Manville Compares ‘Blade Runner’ Predictions to Los Angeles Today

Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, spoke to LAist about how Los Angeles today has lived up to the predictions of the 1982 sci-fi cult classic “Blade Runner,” which takes place in an imagined future 2019. The film presents a “vision of a sort of hyper-dense metropolis of the future … that’s really not pleasant at all,” he said. While the film’s characters have been left behind on Earth, Manville points out that present-day Los Angeles is actually planning for a future with more people. Furthermore, he explains that the film presents aerial transit “in a highly stylized way that ignores most of the actual logistics,” whereas a real-life flying car service in a major city would cause huge congestion problems. “Blade Runner,” Manville concluded, “is one of the great urban backdrops, especially dystopian urban backdrops, in film, but its relevance to the Los Angeles we live in is probably pretty limited.” 


Land Is Finite, but Housing Is Not, Manville Says

Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, spoke to Architectural Digest about Apple’s announcement that it would invest $2.5 billion to address California’s housing crisis. The plan includes converting a 40-acre plot of land the company owns in San Jose into space for affordable housing. Manville said much of San Jose is reserved for detached single-family homes, “making for very inefficient use of valuable land.” Residents may be hesitant to change zoning rules because they like how their neighborhood looks or the fact that their house has tripled in value, Manville said. But he urged, “We must build up, so that the same plot of land of one home can accommodate many families. You know, the elevator also exists in Silicon Valley.” The alternative, he said, is a place that has the economy of a megacity and built environment of a suburb, “and that’s simply not sustainable.” Manville concluded, “Land is finite, but housing is not.”


 

image of road construction

More Lanes Does Not Mean Less Congestion, Manville Says

Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, spoke to WWJ Radio’s The Break Down: Road Work Ahead about the impact of deteriorating infrastructure on traffic congestion. Governments cannot keep up with road repairs, and adding more lanes has proven to be ineffective, the podcast noted. In Los Angeles, an additional lane was added to Interstate 405 in the hopes of alleviating congestion. This project ultimately failed, which was “actually entirely predictable,” Manville said. “Anything that you’re doing to try and add capacity will not reduce congestion,” he said, explaining that adding lanes simply attracts more drivers. “It lowers the price in time of using the road, and you can’t reduce congestion by making driving on a busy road at a busy time less expensive. It becomes fundamentally self-undermining,” he said.


 

Parking Is a Money Pit, Manville Says

Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville spoke to The Real Deal, a real estate news site, about a Los Angeles Planning Commission proposal to eliminate required parking spaces in new downtown housing developments, with the goal of creating more room for housing and decreasing the number of cars on the road. Manville said this policy is in line with cities such as San Francisco and Portland, which have begun easing downtown parking requirements. If eliminating parking requirements becomes the standard, business would improve for developers, he said. “As a conservative lender – and most institutional lenders are conservative – you might not loan on something that’s not the market standard,” he explained. But a developer with non-institutional funding who builds housing without parking spaces would spur more of this kind of development, he said. In the long term, eliminating parking requirements would lower the cost of development because “parking is a money pit,” Manville said.


 

Manville on Public Transit Investment and Ridership Trends

In a San Diego Union-Tribune article about the city’s new high-speed rail proposal, Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, highlighted the challenges of implementing public transportation improvements in cities primarily designed for automobile travel. San Diego recently proposed two tax increases to fund billions of dollars in bus and rail investments, but experts worry that it will follow the example of cities like Atlanta, Houston and Los Angeles, which invested heavily in public transit only to lose riders. Manville describes Los Angeles as a “cautionary tale,” explaining that “you can’t take a region that is overwhelmingly designed to facilitate automobile travel and change the way people move around just by laying some rail tracks over it.” To avoid decreases in ridership, transportation experts recommend making it harder to drive by eliminating street parking, ending freeway expansions, limiting suburban home construction and implementing policies like congestion pricing.


Manville on Benefits of Congestion Pricing

Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, was featured in a Sierra Club article about the prospect of congestion pricing in major U.S. cities. Earlier this year, paralyzing traffic delays in New York City prompted the state to approve a plan to implement congestion pricing by 2021, and Los Angeles recently approved a two-year study to investigate the feasibility of the traffic-management strategy. By charging people to drive on traffic-clogged roads, congestion pricing encourages people to drive at different times, carpool or take public transit, all while reducing carbon emissions and raising revenue for transportation projects. Manville explained that congestion pricing is “the only thing that has ever been demonstrated to reduce [congestion]. So either we can do this or everyone has to stop complaining.” Manville reiterated his support for congestion pricing as one of the most viable solutions to traffic gridlock in a Shift article.


Manville on East Coast Traffic Relief

Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, spoke with WGBH News in Boston about a proposal to add dedicated toll lanes on Massachusetts’ major highways. As the state considers options to alleviate traffic during rush hour, Gov. Charlie Baker has come out in support of adding “managed lanes” that let drivers choose whether to pay a fee for a quicker commute. “While drivers have a choice to commute in a faster lane for a cost, drivers who remain in the un-tolled lane will also experience lighter volume from those who peel off for the faster lane,” the governor explained. Manville said the benefits of creating such lanes are clear. “Almost anytime these managed lanes have been put in, you see traffic flowing much more smoothly, delay going down and many more vehicles being moved in these managed lanes. They are, at this point, a proven intervention,” he said.

The Traffic Bogeyman Is Us, Manville Says

Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, spoke to LAist about a study examining the impact that Uber and Lyft have on road congestion. The study, which was commissioned by the rideshare services, found that they accounted for 2 to 3 percent of all vehicle miles traveled in Los Angeles County in September 2018. “If [Lyft and Uber] have confessed to slowing you down while you are in traffic, then they have confessed to sharing in the crime that you are also committing,” said Manville, a faculty fellow with UCLA Luskin’s Institute of Transportation Studies. Manville said his colleagues like to joke that a more interesting study would be to look at how much Ford and Toyota contribute to traffic congestion. “It’s fun to blame tech companies for things — they’re really easy to dislike — but congestion is something that we all cause,” he said.

Manville on the ‘Unmitigated Disaster’ of Parking Requirements

Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, spoke with Curbed LA about a proposal to eliminate parking requirements for newly constructed apartment and condo buildings in downtown Los Angeles. Parking minimums have been “an unmitigated disaster,” Manville said. “Right now, it’s illegal to build for a tenant who doesn’t care if their car is in the same building with them” or who doesn’t own a car at all, he said.  The requirement to include parking spots in residential buildings has been blamed for higher housing costs, the construction of unsightly garages and the exacerbation of climate change. “When you require parking, you really do encourage driving,” Manville said. Removing the parking requirement is an “absolutely necessary” step, one of many needed to help Angelenos drive less, he said.


 

Manville on Lessons From the Measure M Campaign

An article on Streetsblog USA featured a report authored by Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville on the transit funding initiative Measure M. Voters approved the measure overwhelmingly in 2016, largely due to a political campaign that focused on boosting the economy and easing traffic, but not on transforming the region’s car culture, the report noted. “Voters were expressly not offered a vision of a more multimodal or environmentally sustainable Los Angeles; they were mostly offered instead a vision of more jobs, better roads and easier driving,” Manville wrote. The transportation investments ushered in by Measure M have not led to higher use of public transit. “Los Angeles has a hard road in front of it in making the vision of Measure M a reality,” the report said. “An electoral victory is the end of a political process, but only the beginning of a policy process.”