Blumenberg on Affordable Housing, Long Commutes

Evelyn Blumenberg, director of the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies at UCLA Luskin, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the tradeoff between affordable housing and long commute times. Census data highlight two Los Angeles County areas where commutes are especially long: South Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley. Blumenberg said residents of South L.A. typically live far from their workplaces and often lack serviceable public transit options. As for the Valley, “it’s a pretty dispersed environment and it takes a long time to get to destinations,” she said. Blumenberg noted that while more people are working from home, there has been an increase in traffic from delivery vehicles, such as Amazon trucks and cars used by UberEats. Congestion is currently less severe at peak hours but more widespread over the course of the average day, and “my hunch is that some of these new patterns are here to stay,” she said.


On the Benefits and Challenges of Going Car-Less in L.A.

A Los Angeles Times article on the benefits and challenges of going car-less in Los Angeles cited UCLA Luskin urban planning experts Evelyn Blumenberg and Michael Manville. Going without a car is a choice for some and a necessity for many who cannot afford car payments, insurance and gas. Blumenberg, director of the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies, has conducted research showing that car ownership can have enormous benefits for low-income people. “Just imagine even looking for a job, right?” Blumenberg said. “Going to multiple destinations, trying to figure it out, going to interviews, all of that. … It’s very difficult to do without an automobile.” Manville, chair of UCLA Luskin Urban Planning, pointed to the trade-off between efficiency and equity in transportation and called for “policies that convince the majority of us to just drive a little bit less, while allowing some people who right now have legitimately constrained mobility to drive a little bit more.”


On the Burden and Necessity of Car Ownership

A Vox article on car ownership as both burden and necessity cited research conducted by two UCLA Luskin urban planning professors, Evelyn Blumenberg and Michael Manville. The way a car unlocks access to almost everything ensures that most people will, despite the costs, do whatever they can to obtain one, the story said. While reducing car use overall has been a priority for policymakers, increasing the availability of vehicles to low-income people is an important step toward reducing economic inequality. The story cited a study by Blumenberg demonstrating the increasing importance of cars for women with limited means, due to the suburbanization of poverty, women’s participation in the workforce and their unique household responsibilities. Research co-authored by Manville documented the falling socioeconomic status of American households without private vehicles and the continuing financial burden that cars present for low-income households that own them.


High Price of Used Cars Impacts Low-Income People Most, Blumenberg Says

Since the return to a semblance of normal life after the pandemic lockdown, rising demand for vehicles, electronic parts shortages and shipping delays have driven up prices for new and used cars alike. This leaves low-income people at a particular disadvantage, Evelyn Blumenberg, an urban planning professor at UCLA Luskin, told the Tampa Bay Times. “Low-income houses just do better with a car,”  she said. “It’s higher rates of employment, better neighborhoods.” Blumenberg pointed to her research linking cars to stability — even in regions with robust public transit  — and showing that losing a car can spell disaster for people whose finances are stretched thin. Preliminary research data also show more people taking out auto loans, with higher dollar amounts, in lower-income neighborhoods that are historically home to cash buyers, says Blumenberg, who is director of the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies.


Lewis Center/ITS Operations Manager Is UCLA’s 2022 Rising Star UCLA honors Whitney Willis with an award that recognizes someone who is already making a positive impact and shows leadership potential

By Stan Paul

UCLA Luskin has a new rising star for 2022.

Whitney Willis, operations manager for the Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS) and the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies at UCLA Luskin, has been named this year’s Rising Star awardee by UCLA’s Administrative Management Group in partnership with Campus Human Resources.

The 2008 UCLA alumna, who has worked at the Luskin School for nearly six years, was selected from among 14 nominees in the Rising Star category, one of three Excellence Awards bestowed annually to UCLA staff members. Criteria for the award include the potential to make a positive impact, establishing a leadership role, and pursuing both training and development opportunities.

