UCLA Luskin Faculty Win Prestigious Transportation Award for 3rd Time Co-winner Martin Wachs receives the honor from the Transportation Research Board for a second time — four decades apart

By Lena Rogow

Professor Evelyn Blumenberg of Urban Planning and colleagues who include Professor Emeritus Martin Wachs have won the 2019 Pyke Johnson Award from the Transportation Research Board (TRB) for a recent paper about the mobility needs of aging adults, marking the third time someone from UCLA Luskin has won the prize since its inception.

Wachs has been studying transportation and aging for decades and won the same award more than 40 years ago, in 1976.

The award-winning paper, “Physical Accessibility and Employment Among Older Adults in California,” explores the relationship between car ownership, transit accessibility and older adults’ employment status. The paper found that adults age 60 and older are able to stay in the workforce longer when they have access to a car or to public transit — if they live in a dense urban area.

Blumenberg MA UP ’90, Ph.D. ’95 said that she and Wachs decided to collaborate on the winning paper after realizing they had not previously worked together on a research paper.

“This topic seemed to perfectly align our respective areas of research,” said Blumenberg whose work examines the effects of urban structure — the spatial location of residents, employment and services — on economic outcomes of low-income workers.

“I also knew that it was essential for us to shed light on this topic together,” she said. “I think we’ve been able to showcase an important transportation need to serve an aging population. I’m thrilled that TRB shares our opinion about the importance of this work and I’m honored to be included with a long list of former distinguished scholars who have also received this award.”

 

In addition to Blumenberg and Wachs, the paper’s other authors are Andrew Schouten Ph.D. ’19, who is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies, and Miriam Pinksi, a doctoral student in urban planning.

Pinski said the paper’s focus on low-income adults and their particular access to jobs was notable. Many older adults continue to rely on employment as their main source of income, in part because pensions are becoming rarer in the United States.

“Without transportation, many of these adults would have no way to sustain their lives. I hope our paper has provided more insight into yet another reason why maintaining a functioning transportation infrastructure is critical for many populations,” Pinski said.

“For TRB to recognize our work with this prestigious award is an honor,” Schouten said. “I hope this will bring more attention to important issues that lie at the intersection of transportation, employment and aging.”

ABOUT THE AWARD

TRB established the Pyke Johnson Award in 1971 to give annual recognition to an outstanding paper published in the field of transportation systems planning and administration. It honors the 23rd chairman of the Highway Research Board, who was influential in TRB from its inception.

UCLA has won three times since the first award was given in 1971. Brian Taylor Ph.D. ’92, professor of urban planning and public policy, won in 2000. Wachs is one of three two-time winners and the only person to repeat as winner more than five years apart. The gap in his case was 43 years. In each instance, the research involved faculty and doctoral students.

When Wachs first heard the news, he burst out laughing, recalling how much his life has changed since he first won. His 1976 paper also dealt with mobility and older adults.

“At that time, I was simply writing about the topic from an academic perspective,” Wachs said.  “And now my work is coming true in my own personal life.”

“What’s different about this paper is I’m honored to now collaborate with young people,” he said. “This paper benefited from the combination of their sharp methodological skills with my longstanding focus on this topic. It has been an enormous pleasure collaborating with them, and I’m proud to share this honor with them.”

The presentation took place Jan. 13 at TRB’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

Blumenberg on Affordable Car Insurance in California

Evelyn Blumenberg, director of the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies and professor of urban planning, spoke to WalletHub about affordable car insurance in California. Studies have shown that drivers from minority neighborhoods have higher insurance rates than other households, and Blumenberg advised states to regulate insurance companies to minimize such disparities. She also encouraged a transparent system of rate-setting that limits the use of factors not linked to driving safety, such as occupation, education and credit score. Blumenberg also pointed out that many drivers have difficulty understanding the full costs of owning a car, such as out-of-pocket expenses as well as congestion, environmental harms and other social costs. But she noted, “If access to a car increases employment outcomes (as many studies show), then the benefits of having a car must be weighed against the costs.”


 

Blumenberg on Rideshare Pilot Program in Ohio

Urban Planning Professor Evelyn Blumenberg spoke to the Columbus Dispatch about a proposed ride-share program in Grove City, Ohio. The Central Ohio Transit Authority and Grove City plan to implement a ride-share program to bridge the distance between public transit stops and people’s destinations. The pilot program would be offered in an area with many jobs. Blumenberg, director of the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies at UCLA Luskin, noted that most jobs are not located in the central city. “That, no matter what, is going to pose a challenge for fixed-route public transit,” she said.


 

Lewis Center Director Evelyn Blumenberg at the inaugural InterActions LA event on regional growth and equity. Photo by Amy Tierney

First Conference on Regional Growth and Equity Tackles Transportation and Communities UCLA scholars, nonprofit representatives discuss how to use multibillion-dollar investment to address regional inequities

By Claudia Bustamante

Los Angeles is populous and diverse, but that distinction also produces inequality. There are disparities in housing costs. Amenities vary across neighborhoods. Many low-income families struggle to make ends meet despite impressive gains in employment.

