoughts and observations of transit riders. To achieve this objective researchers asked study subjects to take still photos “of the things most important to them on their transit trips using their own, and now nearly ubiquitous, digital cameras, smart phones, or camera phones”. Then, study subjects were asked to upload their photos to a photo repository and add a few comments about what the photo reflects.

In transportation engineering, figuring out how humans think, behave and make decisions is really important; especially with the heightening criticality of the global situation evident by climate change and peaking of oil. However, at the same time, figuring out how humans think, behave and make decisions is obviously quite challenging – many would even say impossible. So, transportation researchers usually make assumptions about how humans behave, and as science progresses these assumptions are often revisited and improved. My own PhD dissertation is interdisciplinary, where I have integrated theories from both human factors and transportation engineering. So, I have experienced firsthand how challenging it is to figure human behavior, and I can truly appreciate and admire the project I am presenting in this post.

The research team arranged this photo repository and it is open for public view. I think they did a wonderful job and I encourage everyone reading this post to have a look. Even if you have nothing to do with transportation engineering or human behavior, I am sure you will find the photos and comments to be quite entertaining!

Here you go. Press the following link, then press “Board Here” and have fun: Zen in the Art of Travel Behavior: Using Visual Ethnography to Understand the Transit Experience.

My 1st Post

I apologize for the delay in making my first post. Like I said in my opening post, I was a PhD candidate in Virginia Tech. My final defense was scheduled in January. My defense was successful; thank you for asking. When I established this blog, I thought I was going to have time to start running this blog and at the same time finish up my degree and submit my job applications. Obviously, I was wrong. I was working 24/7 and I wished I had more time. I wanted to do more work for my PhD, and with this economy I wanted to apply for more jobs. Anyhow, now that I have finished my PhD and started working as a postdoctoral research associate, I think I can start making at least monthly posts.

I want my first post to be a post of acknowledgment. I wish to acknowledge two dear friends who encouraged and inspired me to start this blog. Without these two friends, I would not have started this blog, at least not in my foreseen future. These two friends are Ivan Sergejev and John Sangster. Ivan is a brilliant architect. He is currently doing his Masters degree in Virginia Tech department of Architecture, and he is supposed to defend his thesis this semester. So hopefully, we will be walking together in May. Ivan is a brilliant person and I am sure he will have a great future. To find proof of my claim, I invite you to have a look on his personal blog: http://ivansergejev.wordpress.com/. I have no doubt that you will enjoy it; especially if you are interested in city design. On the other hand, John defended his masters degree in December and just started pursuing his doctoral degree in transportation engineering. John, too, has an interesting blog that is certainly beneficial for transportation engineering studets. John named his blog Free Flow and its web address is: http://trfc-guy.blogspot.com/. If you are interesting in transportation engineering, I am sure you will enjoy following John’s posts.

So, here goes my first post. I will make sure to make my next post soon; especially that I attended the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board a few weeks ago, and there is a lot of information that I wish to share.


Aly Tawfik Hello dear reader. My name is Aly Tawfik. I am a Transportation Engineering PhD candidate at Virginia Tech. Hopefully, I will defend my dissertation and earn my long sought PhD title in January 2012. I cannot know the reason that brought you to my humble page and intrigued you to read about me; however, I am honored and happy you are here. I hope you will find my modest blog useful, entertaining, or just not-so-disappointing at the very least. Please bare with me as I have just started this blog and I will be improving it regularly.