Yin Wang ASPA Award

Ph.D. Student Wins Transportation Policy Award

By Ben Dimapindan

Yin Wang with Dean Knott Yin Wang, right, with SPPD Dean Jack Knott at ASPA conference reception

Yin Wang, a doctoral student at the USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development, won the ninth annual paper award competition of the American Society for Public Administration’s Section on Transportation Policy and Administration.

Wang won the honor for her essay “Determinants of Utilization of Private Finance in Toll Road Development: Evidence From the United States.”

Wang, who will graduate in May with a Ph.D. in policy, planning and development, received the award at the society’s national conference in San Jose in April.

The Section on Transportation Policy and Administration – which focuses on national, regional, state and local transportation policy, research and infrastructure development – is dedicated to producing information that will assist policy makers, according to the section’s Web site. It is one of the 20 sections within the American Society for Public Administration, a leading professional association in the field of public service.

Wang explained that her essay is “interdisciplinary research, using public management knowledge to address and hopefully help solve some transportation problems.”

Her paper examines the practice of public-private partnerships — specifically, using private funds to build public highway facilities.

“The U.S. has been facing a financial shortfall in the transportation field … and many states have used private funding to provide highways,” Wang said. “In this paper, I designed a model to go back and consider what factors have determined this practice — why some states have used private funding and toll roads, and others don’t. I consider social, economic, political and legal factors.”

Wang believes these partnerships represent “the future of the modern government.”

“Because now, government does not have all of the resources to provide all of the services the general public needs,” she noted. “They have to consider how to use private resources to provide public facilities and public services.”

Although her essay focuses on transportation policy and funding in the United States, Wang, a native of Wenzhou, China, also hopes to implement the research abroad.

“I wanted to work on something that the U.S. has been doing, but which is pretty new to China,” said Wang, who also earned a master of public policy from SPPD in 2002. “I can bring that advanced knowledge from the U.S. back to China.”

Elizabeth Graddy, SPPD professor and senior associate dean, who is chair of Wang’s thesis committee, noted that Wang’s research has widespread applications.

“Her work is the first effort to model and empirically explore the process by which public-private partnerships form and operate in the transportation policy arena,” Graddy said. “Her results will inform the structure of such partnerships broadly, in transportation as well as other projects with high capital requirements.”

“This award is very exciting as it provides her visibility in the public administration community and is a wonderful validation of her research,” Graddy added.

After graduation, Wang will join the faculty at the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics in China this fall as an assistant professor of public administration.