2023-24 Edition

Transportation Science, M.S.

This program is currently not admitting students. Please visit the program website for more information.

Jean-Daniel Saphores, Director

The graduate program in Transportation Science includes faculty from four academic units: the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in The Henry Samueli School of Engineering, the Department of Economics in the School of Social Sciences, the Department of Planning, Policy, and Design in the School of Social Ecology, and the Department of Computer Science in the Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences. The program is designed to educate students in a broad set of competencies and perspectives that mirror the actual practice of current transportation research. The M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Transportation Science are offered.

Admission is limited to a small number of exceptionally talented, independent, and self-disciplined students. The deadline for application for admission is March 1 for fall quarter. A second window for application for admission for winter or spring quarters is open from April 15 through June 1 but funding options for this second window may be very limited. All applicants must take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) prior to the application deadline. Applicants whose first language is not English must also submit Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) scores.

The M.S. program is a 44-unit program with two options: (1) thesis; and (2) comprehensive examination. Students will choose one of these two options. For both options, no more than 12 credit hours of non-transportation courses can count toward the required number of course-work units. Exceptions must be approved by the student’s advisor and the Director of the Transportation Science program. Opportunities are available for part-time study toward the M.S. degree. The normative time for completion of the M.S. is four quarters, with some students finishing in a single academic year, and others staying into a second year. Many students will choose to stay for five or six quarters, and the maximum time permitted is four years.


Core courses must be chosen from lists in each of the four program areas: Area 1 (Transportation Systems Engineering), Area 2 (Urban and Transportation Economics) and Area 3 (Transportation Planning), and Area 4 (Computer Science).

Substitutions and exceptions must be requested ahead of time and must be approved by the Director of the Transportation Science program.

Each student must choose at least two graduate courses from Area 1, at least one graduate course from Areas 2 and 3, and at least four additional graduate courses from any of the four areas. At least five of the eight core courses must be transportation courses, which are indicated by an asterisk.

Specific courses in each of these areas are shown below:

Area 1 (Transportation Systems Engineering)
Travel Demand Analysis I *
Travel Demand Analysis II
Transportation Systems Analysis I *
Transit Systems Planning
Transportation Systems III: Planning and Forecasting
Transportation Data Analysis I *
Traffic Flow Theory I *
Urban Transportation Networks I *
Traffic Systems Operations and Control I
Area 2 (Urban and Transportation Economics) 1
Microeconomic Theory I
and Microeconomic Theory II
Urban Economics I
and Urban Economics II *
Urban Economics II
Transportation Economics I
and Transportation Economics II *
Transportation Economics II
Economics 289 A–Z*
Area 3 (Transportation Planning)
History of Urban Planning
Land-Use Law
Transportation Planning and Policy
Transportation and Environmental Health
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Problem Solving in Planning
Introduction to Geographic Information Systems
Pre-approved upper-division undergraduate courses, independent study units, or seminars:
Area 4 (Computer Science)
Principles of Scientific Computing
Introduction to Ubiquitous Computing
Fundamentals of the Design and Analysis of Algorithms
Introduction to Optimization
Introduction to Artificial Intelligence
Probablistic Learning: Theory and Algorithms
A. Pre-approved upper-division undergraduate courses:
Intermediate Quantitative Economics I
and Intermediate Quantitative Economics II
Econometrics I
and Econometrics II
Econometrics II
Special Topics in Economics of Public and Private Organizations
Transportation Systems I: Analysis and Design
Transportation Systems II: Operations and Control
Transportation Systems III: Planning and Forecasting
Transportation Systems IV: Freeway Operations and Control
Programming in C/C++ as a Second Language
Data Structure Implementation and Analysis
Computer Simulation
Information Retrieval
Introduction to Data Management
B. Independent study units:
Independent Study
Master of Science Thesis Research
Special Topics in Civil and Environmental Engineering
Individual Research
Directed Studies in Urban Planning
Independent Study in Urban Planning
Thesis Supervision
Individual Study
C. Students who choose the thesis option may also select up to eight units of the following:
Master of Science Thesis Research (4 to 12 units)
Directed Studies in Urban Planning
Thesis Supervision

After approval from their advisor, students may petition the Director of the Transportation Science Program with requests for substitution of the required courses.

Plan I: Thesis Option

Students who select the thesis option must complete at least 44 units of study, up to eight of which can be taken in conjunction with the thesis research topic (thesis units should be taken in the home department of the faculty advisor); they must also complete at least 36 units of course work with no more than four units of pre-approved upper-division undergraduate courses, independent study units, or seminars. The thesis should reflect an original research investigation and it must be approved by a thesis committee of at least three full-time faculty members, a majority of which must be Transportation Science faculty.

Plan II: Comprehensive Examination Option

Students who select the comprehensive examination option must successfully complete 44 units of course work and pass a comprehensive examination. These units may include no more than 12 units of pre-approved upper-division undergraduate courses, independent study units, or seminars. The comprehensive examination requirements may be met with a publication-quality paper dealing with a transportation topic; this paper must be approved by the student’s advisor and the Director of the Transportation Science program.

UCI is a major research university and has an excellent library collection, as well as special interlibrary loan arrangements with other University of California libraries including the Transportation Library at Berkeley. Research is coordinated with the Irvine branch of the Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS). Approximately 30 to 40 graduate students are employed as research assistants each year in ITS. Research covers a broad spectrum of transportation issues. Current funded research projects focus upon intelligent transportation systems (ITS), particularly advanced transportation management systems; planning and analysis of transportation systems; transportation systems operation and control; transportation engineering; transportation safety; road and congestion pricing; environmental and energy issues and demand for alternative fuel vehicles; public transit operations, transportation-land use interactions, demand for autos, and travel demand.

ITS is part of the University of California Transportation Center, one of ten federally designated centers of excellence for transportation research. The transportation research program at UCI is also supported by the Advanced Transportation Management Systems (ATMS) Laboratories. The Institute maintains a regular publications series documenting research conducted within its programs and is the editorial headquarters of the Journal of Regional Science.