Willis exemplifies these criteria and more, according to UCLA Luskin supervisors and colleagues who consider her not only a rising star, but already a star.

Willis’ supervisor Juan Matute, deputy director of ITS, describes her as an out-of-the-box thinker who has streamlined and automated a number of the center’s business systems and services. During her time at the School, Willis has established best practices for administration, events and student oversight, while lending support and training to staff from other UCLA Luskin research centers, he said.

In addition to training herself in process improvement and learning to use new tools, Willis has sought formal training from within and outside UCLA, Matute added. She completed UCLA’s Professional Development Program in the 2019-20 academic year and is now pursuing a master’s in public administration at Cal State Northridge. Matute said she is already applying what she is learning to budgeting and financial analysis tasks at UCLA.

Willis also serves as an advisor for the UCLA Staff Assembly’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Task Force.

In a letter of support, Professor Evelyn Blumenberg, who is Willis’ supervisor in her role as director of the Lewis Center, noted the challenges of Willis’ position, which involves managing a diverse portfolio of responsibilities. These include grant administration and reporting, budgeting and resource management, administrative support for events, management of facilities projects and the distribution of financial aid.

“Ms. Willis’ leadership, exceptional organizational skills and commitment have been integral to the success of the Lewis Center,” Blumenberg said.

Despite time constraints, keeping up with her graduate school classes, and the day-to-day working challenges of the academic year, Willis says she has always viewed her role as operations manager as striving to be a “champion of productivity within ITS and Lewis Center.”

“This award is special to me because it means that I might be even a small part of a community of so many other great people who are committed to doing their best in serving students, diverse communities, and supporting the growth and well-being of the staff community,” Willis said.

Gary Segura Reappointed to 2nd Term as UCLA Luskin Dean

Gary Segura will be continuing as dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

An announcement to the UCLA campus was issued May 5 by Michael S. Levine, interim executive vice chancellor and provost. Here is the text of that announcement:

Following the customary administrative review, I am pleased to share that Gary Segura has been reappointed for a second term as the dean of the Luskin School of Public Affairs. The review committee praised Dean Segura for his leadership skills, his commitment to faculty excellence and diversity, and his pioneering efforts to elevate and expand his school’s academic offerings.

Since his appointment in 2016, Dean Segura has fostered within the Luskin School a deep commitment to academic excellence and to equity, diversity and inclusion that has led to a highly diverse pool of students in the school’s programs and the appointment of renowned scholars in areas such as poverty and inequality, immigration, criminal justice, education policy and more. In 2021, Luskin School faculty members were among the top 2% for scholarly citations worldwide in their respective fields. The Luskin School is one of the most diverse schools of its kind in the UC system and amongst public affairs programs throughout the country.

Over the last five years, Dean Segura has helped to cement the Luskin School’s status as a leader in research, teaching and practice across the areas of social welfare, urban planning and public policy. Recognizing growing demand for his school’s programs, in 2018 he led the development of the undergraduate major in public affairs, which provides a multidisciplinary foundation in social science theories, data collection and analysis. Additionally, the school launched a certificate program in data analytics in fall 2021 and added a new dual master’s degree program offered jointly by our Urban Planning Department and the Urban School of Sciences Po in Paris.

Dean Segura also co-founded the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative in 2017 to address inequities and spread awareness of the most critical domestic policy challenges facing Latinos and other communities of color. The initiative received $3 million in ongoing annual state funding for its research, advocacy and mobilization efforts.

We are grateful to have such a dedicated leader as Dean Segura at the helm of the Luskin School. Chancellor Block and I look forward to his continued efforts to strengthen and advance the public affairs disciplines at UCLA and to the impact his work will have on diverse communities near and far.

Please join me in congratulating Dean Segura on his accomplishments over the past five years and in wishing him success throughout his second term.


