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I am a Ph.D. Candidate in Urban Planning and Development at the University of Southern California‘s Sol Price School of Public Policy.  My research centers on the intersection of transportation finance, travel behavior, and location choice.

Learn more about me and my research.

About Me

Research Interests

Travel behavior, transportation policy, transportation finance, public transportation, urban mobility, travel demand management, disruptive housing and transportation technologies, transportation–land use connection, urban economics


I spent the latter fourteen years of my childhood in foster care, so was transit-dependent as a youth and young adult.  As a teenager, I voiced my experiences as a transit user and ideas for improving it to the governing board of my local transit provider, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA).  These experiences exposed me to the interaction between politics and transit planning, and formed my initial career interest in transit planning.  In particular, I wanted to develop ways to plan and operate transit so that it could be competitive with the automobile and serve those who depend on it better.

As a graduate student, I was introduced to the concept of travel behavior and the fact that many costs of transportation are not paid by “consumers” of transportation.  Because of this disconnect between travel consumption and travel costs, the amount and dispersion of travel are necessarily induced to some degree, and any marginal improvements made to transportation – including transit – are necessarily less effective than they could otherwise be.  This learning broadened my work and study interests; in addition to figuring out ways to improve transit, I was drawn towards identifying and correcting the overall deficiencies of transportation systems.

At the same time, I observed that many current and future practitioners treated travel behavior as an exogenous factor in transportation planning and preferred using pricing incentives or command-and-control regulations, such as rationing, to influence travel behavior.  As this was in stark contrast to my interest in correcting market failures that lead to inefficient travel behavior outcomes to begin with, I began to question if I could contribute more effectively to the field through research rather than practice.

After earning my master’s degree, I ran for public office and became the youngest person ever elected to the governing board of the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART).  I served for four years, during which time I advocated applying objective data analysis and empirically-tested solutions to planning and policy decisions, and was vocal about ensuring that long-term fiscal impacts of present-day decisions are considered in policy-making.  In the end, my experience at BART validated the concerns I developed as a graduate student: If you don’t subscribe to the politics that influence the practice – which I don’t and didn’t – finding a space in practice will be difficult.

Thus, I have returned to school to earn my doctorate degree with the intent of this leading to a future in independent research and teaching.

Advisement Team

My Ph.D. Advisors are among the leading minds in transportation, land-use, spatial and distributional justice, and urban economics.

Dr. Marlon G. Boarnet
Chair, Department of Urban Planning and Spatial Analysis
Sol Price School of Public Policy
University of Southern California

"Dr. Marlon Boarnet … is a renowned authority on urban economics, urban growth patterns, transportation, and regional science. He is an expert in transportation and land use, and has served on the National Research Council committee that authored ‘Driving and the Built Environment.’

His research focuses on land use and transportation; links between land use and travel behavior and associated implications for public health and greenhouse gas emissions; urban growth patterns; and the economic impacts of transportation infrastructure.”

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Dr. Genevieve Giuliano
Dr. Genevieve Giuliano
Ferraro Chair in Effective Local Government
Director, METRANS Transportation Center
Sol Price School of Public Policy
University of Southern California

“Professor Giuliano’s research areas include relationships between land use and transportation, transportation policy analysis, travel behavior, and information technology applications in transportation. Current research includes examination of relationships between urban form, online shopping behavior, and local freight demand; market potential for zero emission trucks; reducing local impacts of truck traffic, and applications for transportation system analysis using archived real-time data. She has published over 170 papers and given invited lectures around the world.”

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Dr. Lisa Schweitzer
Dr. Lisa Schweitzer
Sol Price School of Public Policy
University of Southern California

“Lisa Schweitzer … specializes in urban studies, and, in particular, analyses of social justice, environment and transport. Her work has appeared in multiple popular and scholarly outlets, and her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Health. She maintains a blog about sustainable urbanism at”

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Dr. Brian D. Taylor
Director, Institute of Transportation Studies
Luskin School of Public Affairs
University of California, Los Angeles

"Professor Taylor’s research centers on transportation policy and planning – most of it conducted in close collaboration with his many exceptional students. His students have won dozens of national awards for their work, and today hold positions at the highest levels of planning analysis, teaching, and practice.

