In a National Geographic article exploring transit-oriented development in cities across the globe, Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville commented on the challenges facing Los Angeles. The article focused on architect Peter Calthorpe, who highlights the negative effects of car-oriented urban environments on climate, air quality and congestion, in addition to time and money wasted by drivers. Urban planners look to transit-oriented development to remake healthy urban spaces and reverse the damage caused by dependence on automobiles. Calthorpe imagines an urban utopia where cities would stop expanding, pave less and heat the air and the planet around them less. He recommends dense clusters of walkable communities around a web of rapid transit to support a growing population. Manville weighed in on the urban environment of Los Angeles, where residents continue to rely on cars despite efforts to improve public transit. The conundrum, Manville said, is that “driving’s too cheap [and] housing’s too expensive.”
A CityLab article about a state bill aimed at easing California’s housing crisis cited UCLA Luskin faculty and research. The bill, SB 50, would loosen zoning restrictions to permit more housing units near jobs and transit. A diverse mix of Californians — residents of rich suburbs, neighborhoods fighting gentrification and struggling farm towns — have weighed in on both sides of the bill. UCLA Luskin Urban Planning faculty also offered competing perspectives. Associate Professor Michael Lens commented, “Homeowners generally benefit from scarcity. So pulling some of the zoning powers away from cities seems like something to consider to reduce those negative incentives.” Professor Michael Storper offered a counterpoint, noting that “some of the most diverse communities in California are made up of suburban-style, single-family homes.” The article also cited a Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies report showing that the state does not have the planned capacity to meet its housing construction goals.
Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville, an established expert on congestion pricing as a traffic-management strategy, commented to several news outlets after New York officials approved a plan to charge motorists more than $10 to drive into Manhattan’s busiest neighborhoods. Manville told Pacific Standard, “To an economist, you could have congestion charging in Manhattan, take all the money, put it in cash form, and then sink it in the harbor, and it would still be an incredibly beneficial program.” The New York Times, American Prospect and Wired also consulted Manville, who is on the faculty of UCLA Luskin’s Institute of Transportation Studies, to provide context. Congestion pricing is under serious consideration in Southern California, and Manville explained the ramifications in an extended conversation with Peter Tilden on KABC radio. He was also cited in a San Diego Union-Tribune piece and, further afield, in a Vietnamese Best Forum article, translated here.
Martin Wachs, professor emeritus of urban planning, commented on the prospect of congestion pricing in Los Angeles on KPCC’s Airtalk. To reduce traffic, New York passed a proposal to implement congestion pricing in the form of tolls on vehicles entering Manhattan, prompting speculation about the prospect of congestion pricing in other big cities like Los Angeles. In Stockholm, Wachs explained, citizens voted to implement congestion pricing after a seven-month trial period because “they valued the reduction of congestion more highly than they were worried about the cost of entering the congested area.” Wachs predicts that “the Manhattan experiment will reveal how Americans feel about congestion pricing.” While some critics argue that congestion pricing is regressive taxation, Wachs responded that “congestion itself is regressive. Congestion pricing provides an alternative, but it doesn’t require the low-income person to pay the fee if there is an alternative,” such as public transit.
Kian Goh, assistant professor of urban planning, was quoted in an article from CityLab on a speculative proposal for sustainable living in the face of our rapidly changing climate. The futuristic solution involves high-tech cities that float atop the surface of the ocean and are aimed at total self-sufficiency in terms of food and energy production. The floating city is designed to provide permanent communities for those displaced by rising sea levels. Goh encouraged bold, utopian thinking but said this idea was unrealistic, mainly because these cities — while certainly a beautiful vision — could never provide enough homes for the several million people threatened with displacement. According to Goh, ideas like the floating city “are oftentimes posed as solving some big problem, when in many ways [they’re] an attempt to get away from the kinds of social and political realities of other places,” she said.
