Brian Taylor, director of UCLA’s Institute of Transportation Studies, spoke to Vox about how to end the American obsession with driving. The transportation sector is one of the biggest sources of pollution, but many U.S. cities are built for drivers. Taylor explained that parking is often capitalized into the costs of the goods you buy, as opposed to selling parking spaces at their true value. “The default is that the storage of private vehicles tends to get priority if you look at how we’ve allocated curb space, and that creates all sorts of problems,” said Taylor, a professor of urban planning and public policy. To disincentivize street parking, Taylor suggested that municipalities raise the price at meters, manage curbs differently or remove parking altogether in some areas, allowing only for loading, unloading, and scooter and bike traffic. He imagined a future where drivers are more responsible for these costs and are more judicious of their car use.
Urban Planning faculty members Michael Manville and Brian Taylor spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the return of L.A. traffic levels to pre-pandemic levels. “Traffic is a product of people having places to go,” said Manville, but he noted that “it’s the last few vehicles on the road that are responsible for most of the delays.” Manville argued that congestion pricing is key to reducing traffic. “Traffic congestion arises because there’s excess demand and scarce road space,” he said. He also pointed out that congestion pricing can be used to increase equity “because the absolute poorest people don’t drive … [and] no one suffers from congestion more than people stuck on a bus.” Taylor added that “when traffic demand is near or above the capacity of the street and highway system, any changes — adding or subtracting relatively few cars — can have a significant effect on delays.”
Two centers housed at UCLA Luskin have received research awards from California 100, an ambitious statewide initiative to envision and shape the long-term success of the state.
The Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies will evaluate current facts, origins and future trends in housing and community development, while the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies will look into transportation and urban planning. In total, researchers from four UCLA organizations will spearhead three of the 13 California 100 research areas.
The Lewis Center will summarize California’s housing market and outline a vision for how policy changes could lead to a brighter future for the state’s residents, with a particular focus on increased equity and housing production. Working alongside cityLAB UCLA and the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley, the Lewis Center team will also create a visualization of this future through creative techniques of diagramming, drawing and rendering to help readers picture the possibilities for California’s communities.
UCLA ITS will delve into transportation policy contradictions: California has invested substantially in public transit, while other public policies encourage driving and work against transit. As the state looks to meet its climate and equity goals, transportation systems — and the land use context surrounding them — will play a key role.
Research for both projects is slated to begin over the summer and be complete by December 2021, and will lead to a set of policy alternatives for the future of California. The policy alternatives will be developed in conjunction with research teams from the other California 100 issue areas.
The California 100 Commission is a multi-generational advisory body that will develop recommendations for the state’s future and test those recommendations across a broad set of policy areas by directly engaging Californians.
“From climate change to aging populations and rapid changes in industry, California will face enormous challenges in the years ahead,” said Kathrick Ramakrishnan, California 100 executive director. “We are fortunate to be able to draw on the deep talent of researchers in California to produce evidence and recommendations that will inform robust public engagement and set the state on a strong, long-term trajectory for success.”
About the California 100 Research Grants
California 100 is a new statewide initiative being incubated at the University of California and Stanford University focused on inspiring a vision and strategy for California’s next century that is innovative, sustainable and equitable. The initiative will harness the talent of a diverse array of leaders through research, policy innovation, advanced technology and stakeholder engagement. As part of its research stream of work, California 100 is sponsoring 13 research projects focused on the following issue areas:
- Advanced technology and basic research
- Arts, culture and entertainment
- Education and workforce, from cradle to career and retirement
- Economic mobility and inequality
- Energy, environment and natural resources
- Federalism and foreign policy
- Fiscal reform
- Governance, media and civil society
- Health and wellness
- Housing and community development
- Immigrant integration
- Public safety and criminal justice reform
- Transportation and urban planning
Urban Planning Professor and Director of the Institute of Transportation Studies Brian Taylor spoke to the Los Angeles Times about changing traffic patterns in Los Angeles as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and life returns to a post-pandemic normal. The pandemic altered traffic and transit patterns, with many businesses transitioning to remote work. As the economy reopens, traffic levels have increased, but the next few months will signal how long-lasting the pandemic’s impact on traffic patterns will be. Vehicle travel is increasing in part because more businesses and activities are opening up, prompting people to drive more often and farther from home. Taylor explained that congestion is “spatially and temporally” structured, meaning that it occurs when many travelers are going to the same destination at the same time. “If we go back to pre-pandemic living and working patterns, driving and traffic levels are likely to be similar to before,” he said.
UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies Director Brian Taylor was featured in a Los Angeles Times commentary about plans to revive transit ridership in Los Angeles by dropping fares. LA Metro approved a pilot program eliminating fares for students and low-income riders. Metro relies on riders for only 5% of its revenue, with the majority of revenue coming from sales taxes in Los Angeles. However, some riders are still concerned about the speed, reliability and accessibility of public transit services. According to Taylor, Metro’s data-based improvements to its bus routes are a promising way to revive ridership by reallocating service. Increased service frequency, decreased wait times, and investments in lighting, added shelter and other safety measures at bus stops could attract more ridership than free fares, he said. Taylor pointed out that riders, even those with low incomes, are more sensitive to changes in service than changes in price.
