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Eric Bettis

Current Student—Ph.D in Urban and Regional Planning

Eric Bettis

Email: ebettis@umich.edu

Dissertation: Regional Transit and Rhetorical Resistance: Anti-Transit Sentiment, Racial Language, and the Politics of Metropolitan Demographic Change

Dissertation Committee: Joe Grengs (chair), Jonathan Levine, Harley Etienne, Mara Ostfeld (Cognate)

Areas of Interest: transportation planning, social policy planning, institutions that reproduce inequality, critical race theory


Eric is a PhD candidate in urban planning, focusing on transportation planning and social equity. Drawn to planning during his years working in architecture and doing graduate research on the politics of identity, he pursued a master’s degree in urban and regional planning, with emphases on transportation and land use policy, from the University of New Orleans. This provided an ideal venue for studying enduring patterns in the race- and class-dependent distribution of transportation resources and their implications for accessing opportunity. After graduating in 2014, Eric began his professional planning career working on federal and military projects.

Eric’s work focuses on the effects of historically inequitable social processes on current planning policy and outcomes, as well as institutions that create and maintain relative advantages for some regional groups over others. His dissertation project discusses how anti-transit political rhetoric is deployed in segregated and increasingly integrated metro regions, and how changing demographics affect support for regional transit expansion. Using GIS mapping, demographic data, archival research, and ongoing consultation with local planning practitioners and scholars, Eric’s project analyzes how actors use targeted language to influence local transit voting, as well as the roles of geography and population shifts in influencing attitudes about public transportation.

Awards, Grants, and Fellowships:

  • Rackham Merit Fellowship, 2016-2021 (University of Michigan)
  • Rackham Conference Travel Grant, 2019 (University of Michigan)
  • Rackham Candidate Graduate Student Research Grant, 2018 (University of Michigan)
  • Harvey G. and Joyce H. Behner Graduate Fellowship, 2017 (University of Michigan)
  • Marcus B. Christian Scholarship, 2012-2014 (University of New Orleans


  • “Rhetoric, Racial Threat, and Resistance to Regional Transit in Metropolitan Detroit.” Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning annual conference, Greenville, SC. October 2019.
  • "Transportation Planning Decision-Making and the Reinforcement of Urban Racial Disadvantage." Urban Affairs Association annual conference, Los Angeles, CA. April 2019.
  • “Understanding and Addressing Disparate Impacts of Transit Development Through the Lens of Environmental Justice.” ACSP PhD Dissertation Writing Workshop, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, August 2018.
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