image of road construction

More Lanes Does Not Mean Less Congestion, Manville Says

Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, spoke to WWJ Radio’s The Break Down: Road Work Ahead about the impact of deteriorating infrastructure on traffic congestion. Governments cannot keep up with road repairs, and adding more lanes has proven to be ineffective, the podcast noted. In Los Angeles, an additional lane was added to Interstate 405 in the hopes of alleviating congestion. This project ultimately failed, which was “actually entirely predictable,” Manville said. “Anything that you’re doing to try and add capacity will not reduce congestion,” he said, explaining that adding lanes simply attracts more drivers. “It lowers the price in time of using the road, and you can’t reduce congestion by making driving on a busy road at a busy time less expensive. It becomes fundamentally self-undermining,” he said.


image of the ride-share lot at LAX

New LAX-it Shuttle Can Work, Matute Says

Juan Matute, deputy director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, spoke to LA Curbed about the Los Angeles International Airport’s implementation of a new shuttle service called LAX-it. The airport ended curbside pickups by ride-share and taxi services at the end of October. Ride-share users must now use LAX-it, which shuttles passengers to an off-site lot that will reportedly be expanded by 50 percent to increase capacity and decrease long wait times. Matute said LAX-it would work if engineering and regulatory changes are made that prioritize shared transportation. “If they can’t implement these here, there’s a lot less hope for the rest of L.A.,” Matute said. He said Los Angeles World Airports should promote public transit options such as the FlyAway buses because they present good alternatives that would “eliminate all these headaches” the LAX-it service has created. “This is dictatorial fiat for transportation,” he said of the LAX-it service. “I’d like to see it go well.”


Product Liability Law Can Mitigate AI Harms, Villasenor Says

John Villasenor, professor of public policy, electrical engineering and management, wrote a report for the Brookings Institution about the intersection between artificial intelligence (AI) and product liability law. While AI-based systems can make decisions that are more objective, consistent and reliable than those made by humans, they sometimes make mistakes, Villasenor wrote. Product liability law can help clarify who is responsible for AI-induced harms, he added. “AI systems don’t simply implement human-designed algorithms. Instead, they create their own algorithms — sometimes by revising algorithms originally designed by humans, and sometimes completely from scratch. This raises complex issues in relation to products liability, which is centered on the issue of attributing responsibility for products that cause harms,” he wrote.  “Companies need to bear responsibility for the AI products they create, even when those products evolve in ways not specifically desired or foreseeable by their manufacturers,” he argued.


Parking Is a Money Pit, Manville Says

Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville spoke to The Real Deal, a real estate news site, about a Los Angeles Planning Commission proposal to eliminate required parking spaces in new downtown housing developments, with the goal of creating more room for housing and decreasing the number of cars on the road. Manville said this policy is in line with cities such as San Francisco and Portland, which have begun easing downtown parking requirements. If eliminating parking requirements becomes the standard, business would improve for developers, he said. “As a conservative lender – and most institutional lenders are conservative – you might not loan on something that’s not the market standard,” he explained. But a developer with non-institutional funding who builds housing without parking spaces would spur more of this kind of development, he said. In the long term, eliminating parking requirements would lower the cost of development because “parking is a money pit,” Manville said.


Turner on Effects of ‘Cool Pavement’

KNX 1070 spoke with V. Kelly Turner, assistant professor of urban planning, about Los Angeles’ “cool pavement” project, part of an initiative to test strategies to adapt to climate change. The city has been pouring reflective coating on dozens of roads, and Turner is among the researchers measuring the effects. “Cool pavement is working. It greatly reduces surfaces temperatures,” she found. But she noted that the energy reflected from the cooler surfaces are radiated out and can be absorbed by the human body. As a result, pedestrians walking on “cool pavement” surfaces during the middle of the day may feel warmer, Turner found.


