Vale John Taplin

John Taplin

Dear PATREC associates, collaborators and supporters, it is with deep sorrow that we announce the passing of Emeritus Professor John Taplin early this week.

John’s remarkable intellectual acuity and generosity, his unmatched stamina and love of life impressed and guided generations of practitioners and academics. His life story is classically inspirational. He held a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Cornell University (1969) and a Master of Agricultural Economics degree from the University of New England.

John occupied senior leadership roles as Senior Economist (Bureau of Agricultural Economics), as the Director of the Bureau of Transport Economics and Deputy Secretary for the Commonwealth Department of Transport, before moving to Tasmania where he worked as Professor of Transport Economics (University of Tasmania) for more than three years. In 1982 he moved to WA to take up the role of Director-General of Transport (1982-1990). After a short consultancy period during which he travelled to his much beloved China, John joined the University of Western Australia as Professor of Transport and Logistics. During his time at UWA he oversaw twenty PhD graduates in the fields of transport, planning and logistics.

In 1990, at the Sydney ATRF, the John Taplin Award for the best paper was proposed by Prof David Hensher, in recognition of John’s major contribution to the ATRF (as one of the six founders and Chair of the first Forum in 1975), to academia and government, as a leading transport economist. In 1993, in recognition of his public service, he was also awarded the Order of Australia (AM).

After retiring (for the second time) in 2010 he remained at UWA as Emeritus Professor, cycling to work each day right up until this year. He did however insist that in his retirement he would allow himself Wednesday morning at home before lunching at the club with his wife Claire. Over the past eight years John dedicated his time to applied research and mentoring students, which he loved. John was enthusiastic about growing transport research and put his full weight behind the establishing of PATREC.

As an academic John made a considerable contribution to transport research. John was a pioneer in the area of modelling travel choices and demand elasticities. John undertook the first derivation of choice elasticities from Marshallian demand elasticities and reversed them to achieve the ‘choice-to-demand’ transformation. He stood alone in applying genetic algorithms to optimising transport investment decisions and continued to explore many artificial intelligence techniques that could be applied to transport. He foresaw the arrival of electric cars at least a decade before substantial discussions in academia and practice, while noting the contradiction that in Australia the electricity comes mainly from coal. He was an advocate for renewable power and most recently passionate about understanding the role of autonomous vehicles in our urban landscape. John also maintained a solid research program with the Shanghai Maritime University, building simulation models for the Shanghai Port.

Over the years John has been an integral part of our PATREC community and we have all benefited from his professional and scholarly approach to transport policy and infrastructure decisions. Among other things, John played an important role in the deregulation of the airline industry in Australia, the opening of the Mandurah railway line, the deepening of Esperance port and the initiated expansion of Bunbury Port.

John has been and will always be a timeless icon in our lives, he shaped many careers and lives, and many strategic decisions bear his input.

The funeral is organised on Monday, 25th of March, 2pm, at the Karrakatta Cemetery. Please pass the information on other colleagues who knew John and whom we may have missed here.

We are preparing a memorial book for John’s family. If you wish, please send a short personal memory or a testimonial to Your thoughts are greatly appreciated.