The American Planning Association’s Los Angeles section bestowed multiple awards on the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin and also honored the late Martin Wachs, professor emeritus of urban planning. Wachs, who passed away unexpectedly in April 2021, received the Planning Pioneer Award for his lifelong work as a renowned transportation scholar. The Institute of Transportation Studies won the following honors:
- The Academic Award of Excellence for the paper “School Transportation Equity for Vulnerable Student Populations Through Ridehailing: An Analysis of HopSkipDrive and Other Trips to School,” authored by doctoral student Samuel Speroni and advised by Urban Planning Professor Evelyn Blumenberg
- The Academic Award of Merit for the paper “Need for Speed: Opportunities for Peak Hour Bus Lanes Along Parking Corridors in Los Angeles,” written by Mark Hansen MURP ’20.
- The Planning Landmark Award of Excellence for the UCLA Lake Arrowhead Symposium, a series of virtual sessions centering on transportation and the pandemic.
The American Planning Association is a national organization that aims to unite leaders and professionals across the field of planning. Every year, the organization’s Los Angeles section recognizes the outstanding work, best practices and thought leaders that impact the built and natural environment in Los Angeles County.— Zoe Day
Brian Taylor, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, spoke to Stateline about the future of public transit in the United States. Transit ridership, which plummeted 76% at the beginning of the pandemic, has increased in recent months, but no one is sure whether it will return to pre-pandemic levels. Taylor explained that public transit typically serves two groups: affluent people who find transit more convenient than driving and those who do not have access to cars. The first group virtually disappeared from public transit at the beginning of the pandemic. Taylor recommended implementing transit-friendly parking and land-use policies, such as reducing or eliminating parking requirements for office and residential buildings, to encourage transit use instead of driving. “Just spending more money and not doing those other things is not going to be a good investment if we continue to make it as easy as possible to drive,” Taylor said.
By Les Dunseith
Anyone who has driven through the Sepulveda Pass during rush hour knows that traffic on Interstate 405 can be a nightmare. Still, it’s not as bad as it was made to seem in an altered photo that’s making the rounds on Facebook.
The image shows 19 (!) lanes of bumper-to-bumper traffic snaking along the freeway just north of the Getty Center, about 3 miles from the UCLA campus. And when an Associated Press reporter decided to fact-check the photo, she turned to Professor Brian Taylor, director of the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies.
Not only did Taylor have the insight necessary to debunk the altered photo, but he even had a recent picture of the real 405 to prove it.
Here’s the fake picture:
And here’s the photo by Taylor, taken in approximately the same location (although looking southbound, the opposite direction), which offers proof that there are not 19 lanes in that stretch of freeway, but 12 — including carpool lanes in each direction that were added in 2011 and 2012 during the infamous “Carmageddon” project.
In its story about the picture, the AP provides a link to the original photograph that had been doctored to produce the viral fake, saying it appears to have been captured in 1998. It shows five lanes of traffic in each direction, with far fewer cars.
Taylor, a professor of urban planning and public policy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, wrote to the AP reporter that the false image “has been bouncing around for years.”
“It’s a bit of obvious hyperbole to (I assume) make a point about continually widening freeways to address growing traffic levels,” Taylor wrote. “The idea that someone would take this seriously is, well, alarming.”
Thanks to the AP and Taylor, Facebook has now added a notification that the photo has been altered.
A Streetsblog California article on the “85th percentile rule” for setting speed limits cited Professor Brian Taylor, director of the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies, who testified before a state Assembly committee considering legislation to change the policy. California cities currently set speed limits based on motorist behavior, under the assumption that about 85% of drivers on a given road will go at or below a reasonable speed, while about 15% will drive faster than is safe. In his testimony before the Assembly Transportation Committee, Taylor said the rule, created in the 1930s, was meant to be revisited when more evidence about science and safety was available but has instead persisted to this day. The bill, AB 43, would give local authorities more flexibility when it comes to setting speed limits and also require that pedestrian and bicycle safety be considered. The bill passed the committee on a 15-0 vote.
Brian Taylor, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, spoke to Time magazine about COVID-19’s impact on public transit systems around the world. Mass transit has seen steep declines in ridership and revenue as people have begun to work from home or opted for cars over public transportation. However, the COVID-19 disruption has also led to a global reckoning as leaders ponder how to positively reshape their cities for the post-pandemic era. “Many are arguing this pause could give us an opportunity to reallocate street space, to reconsider how much curb space we devote to the storage of people’s private property, which cars are,” Taylor said. Improving public transit and phasing out cars could lower greenhouse-gas emissions, make streets safer and more pleasant for pedestrians, and create opportunities for retail and hospitality sectors. According to Taylor, it all depends on the decisions city leaders take now to “intelligently manage automobiles” and protect public transit.