Monkkonen Research Informs New Model for Affordable Housing

An opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times juxtaposed a Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) plan to meet housing construction requirements with recommendations from Paavo Monkkonen, associate professor of urban planning and public policy. Gov. Gavin Newsom promised to combat the affordable housing crisis in California with construction of 1.3 million new units of housing. The op-ed, written by the managing director of Abundant Housing L.A., accused the SCAG plan of “disproportionately dumping housing into the sprawling exurbs” while leaving wealthy cities with massive job pools alone. Critics say the SCAG plan will create a housing and jobs imbalance that will lengthen commutes and lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. Working with Monkkonen, Abundant Housing L.A. researchers built a different model for distributing housing requirements that minimizes sprawl, prioritizes accessibility to transit and creates affordable housing where people want to live and have opportunities to work, the op-ed said.


Roy Offers Insight on Global Housing Justice

Ananya Roy, professor of urban planning, social welfare and geography, spoke to the Goethe-Institut’s Big Pond podcast about housing justice. Through the lens of Berlin and Los Angeles, the podcast examined how old ideas of homelessness are evolving as new solutions are proposed. “We’ve got to think of the actual facts of homelessness as well as the political framing of homelessness in relation to rights and claims,” said Roy, director of the Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin. The institute is home to Housing Justice in Unequal Cities, a global research network that focuses not on the housing crisis but on housing justice, Roy said. “It is also our argument that as there is a housing crisis in many cities of the world, particularly in cities that we see to be deeply unequal, there is also in those cities tremendous mobilization,” she said. Roy participated in the Goethe-Institut’s weeklong “Worlds of Homelessness” project in Los Angeles in October.


Loukaitou-Sideris on Psychological Accessibility of Parks for Seniors

Urban Planning Professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris spoke to the BBC about the growing trend of parks designed for older adults. Inspired by Chinese parks with machines for gentle stretching and strength training, governments around the world have started building playgrounds to improve health among older populations. Loukaitou-Sideris stressed the importance of accessible design. “Often older adults feel not welcome in parks that are primarily designed for younger populations,” she said. “In other words, parks are not psychologically accessible to them.” After studying park use among older adults across different countries, Loukaitou-Sideris found that “park location, design and amenities most influence use among senior citizens.” Senior playgrounds encourage exercise, social connection and time spent in nature, improving health and effectively reducing the cost of public healthcare. Golden Age Park, the first park designed for seniors in Los Angeles, was created using guidelines set forth in Loukaitou-Sideris’ research and will open Saturday, Nov. 2.


Aging Boom Must Be Addressed, Torres-Gil Says

Fernando Torres-Gil, director of the Center for Policy Research on Aging at UCLA Luskin, spoke to the Ventura County Star about the policy implications of the county’s aging boom. The number of Ventura County residents 60 and older — now about 196,000 — will likely exceed the number of residents younger than 18 early in 2020, local agencies reported. It also said residents age 85 and older will nearly quadruple in 40 years. Torres-Gil, professor of social welfare and public policy, said that both Democrats and Republicans have neglected restructuring Medicare, Social Security and Medi-Cal. He commended Ventura County leaders for taking the lead and creating a master plan to address the aging boom. Torres-Gil said that voters will eventually support more funding for initiatives that address the aging boom when they come to terms with their age — when they realize, ” ‘Oh [shoot], I’m old. Now what?’ ”


image of young, Canadian student in front of his school

Astor on Unreported Violence in Canadian Schools

Ron Avi Astor, professor of social welfare, spoke to CBC News and its radio component The Current about unreported school violence in Canadian schools. Only half of the provinces and territories in Canada clearly define school violence and require schools to report violent behavior, and only four report those numbers to government ministries. “That’s not a real system for the country,” Astor argued. In countries where the media and politicians shame schools for high violence rates, underreporting or no reporting occurs, he said. Astor found that in the last 20 to 30 years of research, child reports of violence in school are what keeps the schools’ reporting honest. “If you can’t trust the data and you have zeroes on there, you really can’t allocate resources — not just money, but social workers, psychologists and counselors,” he said.