Michael S. Levine
Interim Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost

Inhabiting the Night: An Informative Walk Through MacArthur Park

UCLA students and researchers recently organized an exploration of MacArthur Park after dark led by light and nighttime design expert Leni Schwendinger. More than 35 participants traversed a route through the park, listening to her commentary and observing nighttime conditions such as lighting design, infrastructure and social activity. Schwendinger’s NightSeeing programs encourage academics, community members, artists and other interested parties to join in enriching their understanding of light and dark, sparking conversations about sustaining the nighttime conditions within and around Los Angeles. The event was the second in a series presented by the (Un)Common Public Space Group, a collective of UCLA doctoral students that activates public space with and for underrepresented and underserved communities in pursuit of spatial justice. It helped connect public space research at UCLA to the knowledge and perspectives of community-based organizations near MacArthur Park. A pre-walk gathering was hosted by Art Division, a nearby neighborhood organization for young adults in the visual arts. Representatives from the Levitt Pavilion, an outdoor venue in the park that presents accessible live music programming, also joined the walk and provided commentary, as did local resident, arts organizer and historian Carmelo Alvarez. The series is supported by the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies and the UCLA Urban Humanities Initiative as multidisciplinary, interactive conversations taking place in the public spaces of the city.

View additional photos in an album on Flickr

MacArthur Park walk


Car Access Increases Job Opportunities, Blumenberg Finds

Urban Planning Professor Evelyn Blumenberg was mentioned in a Chicago Magazine article about new approaches to commuting as the suburbs expand and jobs are decentralized. Especially in areas where mass transit is lacking or unreliable and driving is expensive, many commuters are getting creative with bike-share programs and other alternatives to driving. However, many of these alternative transportation programs largely cater to the upper-middle class and leave out low-income residents who need them most. The decentralization of jobs has led to many economic opportunities being located in the suburbs, which are often poorly served by mass transit. This makes job opportunities further out of reach for central-city residents with limited transportation options. Blumenberg found that car-driving residents of the Watts section of Los Angeles have access to an astounding 59 times as many jobs as their neighbors dependent on public transit. 

Blumenberg, King Win Award for Best Planning Article

A paper by Evelyn Blumenberg, director of the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies, and urban planning doctoral student Hannah King recently received the 2022 Article of the Year Award by the Journal of the American Planning Association (JAPA). In “Jobs-Housing Balance Re-Re-Visited,” Blumenberg and King examined the functional balance between housing and employment opportunities in nearly 400 California municipalities. In a reversal of a trend seen in the late 20th century, the state’s workers are now becoming less likely to both live and work in the same city, they found. “These findings affirm trends observed by many Californians in recent years around growing commutes and rising home prices, and will provide insight for those looking to better understand how the job-housing balance within the state has shifted in recent decades,” according to the the journal’s blog. Awarded by the American Planning Association and JAPA, the Article of the Year distinction recognizes work that makes a significant contribution to the literature of the planning profession, has the potential to change the nature of discourse on the given topic, and provides useful insights or implications for planning practice or public policy. Blumenberg, a professor of urban planning, studies transportation and economic outcomes for low-wage workers and the role of planning and policy in addressing transportation disparities. King studies transportation finance, travel behavior and transportation equity.


UCLA Scholars Publish Reports on Future of California Transportation, Housing

UCLA scholars have published two new reports on the future of California, as part of the California 100 initiative. One paper, issued by the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies, focuses on recommendations for transportation and urban planning. The authors describe policy alternatives around four possible scenarios:

  • Residents will need cars to get around.
  • There will be more city living and lots of traffic.
  • Multiple modes of travel will be available, but car travel remains the primary one.
  • It’s easy to get around without a car.

The second report, produced by the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies, cityLAB UCLA and the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley, puts forth policy suggestions based on two interrelated factors: how much (and where) housing is built, and how much planners prioritize social and racial equity. The transportation and housing reports were published in concert with two other California 100 analyses, one on energy and the other on technology. Nine additional reports are expected to be published this spring.

Read more about the UCLA-led California 100 reports.