Professor Taylor explores how society pays for transportation systems and how these systems in turn serve the needs of people who – because of low income, disability, location, or age – have lower levels of mobility. Topically, his research examines travel behavior, transportation economics & finance, and politics & planning.”

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What I do in five words:
Pricing and technology land-travel dynamics



The location people choose to live and how they choose to travel between home and work or play is a bundled decision; they choose where they will live after accounting for the size, type, and cost of housing, neighborhood attributes, and projected costs of travel – both monetary and time.  My research is principally focused on the latter part of this bundle – in particular, identifying the subsidies given to travel, unpaid externalities generated by travel, and how these influence where people and firms choose to locate, the amount and method(s) of travel they do, and the net effect this has on urban form.  Similarly, I focus on developing ways to internalize these costs and estimating the effects this would have on travel behavior, location choice, and urban form.

I also study the “sharing economy” and the effects it has on travel behavior and location choice.

Current Research

My principal research focus is my dissertation, Equity and Demand Implications of Rail Transit Fare Policies.  In it, I evaluate the spatial and temporal variability of rail transit operating costs and cost recovery through fares, and any socioeconomic implications these patterns produce.  Are some locations of passenger rail travel or times of passenger rail travel subsidized more than others when the fare paid relative to the trip cost is considered?  If so, does this lead to different demographics of riders paying different shares of the costs of the travel they consume?

I am also working on a project that evaluates the feasibility and incidence of a road user charge system for heavy weight vehicles in California.  What are the economic, political, and practical feasibility of a road user charge system for freight, and who would ultimately bear the costs?

Selected Writings and Publications

Refereed Articles and Research Reports

In Review

Mallett, Zakhary. “Spatial and Temporal Variability of Rail Transit Costs and Cost Effectiveness.” Transportation Research Record (In Review).

Previous research has evaluated the temporal variability of bus transit costs and shown that peak period service costs more to operate in both gross and net terms. However, research on spatial variability of transit costs broadly, and for rail transit in particular, is quite limited. Using transit agency data on labor and train allocations, I develop a cost model that allocates labor and semi-fixed capital costs to times-of-day and each link and station of two regional rapid rail transit networks in order to evaluate temporal and spatial variability of costs and costs-per-rider…


Boarnet, Marlon G., Zakhary Mallett, and Clemens A. Pilgram. “Dockless Scooter Travel: A Land Use Model with Implications for California.” METRANS Transportation Center, 2020

This research builds a land use regression model to explain dockless scooter trip generations. We use publicly available scooter trip generation data for Louisville, KY and Minneapolis, MN and publicly available data on land use characteristics. The model shows that scooter trip generations are associated with higher employment densities, higher densities of entertainment land uses (bars and clubs), and in some specifications higher densities of eating establishments and university buildings…

Other Research Reports


Giuliano, Genevieve, Sang-O Kim, and Zakhary Mallett. “Regional Planning and Climate Change Mitigation in California.” Joint Clean Climate Transport Research Partnership (JCCTRP), May 2020

This working paper presents an overview of regional planning and climate change mitigation in California. This paper is motivated by the unique success of California in developing and implementing a comprehensive program of policies to address global climate change. It traces the history of environmental regulation in California and shows how climate change policy is the outgrowth of decades of increasingly stringent and broad environmental policy…

Book Chapters
  • Mallett, Zakhary and Marlon G. Boarnet. “Transit Planning and Management.” International Encyclopedia of Transportation 10477 (2021).
Works in Progress
  • Mallett, Zakhary. “Inequitable Inefficiency: A Case Study of Rail Transit Fare Policies.”
  • Mallett, Zakhary. “Transit Ridership v. Fare Equity: Demand Implications to Fairer Fares.”
Popular Press


Mallett, Zakhary. “Vote no on Prop. 22: No free rides for Uber and Lyft.” San Francisco Chronicle, 07 Oct 2020

Voters should reject Proposition 22 because no industry deserves to free-ride at public expense.