Yaroslavsky on Future of Single-Home Neighborhoods

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, was featured on an episode of 89.3 KPCC’s “AirTalk” about the future of California housing policy. The state’s affordable housing crisis has increased the pressure for bills like SB50, which would increase the density of housing in single-family neighborhoods close to transit lines. The bill was shelved in the last legislative session, but a second iteration is returning with provisions that Yaroslavsky called “very minimal and cosmetic.” The need for affordable housing is dire, he said, but “there hasn’t been a thorough discussion about what the SB50 bill does.” According to Yaroslavsky, “New construction in California is not going to produce affordable housing — it produces high-end housing, market-rate housing.” He criticized SB50 for failing to “demand anything in return from the landowners” and suggested setting aside 40 to 50 percent of new units for affordable housing. “If you rezone all the single-family homes in California, you’re not creating more affordable housing but you are destroying communities,” Yaroslavsky said.


Manville on Public Transit Investment and Ridership Trends

In a San Diego Union-Tribune article about the city’s new high-speed rail proposal, Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, highlighted the challenges of implementing public transportation improvements in cities primarily designed for automobile travel. San Diego recently proposed two tax increases to fund billions of dollars in bus and rail investments, but experts worry that it will follow the example of cities like Atlanta, Houston and Los Angeles, which invested heavily in public transit only to lose riders. Manville describes Los Angeles as a “cautionary tale,” explaining that “you can’t take a region that is overwhelmingly designed to facilitate automobile travel and change the way people move around just by laying some rail tracks over it.” To avoid decreases in ridership, transportation experts recommend making it harder to drive by eliminating street parking, ending freeway expansions, limiting suburban home construction and implementing policies like congestion pricing.


Lens on Governor’s Struggle to Meet Housing Goals

Michael Lens, associate professor of urban planning and public policy, was featured in a Los Angeles Times article describing Gov. Gavin Newsom’s lack of progress on his goals to tackle California’s housing crisis. While Newsom’s campaign platform included plans for the construction of 3.5 million new homes by 2025 and a Marshall Plan for affordable housing, critics have pointed out that the state still faces a shortage of 1.7 million affordable rental homes. Newsom’s largest success so far has been a new statewide cap preventing large rent increases, and he argues that he remains committed to fixing California’s housing problems. Nevertheless, the state’s homelessness crisis has become even more pressing since Newsom took office. “It seems like a pretty meaningful failure — either a failure of commitment or a failure of effort,” Lens said. 


Graphic of an eye

Villasenor on AI Curriculum in Higher Education

John Villasenor, professor of public policy, electrical engineering and management, wrote an article for the Chronicle for Higher Education about the importance of preparing college students for an AI future. Artificial intelligence will have a profound and transformative impact — one that college students today have the opportunity to shape, Villasenor said. He advocated for a wide range of disciplines to incorporate issues surrounding artificial intelligence into their curricula. “We need philosophers, lawyers and ethicists to help navigate the complex questions that will arise as we give machines more power to make decisions,” he wrote. In addition, political scientists, urban planners, economists, public policy experts, climate scientists and physicians are among those who should harness the power of artificial intelligence to effect positive social change — and ensure that the technology is not hijacked by malicious actors.


graphic of a city skyline

Scott on the Dynamics of Rapid Urbanization

Allen J. Scott, distinguished professor emeritus of public policy and geography, spoke to WalletHub about the dynamics of rapid city growth. “The problem can be characterized as one of mounting externalities and the increasing need for collective management as the city grows beyond its existing social, economic and physical limits,” Scott said. He suggested that local authorities who want to grow their cities focus on knowledge-sharing, innovative services, enhancing inter-firm trust, market intelligence and education. Scott argued that more public housing and housing assistance for the poor would ensure that local residents aren’t priced out of their homes as the population grows. Zoning practices and NIMBY-ism are somewhat responsible for rising housing costs, but Scott argued that above all it is associated with local economic growth leading to population growth.


Image of comparison between deepfake and real image of Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO

Villasenor on Widespread Use of Deepfakes

John Villasenor, professor of public policy, electrical engineering and management, spoke to CNBC about the proliferation of “deepfakes” on the internet. Deepfakes — videos or other digital representations that appear real but are actually manipulated by artificial intelligence —are becoming increasingly more sophisticated and accessible to the public, Villasenor said. They can make candidates appear to say or do things that undermine their reputation, thus influencing the outcome of elections, he warned. Deepfake detection software is being developed but still lags behind advanced techniques used in creating the misleading messages. “Will people be more likely to believe a deepfake or a detection algorithm that flags the video as fabricated?” Villasenor asked.