Martin Wachs, distinguished professor emeritus of urban planning, was quoted in a San Diego Tribune article about two proposed tax hikes that would serve to fund a new and dramatically improved public transit system for the San Diego area. It is speculated that the success of the new transportation bill might not be entirely secure, mostly due to the amount of money that San Diegans would have to pay with the introduction of not one but two tax increases. Wachs said he thinks the bill would have increased success if it was limited to a single tax increase. Furthermore, officials must make clear to voters exactly what implications the bill and any subsequent tax increases would have, he said. “It’s pretty clear that voters need to have a relatively straightforward understanding of what is happening, and they will vote ‘no’ if they don’t understand what the measure is or they think another measure is coming soon,” he said.
Gary Segura, dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and an expert in polling and public opinion, was quoted in a Pacific Standard article dissecting President Trump’s announcement to cancel foreign aid to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. Trump has made multiple threats in the past to cut off the three Central American countries due to his dissatisfaction with their respective governments’ failures to stop people from leaving. After his recent announcement that funds would be withheld from the three nations, experts objected, explaining that the funds help combat crime and violence, ultimately serving U.S. interests. Segura maintained that ulterior motives were behind the policy decision, which would fuel the asylum crisis. He tweeted, “Pay attention folks. This is an INTENTIONAL act to drive MORE asylum seekers to the U.S. border to help [Trump] maintain his crisis. It’s ugly, devastating in impact, and bad policy.”
Urban Planning Professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris shed light on women’s interactions with transportation systems in a Rewire article explaining female riders’ frustrations with rideshare services. Loukaitou-Sideris said sexual harassment is incredibly common in transportation settings around the world. Incidents of sexual harassment and uncomfortable behavior with rideshare drivers have prompted requests for increased safety measures, especially for women. While nearly 45% of female rideshare users have expressed their preference for a female driver, only 20-30% of Lyft and Uber drivers are female, and neither rideshare service allows female riders to request a female driver. Loukaitou-Sideris’ research on women-only public transportation in other countries, such as women-only train cars, found that women worried such an arrangement would “perpetuate discrimination” by taking away the option to sit in other cars of the train. Many women express their desire to be able to safely use the same service as men, instead of needing a women-only solution.
Social Welfare Professor David Cohen’s comments on the side effects of coming off antidepressants were featured in a recent article in TheBody. A 60% increase in long-term antidepressant use between 2010 and 2018 has prompted research on “discontinuation syndrome,” or the intense side effects that make it difficult for patients to taper off. According to Cohen, “Coming off anything that alters how your brain functions, even coffee or tea, will provoke some kind of reaction. The brain is no longer getting that feedback from the drug, and it reacts to the removal.” After patients of one study rated their withdrawal experience, Cohen explained that “those who rated [their withdrawal] as most severe were coming off the fastest.” Experts recommend careful planning for coming off antidepressants, including a tapering plan, flexibility and a strong support system. “Go slow, and stay in your comfort zone. Feel it out as you go,” Cohen recommended.
Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Jorja Leap, who has conducted extensive research on gangs, contributed to a KPCC discussion about the reality and evolution of gang violence in South Los Angeles. Concerns about heightened gang violence were prompted by the shooting of rapper Nipsey Hussle, which remains under investigation. Looking at the data from current efforts to reduce gang violence through prevention, intervention and reentry, Leap confirmed that “what we’re doing is working” but there is still a long way to go. “The relationship between the communities of L.A. and law enforcement has changed radically in a very positive direction,” Leap said. Looking forward, she stressed the importance of prioritizing funding and trauma-informed reentry, arguing that “we must not become complacent.”
In a Team Human podcast hosted by Douglas Rushkoff, Professor of Urban Planning and Social Welfare Ananya Roy discussed poverty and social justice from a global perspective. Roy explained how the “visible forms of poverty and inequality” in her childhood “shaped [her] interests in the study of cities and the manifestation of social inequality.” Roy discussed the relationships and discrepancies between poverty in the United States compared to developing countries in the global south, explaining that “poverty in many other parts of the world is not necessarily associated with political disenfranchisement in the ways in which it is in the United States.” Roy discussed spaces of mobilization and political power, noting that while “the master’s tools will not dismantle the master’s house, the master’s tools can certainly occupy the master house.” Roy concluded, “As Americans, we have an ethical and political responsibility to address the policies that then produce poverty around the world and in the United States as well.”