Lyft’s and Uber’s steadfast refusal to comply with Assembly Bill 5 — a law that unequivocally defines their drivers as employees entitled to basic wage and benefit protections — and threat to end operations if they’re forced to are blatant illustrations of their rapacious culture. So, too, is their attempt to buy exemption from the law by expending greater than $50 million each (and counting) on Proposition 22, making it the most expensive initiative in state history. These desperate efforts to evade regulation elucidate that the companies have yet to demonstrate a path to becoming sustainable without leaving destruction behind them.


Mallett, Zakhary. “The Distorted Economics of Ride Hailing Must be Fixed by California Law.” San Francisco Chronicle, 19 Jun 2019

Gig companies like Lyft, Uber, GrubHub and Amazon Flex need to become financially solvent — both for themselves and for the public. These companies’ models are financially unsustainable because customers do not pay the full cost of the services provided — which means someone else picks up the tab. In many cases, that’s the broader public and economy. By relying on a system of subsidies to operate, the companies harm other industries that are self-sufficient, exploit a vulnerable workforce, and increase travel and traffic.


Are you a frequent rideshare rider who has noticed an increase or decrease in the intensity and frequency of demand pricing in the locations you travel from most? If so, it may be related to surge and prime pricing’s insider counterpart: so-called ‘driver incentives.’

Mallett, Zakhary. “Capitol Corridor Stop in Hercules Is Not a Simple Fix at All.” East Bay Times, 9 Jun 2017

…the city of Hercules has worked to garner public support for adding a Capitol Corridor train stop in Hercules by proclaiming that doing so will “Get I-80 Moving.” Such claims are misleading, at best.  If West Contra Costa County leaders want to offer a meaningful driving alternative to travelers on the region’s most-congested travel corridor, they must get behind investments that will truly do that. The solution is a BART extension.


Mallett, Zakhary. “OK, We Need a Second BART Transbay Tube.  Where Would it Go?” San Francisco Chronicle, 7 Feb 2015

There is little disagreement that a second BART transbay tube is essential for serving an ever-growing regional population and travel demand. The devil is in the details: Where does the second tube take off from the East Bay and land in San Francisco? Where does the second set of tracks go from there?  In the interest of being able to run trains around service disruptions, eventually accommodate 24-hour service and sustain BART as a regional service provider, I favor a route that mirrors existing service between downtown Oakland and San Francisco’s Market Street and a western extension via Fulton Street and 19th Avenue.


Mallett, Zakhary. “VTA Should Switch BART Route to Follow Highways to North San Jose.” San Jose Mercury News, 24 Nov 2014

The BART to San Jose project, including the selected alignment for the extension, has always been about local politics rather than what is in the best interest of the traveling public. Now, with the financial soundness of the second phase of the project being questioned by federal agencies, the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) is considering scrapping two stations from the project to save $1.3 billion.  While this move may well constitute betrayal to local communities who have planned for the service, it will also result in the project failing to meet its stated goals and is further demonstrative of the project’s value being questionable to begin with.

Mallett, Zakhary. “2nd Transbay Tube Needed to Help Keep BART on Track.” San Francisco Chronicle, 7 Sep 2014

It typically takes but a single mechanical or track problem in West Oakland, in the Transbay Tube or along BART’s San Francisco corridor to shut down the entire BART transit system. Even without such problems, BART is at capacity for running trains under the bay during commute periods. The system can barely meet existing travel demand, let alone serve future transbay demand. That’s why the Bay Area must invest in a second Transbay Tube and why BART, in partnership with other agencies, is expected to commission in the coming several months a study that looks at increasing transbay transit capacity. It’s also why, in my view, a second tube must duplicate service through the heart of the BART system.

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