Ahsan Habib, assistant professor

A day in the life

Ahsan Habib, assistant professor


The Dalhousie Community Design program's breadth in research and teaching expertise is quite unique compared to many Canadian planning schools.

Moving right along

Assistant Professor Ahsan Habib is a man of contrasts. His artistic side finds an outlet in creative writing. He writes short stories and novels in Bengali, and even had a novel published in Bengali in 1999.

“I hope that once I find some time off in the future, I will get involved in finishing some of my writings—and get serious about publishing them,” he says.

But he also has a passion for human movement—how we get from Point A to Point B. He’s a long-distance runner (cross-country and marathon), and he’s obsessed with the study of transportation.

“I love this field since transportation is somehow linked to every aspect of our lives, as well as every dimension of our environment,” he says.

It’s not surprising, really. Dr. Habib grew up in one of the fastest growing cities in the world, Dhaka, Bangladesh—a place that’s challenged with figuring out ways to help its 16-million-plus people move about in its metropolitan area. And with over 400,000 rickshaws on the roads, it’s also known as the rickshaw capital of the world.

“The challenges there motivated me to engage in transportation studies during my undergraduate years at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology,” he says. “When I moved to Toronto to do my PhD in Civil Engineering, I found that similar challenges also exist in many North American cities. I was a member of a vibrant transportation research group at the University of Toronto, which further reinforced my interest in transportation planning.”

Dr. Habib was exposed to real-world transportation policy and planning issues while working for Ministry of Transportation Ontario. He brought his expertise to Dalhousie in 2010 and has been impressed with the School of Planning’s one-on-one learning environment and community-based approach to education.

“Our faculty members are also engaged in high-quality research in different areas including suburban development, transportation, climate change, and First Nations community planning,” he says. “My research team is heavily engaged in transportation system analysis and policy issues. Since most of our recent work is concentrated in the Halifax area, and the Atlantic region, our findings have become vital for explaining transportation and land-use theories with local examples in my transportation planning and sustainable community design classes.”

He recently received a Leaders Opportunity Grant from the Canada Foundation for Innovation to establish a transportation laboratory: Dalhousie Transportation Collaboratory (DalTRAC).

“The main aim of this facility is to train the next generation of transportation professionals, and facilitate collaborative research environment for planners, engineers, university researchers, and practitioners,” he says.

With its introduction to the fundamental concepts and focus on such things as transportation decision-making processes, public transit planning, travel demand forecasting, and intelligent transportation systems, it’s not surprising that Transportation Planning (PLAN 4106) is Dr. Habib’s favourite class to teach. He challenges his students with team projects that make them come up with ideas for real-world problems.

“I want them to leave the class with a clear idea about the subject matter, an attitude to challenge conventional methods, and the confidence to continue self-learning long after they graduate,” he says.