During an inaugural event focusing on regional growth and equity, the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies convened a group of experts to discuss how to leverage a sweeping, taxpayer-supported $120-billion investment in Los Angeles’ transportation system to address decades-old disparities.

Following the 2016 passage of Measure M, Metro committed $52 billion in sales tax revenue for capital investments throughout the county. The agency is looking to accelerate 28 projects by the time Los Angeles hosts the 2028 Summer Olympics. Senate Bill 1 approved in 2017 designated another $54 billion to fix roads, to relieve congestion, and to improve transit and trade corridors throughout California.

“The question is how can we improve the quality of communities by taking advantage of the ongoing and major regional investments in public transit,” said Evelyn Blumenberg MA UP ’90 Ph.D. ’95, director of the Lewis Center and professor of urban planning, at “InterActions LA: Inspiring Quality Transit Neighborhoods,” held April 18, 2019, at The California Endowment.

“It is precisely in these moments of rapid change when there is a window of opportunity to do something different,” Blumenberg said. “Hopefully, it’s to engage in more equitable outcomes that better connect residents to economic opportunities, that protect and expand affordable housing, and that improve the health and robustness of the L.A. region.”

Paul Ong, UCLA Luskin research professor and director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge, has done extensive research on the role of urban structures on the reproduction of inequality. He said this topic is an important one for discussion.

“We, as a society, make neighborhoods,” Ong said, “and neighborhoods make us. The type of neighborhood we live in determines not only today’s quality of life but the trajectory over generations.”

Multiple approaches to improve neighborhoods were discussed. They include progressive housing and land use policies, stationary design, neighborhood amenities and community engagement.

Key among the discussion was the need to focus on people who use transit and their specific needs. For example, women, older adults and people with disabilities make up about 60 percent of Los Angeles’ transit ridership. Those transit users have specific concerns about safety and security while walking to stations, waiting and riding transit, said Madeline Brozen MA UP ’11, deputy director of the Lewis Center.

“If we’re not planning for specific groups in an intentional way, it’s not likely we’re going to see the shifts we want to see from these investments,” Brozen said.

Julia Stein, project director at the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at UCLA Law, said the city’s Transit Oriented Communities program, which provides incentives to developers to build near major transit stops and include affordable housing units, provides an opportunity to address some issues.

Since the program’s inception in 2017, about 2,400 affordable units have been proposed, of which 42 percent are reserved for extremely low-income households.

Attendees also heard about specific efforts being conducted in the city by nonprofit organizations, including improvements along Avenue 26 near Lincoln Heights and Cypress Park spearheaded by LA-Mas. The nonprofit agency engaged with community members to generate design improvements and creative wayfinding on a quarter-mile stretch near the Metro Gold Line station.

The end result was impressive, but Avital Aboody from LA-Mas said the permitting process was complex, expensive and time-consuming.

“We had the expertise and time to navigate this process, but that may not be the case for community members or grassroots organizations that may want to do this in their community,” she said.

Lessons Learned Outside L.A.

Outside California, the Twin Cities region in Minnesota has a reputation for being progressive. But the community deals with stark racial disparities, which date back to decades of systemic racism, like redlining, according to Owen Duckworth, director of organizing and policy at the Alliance, a Minnesota-based coalition of community-based organizations and advocacy groups.

Now that the region is investing in transit infrastructure such as an expansion of a rail line that connects downtown Minneapolis to St. Paul, there is an opportunity for communities to have greater impact.

“Government agencies want to deliver on equity. That’s the buzzword,” Duckworth said. “We can’t have equitable outcomes by continuing inequitable processes in planning.”

Another theme echoed by many panelists is community engagement — making sure residents’ input is not merely tokenized by developers and government organizations.

Community members provide valuable insights as experts in their own neighborhoods.

“Our partners want to be partners to government agencies in community development, but there’s no compensation for these organizations. They mostly volunteer their time,” said Thomas Yee of LA THRIVES.

“Everything from here on out needs to be collaborative. We need to get away from silos. We need to work together,” Yee added.

Multiple Objectives

Blumenberg ended the event by saying it is clear that multiple objectives must be met to ensure quality transit neighborhoods. To name a few, planners must consider housing, traffic, environmental concerns, access to opportunities, safety and security issues around mobility.

The solutions must be equally diverse — tailored to the different neighborhoods and communities throughout the region, she said.

 

Image of black Tesla car

Blumenberg on Cars, Jobs and Low-Income Communities

Professor of Urban Planning Evelyn Blumenberg spoke to Wired about how cars are the best way to connect low-income people to jobs. The article noted that the progressive agenda known as the Green New Deal focuses on public transit and clean vehicles but does not account for widespread inequities in mobility. Blumenberg’s work studied the effect cars have on a person’s ability to get and keep a job. The research showed that low-income people with cars were able to move into better neighborhoods, were less exposed to poverty, and were more likely to find and keep a job. She said this is particularly true for women and caregivers. “Trying to balance unpaid responsibilities and unpaid work is just really really hard while ‘trip chaining’ on public transit, or while the kids are on the back of your bike,” Blumenberg said.


