Space, transportation, local government conference
The Future of Transportation

» The Future of Transportation: 5th Annual Public Policy Conference

Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences

Public transit is losing riders. There’s big backlash against California’s high speed rail system and the gas taxes that fund roads and other transportation projects. And navigating traffic and finding a parking space have never been harder. But for all our public discontent with the chore of moving around California, the state has never seen more new ideas about how to improve and transform transportation. Which of these ideas are worth pursuing? What would a California transportation system that is convenient, safe, clean, and affordable look like? And how do we cross--and fund—the bridge from today’s transit horror’s to tomorrow’s transportation dreams? These are among the questions that will be addressed at our fifth local government conference, “How will we get around the Southland and California?

Toggle Section

Conference Program


8-8:45 a.m.
George H. W. Bush Conference Center, Beckman Hall, Room 404
Welcome: Provost Glenn Pfeiffer

Panel 1: California's Trains

9-10:30 a.m.
George H. W. Bush Conference Center, Beckman Hall, Room 404

What role should rail play in CA’s transportation future? Should rail dollars be spent on projects that help us to get around the state or around our local communities? Is the high speed rail project a bold new initiative or colossal boondoggle? Is Orange County’s $300 million, four-mile Streetcar the future of local transportation or white elephant? Should Orange County push for an extension of LA’ s Metro to Santa Ana? Should proposals such as Elon Musk’s Hyperloop be taken seriously? Is “fixed” rail the way to go given the coming autonomous vehicle (or self-driving cars and trucks) revolution?

Moderator: Karen E. Philbrick, Director, Mineta Transportation Institute, San Jose State University


  • Dan Richard, Director, California High Speed Rail
  • Martin Wachs, Distinguished Professor of Urban Planning, UCLA Luskin School (emeritus)
  • Lou Thompson, California High Speed Rail Peer Group Review
  • Tian Feng, District Architect, San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART)

Panel 2: Traffic in the Southland

10:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m.
George H. W. Bush Conference Center, Beckman Hall, Room 404

In the next decade, we will experience a revolution in how we use cars. Car manufacturers estimate that high-functioning autonomous vehicles (or self-driving cars and trucks) will be on U.S. roads as soon as the early 2020s. What will these new cars look like? How will they work and fit into the rest of the transportation system, from buses to bikes? How will they change how we live and work? Will they require an expensive remaking of roads and other infrastructure, or allow us to save the money we spend on building park garages and use it to transform public spaces? This panel will also discuss the increase in ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft, California’s electric vehicle mandate, and congestion pricing.

Moderator: Laura Nelson, Transportation reporter Los Angeles Times


  • Dan McNichol, Author, The Roads That Built America: The Incredible Story of the U.S. Interstate System
  • Shane Philips, Director of Public Policy, Central City Association of Los Angeles
  • Randal O'Toole, Public policy analyst, author, “Gridlock: Why We're Stuck in Traffic and What To Do About It.” CATO Institute.
  • Michael Floyd, Editor, Automobile Magazine

Lunch: Orange County Annual Survey

12:30-1:45 p.m.
SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union Conference Suite, Second Floor, Argyros Forum, Room 209 A, B, and C

Chapman University Orange County Annual Survey with Fred Smoller and Mike Moodian

Panel 3: What should we build and how do we pay for it?

2-3:30 p.m.
George H. W. Bush Conference Center, Beckman Hall, Room 404

How best do we connect transportation and transit to where we live, work and play so that our infrastructure has the greatest value? What are the proper roles of bicycles, scooters, drones, and walking in building connections? What sort of development do we need in Orange County and in California so that the things we build best serve the things that move us? And how will we pay for all of this?

Moderator: Andrew Lyon, Founding Dean, Fowler School of Engineering


  • Jonathan English, Ph.D. Candidate, CityLab, author of “Why Did America Give Up on Mass Transit? (Don't Blame Cars.)”
  • Darrell Johnson, Director, Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA)
  • Laurie Berman, Director, California Department of Transportation (Caltrans)
  • Mike Dukakis, Former Governor, MA; Professor, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs

Panel 4: What can we learn from others?

4-5:30 p.m.
George H. W. Bush Conference Center, Beckman Hall, Room 404

Places such as Hong Kong, Singapore, the Netherlands, and Germany have substantially better public transportation systems than we do in the United States. Even Bogata, Colombia has a successful bus rapid transit system--TransMilenio--that is used by millions and surpasses anything Californians experience. And others places around the world have surpassed California in incorporating bikes and scooters into commuting and transportation. Can “low-tech” systems generate more “bang” for the transportation “buck” in California? What systems from other U.S. metropolitan areas--from New York to Portland -- that have more robust and more widely used transportation systems would work in California? Why are other countries able to build high-speed rail and other transportation infrastructure so much more quickly and at lower cost than California?

Moderator: Tom Zoellner, Author, Train: Riding the Rails That Created the Modern World--from the Trans-Siberian to the Southwest Chief


  • Stephen Mikesell, Author, A Tale of Two Bridges: The San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridges of 1936 and 2013.
  • Susan Handy, Department of Environmental Science and Policy, University of California Davis.
  • Susan Carpenter, KPCC transportation reporter
  • Liliana Pereira, Transportation Consultant, TransMilenio, Bogota. Colombia