Tributes & Biography

The Life and Contributions of Ryuichi Kitamura


Ryuichi Kitamura

Tribute from Dan Sperling and Patricia Mokhtarian

Professor Ryuichi Kitamura passed away in Japan on February 19, 2009. Ryuichi played a central role in the creation of ITS-Davis, and maintained a strong relationship with us even after he left. At the end of this message is a biography of Ryuichi prepared by Professor Ram Pendyala of Arizona State, one of his outstanding students (and one of the first ITS-Davis graduates).

Ryuichi came to UC Davis in 1978, just after receiving his PhD from University of Michigan. Dan Sperling joined the UC Davis faculty in 1982. In 1987, the two young professors began to plan the launching of ITS-Davis, with help from Professor Andy Frank. By then, Ryuichi was already becoming known as one of the preeminent travel behavior experts in the world. Soon after Professor Paul Jovanis and then Professor Pat Mokhtarian came to Davis, and ITS-Davis was on its way to great success.

Ryuichi played a central role in establishing our prominence and credibility as a premier research center. We were extremely disappointed when he accepted an offer from Kyoto University in 1993, but we understood, knowing that it was a top-tier Japanese university and that he had graduated from there and it was his home country. But he did retain a research position with ITS-Davis and an adjunct faculty position with our CEE department, as well as his home in Davis.

Ryuichi was not only a brilliant researcher, he was a fabulous person. He remained upbeat and courageous while fighting off bouts of cancer and suffering through years of operations and treatments. He was a delightful colleague in every way — intelligent, creative, with diverse interests, and impishly funny. We, and many others, will miss him.

A number of events and tributes are being planned. UC Davis and Kyoto University are organizing a symposium in his honor to be held at UC Davis June 29-30, 2009. In addition, the International Association for Travel Behaviour Research (IATBR) is planning several activities to commemorate Ryuichi’s life, including a special session in honor of his contributions and life at the 2009 IATBR Conference to be held December 13-18 in Jaipur, India. A special session is being planned for the 2010 Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board, and a new student paper award will be established by TRB in his honor. The Editorial Board of Transportation (Springer) is in discussions about organizing a special issue of the journal (of which he was an editor for many years) dedicated to Ryuichi’s memory and creative contributions, and special issues of Transportation Research Part B and Transportation Letters are also underway.


Brief Biography and Tribute from Ram Pendyala

Ryuichi’s contributions to the field of travel behavior research are legendary. Over the past 30 years, his contributions in the areas of activity-based analysis, travel demand modeling, time use research, longitudinal analysis of travel behavior, travel survey methods, and transportation policy studies have shaped and influenced the profession in profound ways. Legions of researchers have been influenced by Ryuichi’s work and his mark on the field will be felt for generations to come. With his passing, the community has lost a wonderful leader, mentor, and human being.

Ryuichi received his Bachelors Degree in Civil Engineering in 1972 and his Masters Degree in Transportation Engineering in 1974 from Kyoto University. He then received his Doctoral Degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor in 1978. From 1978 to 1993, he served on the faculty of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of California at Davis and was one of the founding faculty members of the Institute for Transportation Studies (ITS) at Davis. Since 1993, he has been with Kyoto University as a Professor of Urban Management in the Faculty of Engineering, while remaining affiliated with ITS-Davis as a research faculty member, and with the Civil and Environmental Engineering department of UC Davis as an adjunct faculty member.

Over the span of his 30+ year career, Ryuichi published more than 250 papers in archival refereed journals, edited volumes and books, conference proceedings, and other special publications. He served as an invited keynote speaker at dozens of international conferences and as a guest editor of numerous journal special issues dedicated to travel behavior. He has served on editorial boards of the most prestigious journals in the field and has been an Associate Editor of Transportation (Springer) since 1990.

Ryuichi served as a leader in the profession for many years and left a lasting impression through his wit, energy, and wisdom. From 1984 to 1989, he served as the Chair of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) Subcommittee on Activity and Travel Pattern Analysis. From 1989 to 1995, he served as the Chair of the TRB Committee on Traveler Behavior and Values, a period during which the field grew enormously. During 1992-1994, he served as the Chair of the International Association for Travel Behaviour Research (IATBR), after serving as the Association’s Vice-Chair for two years prior to that. In 2006, he organized and hosted the 11th IATBR Conference at Kyoto University, Japan. It was at this conference that Ryuichi, along with Professor Moshe Ben-Akiva, was honored with the IATBR Lifetime Achievement Award for his lifetime of contributions to the profession. In that same year, he was elevated to the status of Emeritus Member of the TRB Committee on Traveler Behavior and Values. He continued to serve as a member of several TRB Committees until today.

Ryuichi’s legacy will be carried forward for generations to come by many of his students and colleagues who had the good fortune to work with him or be influenced by his work. Ryuichi accomplished and contributed so much to the field and profession with a great sense of humor, complete selfless devotion to his work, and the highest level of dignity, honor, and integrity. Despite all of the fame, leadership positions, and worldwide recognition, Ryuichi remained a very humble, simple, noble, and able gentleman who did not seek the spotlight, but simply let his actions and contributions speak for themselves. He would always give credit where it was due and did everything possible to nurture and advance the careers of younger researchers. His presence will be sorely missed.

Ryuichi is survived by his wife, Yoshiko, his son, Taki, and his daughter, Katie.

~Ram Pendyala