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Image of Professor Shoshanna Saxe standing in front of an underground train
Credit: Tyler Irving, University of Toronto

Engineering public transport policy

Professor Shoshanna Saxe (2012) features in the University of Toronto Engineering's #RisingStars series, where she is an early career Professor.

The benefits of building public transit include reducing greenhouse gas emissions, relieving traffic congestion and expanding growing cities. Each transit project is unique and predicting future effectiveness is difficult. Professor Saxe crunches the numbers on existing infrastructure to provide decision-makers with a ‘reality check’ on the environmental and social impacts of today’s transit investments.

During her PhD at Cambridge, Professor Saxe conducted a detailed analysis of London Underground’s extension of the Jubilee Line, completed in 1999. She gathered data on the greenhouse gases produced during construction and operation of the line, then used transit and land-use surveys to estimate the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions attributable to people using the line and living near it. By combining the two, she could calculate the net environmental benefit of that transit project.

“Engineers usually aren’t involved in policymaking and policymakers usually aren’t involved in engineering,” says Professor Saxe. “I’m trying to bridge that gap.”

Professor Saxe joined University of Toronto Engineering in August 2016. Before completing her PhD at the University of Cambridge, she spent three years at a major consulting engineering firm in Toronto, working on projects such as the Eglinton Crosstown transit line and the Toronto-York Spadina subway extension.

“I love design, it’s amazing,” she says. “However, when you’re building things that people are going to use, you have to stay well within the limits of what you know for sure. I was curious about questions that we didn’t already know the answers to.”

You can read more about Professor Saxe's work on the University of Cambridge Department of Engineering's alumni stories page

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