A Freeway Closure That Reverberates Around the Region

Michael Manville, chair of Urban Planning at UCLA Luskin, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the traffic disruption caused by the closure of the 10 Freeway after a massive fire. Freeways carry a hugely disproportionate share of L.A. traffic, Manville said, and “when there are big interruptions to them, they really do have effects that reverberate around the region.” About 300,000 vehicles on average move through the affected stretch of the 10 Freeway each day, and officials at L.A. Metro have been working to entice affected commuters to try public transit. Manville said he is not confident that people will change their commute habits over the long term. “Most people’s experience with the freeway at rush hour is already pretty miserable — and that does not drive a lot of people to public transportation,” he said. “I think most people in Los Angeles understand that we are over-reliant on a bunch of roads that don’t perform well because they’re overused.”


Homeownership Becoming ‘Out of Reach’ for Most Angelenos, Manville Says

The median price of a home in Los Angeles is expected to soon hit $1 million, and UCLA Luskin’s Michael Manville recently told the Guardian that “homeownership for many people is now out of reach.” The professor of urban planning noted that most homebuyers do not have $400,000 for a typical 40% down payment, nor $4,000 a month to put toward mortgage payments. “The million-dollar home price is like the tip of a big iceberg” because soaring home prices also impact the cost of rental homes and apartments, contributing to the ongoing homelessness crisis in California, he explained. Manville also spoke to Bloomberg News about one approach to tackling the affordable housing crisis: building more duplexes, triplexes and similar “middle housing” options. Decades ago, when there was a lot more empty land, large areas were zoned for single-family homes. “There was always the next valley to go to,” Manville said. “Now, that’s much harder.”


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.”


‘Everything Becomes Secondary to Where You Can Store a Car’

UCLA Luskin’s Michael Manville appeared on Code 53, The Apartment Podcast to explain the history, economics and politics of minimum parking requirements and argue that housing people must take precedence over housing cars. Mandating that new developments include a minimum number of parking spaces encourages driving while limiting the amount of space for housing, research shows. “If you have a situation where land is very valuable, and lots of people want to live there, and you are forcing everyone who wants to build something to put parking in at a number you have specified and a location you have specified, what you are basically saying, whether you intend to or not, is that everything becomes secondary to where you can store a car,” said Manville, chair of Urban Planning at the Luskin School. “That is not the recipe for a good city or a good life.”


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.


UCLA Urban Planning Rises to No. 1 Latest ranking of top graduate planning programs by Planetizen puts UCLA Luskin in the top spot

UCLA Luskin Urban Planning has been ranked No. 1 in North America, according to the latest survey of the nation’s top graduate programs in urban planning by Planetizen.

“Urban Planning’s rise to the top spot in the nation is a clear reflection of the excellence of the faculty and staff,” said Interim Dean Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, distinguished professor of urban planning. “I am particularly proud that this is also one of the most diverse Urban Planning departments in both its students and faculty, and that the program is driven by the call for social justice.”

Planetizen, a planning and development network based in Los Angeles, is the only entity that ranks urban planning programs. This is the first time that UCLA Luskin Urban Planning has led the rankings.

“I am very happy to see us at the top of this list,” said Michael Manville, incoming department chair and professor of urban planning. “There’s always an arbitrary element to rankings like this — all of the top planning programs are excellent — but I view our No. 1 ranking as a clear sign of how high the quality in our program is, and that’s a testament to the great people we have here.”

The 2023 ranking for UCLA includes the top position in four categories — West Coast universities, largest programs, top big city programs and all public universities. UCLA Luskin Urban Planning is listed among the Top 10 in these other categories: ranking by educators (3), student body diversity (6), most alumni (2) and most selective (7).

The guidebook also lists 28 specialties in which at least three courses are offered in a subject area. These 18 specialties include UCLA: climate action, community development, economic development, environmental/natural resources/energy, equity/inclusion/social justice, food systems planning, housing, healthy cities/communities, infrastructure planning, land use/physical planning, land use/planning law, international/global development, real estate development, regional planning, rural/small town planning, sustainability planning, technology/GIS and transportation planning.

More information about the rankings and methodology is available online.

Other top planning programs are MIT (2), Rutgers (3), UC Berkeley (4), the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (5), University of Georgia (6), Harvard (7) and USC (8). The Planetizen guidebook, which comes out every five years, ranked UCLA at No. 4 in 2014 and 2019.

Manville on Road Tolls: ‘There Is No Other Way to Reduce Congestion’

Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning at UCLA Luskin, spoke to the Los Angeles Times and KTLA and KNBC about an expected pilot program that would charge a toll on some Los Angeles roads. The program aims to ease traffic congestion, reduce carbon emissions and raise funds at a time when gas taxes are down due to the surge in electric vehicles. Manville said that revenues can and should be used to ensure that low-income drivers are not disproportionately burdened by the tolls. Some businesses are concerned that drivers who want to avoid paying freeway tolls will clog local roads; others argue that safety and convenience issues continue to surround many public transit options. Manville said charging a premium toll during peak hours would reduce traffic as well as the risk of crashes. “There is no other way to reduce congestion,” he said. “So you can do something like this or basically you can just live with congestion.”


Manville on Culver City’s Battle Over Street Space

Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning at UCLA Luskin, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about Move Culver City, a project to remove car lanes and promote more sustainable modes of transportation. While the project made promising gains, including increases in biking, bus ridership and micromobility trips, Culver City officials recently voted to remove the dedicated bike lanes to make way for cars. A survey of residents revealed support for safety improvements for pedestrians and cyclists but opposition to reducing car lanes. “Because we don’t want to address congestion at its root, we often end up in strange zero-sum battles that we hope will stop it from getting worse,” Manville said. “If the region was going to actually embrace its rhetoric, this was going to be an interesting test case. The fact that it’s being scaled back is a sign that this is still a very uphill battle for these kinds of improvements.”


Manville Explains Why Freeways Are Congested Again

Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, was cited in a Mercury News article about heavy traffic congestion on Bay Area freeways even though many jobs remain remote. The COVID-19 pandemic as well as remote and hybrid work schedules opened up highways and roads, which encouraged people to drive more until highways were once again full. “Traffic congestion is not only annoying — it acts as a deterrent,” Manville said. “If traffic goes down, then people are going to see the freeway is empty and get into the car and go somewhere else.” He explained that even though Californians are commuting less, there are still many reasons for them to continue driving on freeways. Some solutions to this issue are to break the habit of solo driving by encouraging people to use public transportation more often or by enforcing congestion fees to discourage people from driving at peak hours.


After Years of Study, Parking Reform Gaining Ground

A Wall Street Journal piece on the growing number of U.S. cities rethinking the amount of space set aside for parking cited several UCLA Luskin experts. The article highlighted research by Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, that found that a 1999 ordinance exempting builders from adding new parking spots in downtown Los Angeles allowed them to add more residential units at a lower cost. Another study by Gregory Pierce, now co-director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, and C.J. Gabbe, currently a visiting scholar at the center, found that costs associated with parking mandates are often passed on to consumers through higher rents or retail prices, even as many of the spots go unused. Donald Shoup, the urban planning scholar who pioneered the field of parking research, summed up the efforts to reform parking policies: “The Dutch have reclaimed land from the sea, and I think we can reclaim land from parking.”