Alex Karner


Assistant Professor, School of City and Regional Planning
(404) 385-5123


Professor Karner’s work aims to quantify the social equity, environmental, and public health implications of transportation projects and plans by using emerging data sources and developing new, open source methods. A deep commitment to practice undergirds his research and teaching; he routinely collaborates with community members, non-profit organizations and public interest law firms to identify pressing research needs and improve conditions in communities experiencing transportation disadvantage. Some of his recent projects include an analysis of realtime transit arrival data to understand disparities in service provision across the large metropolitan regions in the United States, developing high resolution indicators of public transit accessibility based on public census data and open source techniques and applying them to federally required transit service equity analysis, and tying underperformance on affordable housing provision to indicators of poor transportation performance. The overarching goal of this work is to identify areas where current planning and modeling practices fall short and demonstrate the superiority of alternative approaches. Because sound analysis is only one component that determines the success or failure of a particular planning effort or project, partnering with community-based organization is an effective strategy to ensure implementation and progress towards equitable, sustainable, and healthy futures.

Prior to joining the faculty at Georgia Tech, Dr. Karner was a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Transport Engineering and Logistics at Universidad Católica de Chile and the Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University. His work has been funded by Canadian federal funding agencies (the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council), non-profit foundations including the California Endowment, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, and University Transportation Centers at UC Davis and the University of Maryland.

Educational Background

2012 – PhD (Civil and environmental engineering), University of California, Davis

2008 – MS (Civil and environmental engineering), University of California, Davis

2006 – BASc (Civil engineering), University of Toronto


Recent peer-reviewed publications

Benner, C. and A. Karner, “Measuring Jobs Housing Fit: Low-Wage Jobs and Proximity to Affordable Housing in the San Francisco Bay Area.” Urban Geography, In press.

Rowangould, D., A. Karner and J. London, “Identifying Environmental Justice Communities for Transportation Analysis.” Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, 2016. 88: 151-162.

Karner, A., D. Hondula, and J. Vanos, “Heat Exposure and Vulnerability During Non-motorized Travel: Implications for Transportation Policy Under Climate Change.” Journal of Transport & Health, 2015. 2(4): 451-459.

Karner, A. and A. Golub, “Comparing Two Common Approaches to Public Transit Service Equity Evaluation.” Transportation Research Record, 2015. 2531: 170-179.

Karner, A. and J. London, “Rural Communities and Transportation Equity in California’s San Joaquin Valley.” Transportation Research Record, 2014. 2452: 90-97.

 Karner, A. and D. Niemeier, “Civil Rights Guidance and Equity Analysis Methods for Regional Transportation Plans: A Critical Review of Literature and Practice.” Journal of Transport Geography, 2013. 33: 126-134.

Recent op-ed contributions

Karner, A. and C. Benner. “More market-rate units won't protect low-income renters.” Contribution to Washington Post’s Wonkblog. February 19, 2016.

Karner, A. and C. Benner. “Bay Area is not Meeting its Affordable Housing Needs.” Op-ed in Oakland Tribune. June 29, 2015.

Karner, A. “Valley Needs Better Land, Transportation Planning.” Op-ed in Fresno Bee and Zocalo Public Square, July 2, 2014.

Recent sponsored research

2016: California Endowment. Building Equitable Student Transit ($70,000, PI).

2015: National Center for Sustainable Transportation (National University Transportation Center headed by UC Davis). Whitepaper on transportation equity ($40,000, Co-PI).

2015: National Center for Strategic Transportation Policies, Investments, and Decisions (National University Transportation Center headed by University of Maryland). Understanding regional disparities in public transit performance using realtime transit data ($50,000, Co-PI).

2015: US Department of Housing and Urban Development and Metropolitan Transportation Commission. Investigating the impacts of high-wage job growth on housing demand and affordability ($40,000, Co-PI).


Recent Courses

CP 4310 – Urban transportation

This course is an introduction to urban passenger transportation policy and planning in the US with a sustainability focus. It is structured around three components on which the class spends approximately five weeks each: 1) History, theory, and problem definition, 2) The planning process, and 3) Solutions. Throughout the semester we come to understand how our current transportation systems came to be, what a sustainable system would look like, policies and planning approaches that will help is to achieve it, and challenges we’re likely to face. Part of the difficulty arises from the fact that planning is inherently a political as well as technical activity. Determining what the “best” solution is in any given situation is likely to involve the varied needs and desires of elected officials, members of the public, and experts. As engineers and planners (or one who will interact with engineers and planners) you will need to navigate this sometimes fraught landscape to make progress. We examine the actual transportation planning process at all levels of government, hear from local and regional planners about their work, and learn about the methods that planners use to both comply with the law and help inform decision-makers.

CP 6024 – Quantitative and Computer Methods

Quantitative, model-based projections of future conditions nominally undergird decision making across the spectrum of planning-related activities. Indeed, future projections and their underlying methods and data are absolutely vital to the planning enterprise. Yet we also know that planning is inherently a political activity. Later assessments of past projections often reveal large biases unrelated to the technical methods used. Rather, the assumptions and/or data from which the projections came often prove to have been unreliable. 

Throughout the semester students will learn to employ state-of-the art methods for projecting future conditions in cities and regions including population, demographics, economic activity, and infrastructure demand. They will also learn to think critically about models, projections, and data and their application to real-world problems. To facilitate these two sets of learning objectives, the course will combine instruction in the quantitative and computer methods in common use today with readings and in-class discussions that encourage you to question convention while imagining how such models and their results can be most useful to decision makers and members of the public. Students will become proficient in collecting, manipulating, and analyzing the data needed to solve common planning problems. They will make findings interpretable through clear and compelling writing. A key emphasis of the course will be on policies and practices that prescribe the use of particular methods and data. Do the methods actually help us achieve our planning goals (e.g. sustainability, livability, etc.) or does an overemphasis on quantitative methods shield us from tackling tough questions around governance, local control, and regulation that need to be addressed simultaneously?