 

Blumenberg on the Persistence of Driving

Urban Planning Professor Evelyn Blumenberg commented on the decline in ridership on public transportation in a recent Philadelphia Inquirer article. “Even among population groups where transit ridership and transit use has been highest — low-income, immigrants, recent immigrants, in particular — we found a growth in driving,” Blumenberg said, referring to a Southern California study that reflects a nationwide trend. The article focused on the declining usage of public transportation in lower-income neighborhoods in Philadelphia due to the expense of automobiles, the hours lower-income jobs require, the demands of parenthood and concerns about safety. “We’ve created urban environments that privilege the automobile that make it difficult no matter what transit does,” said Blumenberg, who is also director of the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies at UCLA. “If jobs are dispersing and things are spread out in metropolitan areas, transit is going to have an increasingly hard time meeting those travel needs.”


 

Urban Planning Students Take Home Scholarship Awards

Four UCLA Luskin Urban Planning students were winners at the 2018 Women’s Transportation Seminar, Los Angeles Area Chapter, annual scholarship awards dinner held Nov. 8 in downtown Los Angeles. Two doctoral students, Hannah Rae King and Miriam Pinksi, each won Myra L. Frank Memorial Graduate Scholarships of $10,000 and $7,500, respectively. Urban planning master’s student Cassie Halls is the inaugural winner of the $5,000 Stantec scholarship. Halls was also among award winners – with urban planning master’s student Kidada Malloy – at the American Public Transportation Foundation’s annual conference in Nashville this past October. Joceline Suhaimi, a student in UCLA Luskin’s Urban and Regional Studies undergraduate minor, also received a WTS award. Suhaimi, who is majoring in civil engineering, won the Ava Doner Undergraduate Scholarship. “Transportation is a basic human need, and I want to make it accessible to all people, regardless of age, ability, income and car ownership,” said Suhaimi, who will receive $10,000. “This scholarship will allow me to continue education and pursue my career goals.” Allison Yoh, MA UP ’02 Ph.D. ’08, served as co-emcee for the awards. Yoh is now director of transportation planning for the Port of Long Beach. WTS-LA is a chapter of WTS International founded in 1977. The organization has more than 6,500 members (men and women) with 79 chapters in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. — Stan Paul


Blumenberg Says Trump’s Welfare Reform Plan Misses a Key Piece: Transportation 

UCLA Luskin’s Evelyn Blumenberg is quoted in a Washington Post article about whether a Trump administration order to toughen work requirements for welfare recipients overlooks a well-documented link between transportation and employment.  “Since the 1990s, things have become much more difficult for welfare recipients,” said Blumenberg, a transportation expert and professor of urban planning. “And I have not seen an upswell in movement for supporting the transportation part of this.” Cars play a key role in access to jobs that are “suburbanizing.” Blumenberg said, “It’s a touchy subject in transportation circles, where funds are focused on increasing access to public transit, even though poor people more than anyone need the flexibility and instant mobility of having a car.”


 

ITS Launches New Digital Magazine: Transfers

Policymakers and professionals need important research to improve our transportation system, but it too often languishes behind the intimidating walls of academia. Transfers Magazine, a new biannual digital publication led by faculty and staff at the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies, aims to break down those walls by distilling the expert knowledge of scholars into tangible links to action. Donald Shoup and Martin Wachs, distinguished professors of urban planning at UCLA Luskin, serve as senior editors for Transfers. Each issue will feature shorter, more readable versions of peer-reviewed, previously published academic journal articles with the goal of making research accessible to students, policymakers, the press and the general public. Transfers is the flagship publication of the Pacific Southwest Region University Transportation Center (PSR), a research consortium of eight universities in Arizona, California and Hawaii. The inaugural issue was released on May 16 and features new studies from PSR scholars, including UCLA Luskin faculty members Evelyn Blumenberg, Brian D. Taylor, Gregory Pierce and Shoup, on key questions for transportation policy. The issue is now available online, and readers can receive future issues sent directly to their email by subscribing. Between issues, the Transfers staff will connect research updates, student projects, expert opinion and campus news to current events in the transportation world on the The Circulator blog and on Twitter.

Transfers is the flagship publication of the Pacific Southwest Region University Transportation Center.

Gil Penalosa – Creating Vibrant & Healthy Cities

>> RSVP here <<

DESCRIPTION

Named by Planetizen as one of the 100 most influential urbanists, Gil Penalosa, founder and chair of 8 80 Cities, is known for his advocacy and passion for designing cities and public spaces for people of all ages and backgrounds. His talk will discuss how sustainable mobility, walking, riding bicycles, using public transit, contributes to a vibrant and welcome city for everyone to use and enjoy at every age.

This lecture is presented in partnership with the California Association for Coordinated Transportation.

Lunch will be provided