Nation, World + Society

White House recognizes Luskin School transportation expert

Evelyn Blumenberg is a 'Champion of Change' for promoting social justice by examining transportation and urban planning

Evelyn Blumenberg

Evelyn Blumenberg, professor at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, was honored this morning as a White House Champion of Change for her work researching the links between transportation access, employment and poverty.

Blumenberg and 10 others were recognized at a White House ceremony for their “exemplary leadership to ensure that transportation facilities, services, and jobs help individuals and their communities connect to 21st century opportunities.”

“I am honored to be a White House Champion of Change and join the many other impressive leaders in being recognized,” Blumenberg wrote in a blog post for the White House. Other honorees were cited for a wide range of work, from promoting walking- and bike-friendly urban development to building the first fleet of natural gas container ships in the United States to increasing access for the disabled on public transportation.

Blumenberg, who is the chair of the UCLA Department of Urban Planning, has devoted her life’s work to alleviating poverty, first as a community organizer in low-income communities and, since earning her Ph.D. from the Luskin school, as a teacher and researcher.

“My motivation was to gain a better understanding of the problems facing low-income communities and to expand my repertoire of tools needed to address these problems,” wrote Blumenberg, explaining why she pursued graduate school.

As a professor, Blumenberg has focused on social justice by examining transportation and urban planning, specifically how the spatial location of residents, employers and services affect economic outcomes, particularly for low-wage workers.

“The concerns motivating my research are unchanged from my days as a community organizer, but today I play a different role,” Blumenberg wrote. “My teaching and research examine many dimensions of poverty and low-wage labor markets; it is through my published research and my terrific students that I seek to enable others to effectively organize for change.”

Blumenberg’s most recent findings show that for most low-income families a car can be the difference between having a job or remaining unemployed, as cars allow workers the flexibility to make stops at day care centers and grocery stores during a commute.

“It shouldn’t surprise anyone that after a century of mostly car-focused urban and suburban development in the U.S., not having a car puts people at a considerable disadvantage — especially in suburban and outlying areas,” she wrote.

Blumenberg’s commitment to social justice aligned perfectly with the Champion of Change criteria, which recognized that social mobility requires access to reliable, safe and affordable transportation.

A scholar of the effects of urban structure, Blumenberg teaches courses in planning history and theory, urban poverty, transportation and economic development, and urban policy.

Blumenberg, who has been teaching at UCLA since 1998, has held numerous leadership roles in her time at UCLA Luskin. She has served as the urban planning department's vice chair and chair of staffing and has directed the department’s doctoral program.

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