Public Policy Professor Mark Peterson was interviewed by Roll Call about the increased presence of a single-payer healthcare plan in the 2020 presidential election discourse, especially among Democrats. What began as a fringe issue seen as something discussed only by radically far-left politicians, the idea of a single-payer healthcare plan was proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders during his 2016 presidential run and is now supported by many Democratic candidates. Most of the debate surrounding the issue involves funding and how it would affect current healthcare systems. Peterson said much of the challenge of implementing the plan would lie in the general public’s understanding of it: “To the extent that what progressives are doing will stimulate that kind of action at the public level to really create that wave, a groundswell of support the way Social Security had, that can make an enormous political difference,” he said.
Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, was quoted in a Voice of OC article about subsidies to local car dealerships in Santa Ana. Amid fears of lowered levels of commerce in the wake of rising sales taxes, Santa Ana officials said they are reinvesting in the local economy through the automotive industry, by subsidizing a number of car dealerships in hopes that city residents will see direct benefits. This subsidy is designed to push residents to spend their money at local car dealerships rather than going elsewhere to purchase cars. The article noted that a number of the dealerships have been important campaign contributors to some city officials. “The city seems to be concerned about the sale of automobiles as opposed to other sales and is taking steps to selectively exempt or cushion those sales from whatever it imagines the impact of the sales tax increase will be,” Manville said.
In an LAist article, Urban Planning Professor Martin Wachs commented on the history behind the lack of one-way streets in Los Angeles compared to East Coast cities. Los Angeles built wide roads to accommodate the automobiles and streetcars popular in the first half of the 20th century, Wachs said. The wide streets and long blocks characteristic of Los Angeles would make one-way streets difficult, he added. Los Angeles experimented by converting Pico and Olympic to one-way streets to ease traffic for the 1984 Olympics, but complaints from residents and business owners resulted in the restoration of two-way traffic. “One-way streets tend to work best when blocks are short and streets are narrow, so cars can easily loop around to reach their destination. When there are five or six lanes of traffic, like Venice Boulevard, cars have to merge over too many lanes to make a turn and the flow of traffic gets messy,” Wachs explained.
In a Los Angeles Times article about the prospect of congestion pricing in West Los Angeles, Urban Planning Professor Brian Taylor commented on public opposition to the proposed fees. The article explained the findings of the Southern California Association of Governments’ recently published study, which modeled the effects of a $4 fee to enter a 4.3-square-mile area of West Los Angeles and Santa Monica during weekday rush hour. According to the model, such a fee would immediately reduce traffic delays and miles driven within the area by 20%, leading to increases in transit ridership, biking, walking and carpooling. Despite the predicted successes of congestion pricing, many residents of the area expressed their opposition to the proposal. Taylor, director of the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies, said that “people typically oppose the system before they’ve seen it work, [but] they tend to go majority opposition to majority support when they see it in practice.”
Public Policy Professor Manisha Shah stressed the importance of data-backed claims in a GQ article describing the controversial New York movement to decriminalize sex work in order to make workers safer. “Many people see sex work as morally repugnant, so public policy around it is very rarely based on the actual evidence,” explained Shah, whose 2014 research findings supported decriminalization of the sex work industry. According to Shah, “A lot of people make very big assertions about this topic, but most of the time there just isn’t any data to back them up, or the methodological constraints mean they’re not able to make causal claims.” Shah’s research linked decriminalization to reductions in both rape offenses and female gonorrhea cases. Shah concluded, “Except for the growth of the market, everything else that we worry about from a policy perspective — like public health and violence against women — gets better when sex work is decriminalized.”