Manville on Proposed Per-Mile Driver Fees

Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville was mentioned in a San Diego Union-Tribune article about the city’s proposed road fee, which would charge drivers a set price for every mile traveled. The road charge would help pay for San Diego’s $160-billion proposal to expand rail, bus and other transportation services throughout the region. It would also help replace the revenue from the current gas tax as fossil fuels are phased out in efforts to combat climate change. “The gas tax, regardless of how much revenue it raises, is in fact a climate tax, a carbon tax,” Manville explained. “We probably shouldn’t just throw that out the window.” A statewide pilot program is also testing the road charge strategy. Experts are debating whether to adopt a flat per-mile fee or charge more to drivers with less fuel-efficient vehicles. While the second option would be more complicated, it would incentivize drivers to adopt cleaner vehicles.


City Zoning Requirements Should Be Transparent, Manville Writes

Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville wrote a Planetizen article about the nuances of city zoning requirements and the consequences for planning and development. Los Angeles has strict rules for land development and zoning, but they are often used as negotiating leverage. Developers are able to bargain with the city over parking and building height requirements by offering to contribute subsidized housing and building green spaces. “A zoning bylaw that contains onerous and unnecessary regulations might be good for bargaining, but it isn’t a good zoning bylaw,” Manville wrote. “Selectively enforcing rules can give officials more power to accomplish short-term goals, but it risks a long-term consequence of eroding faith in the rules themselves.” Furthermore, selective zoning can lead to corruption when rules are not universally enforced. Manville concluded that zoning should be transparent and that “our goal should be good policies that yield good outcomes.”

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Manville Endorses Parking Reform in California

Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville co-authored a StreetsBlog article about the possibility of parking reform with Assembly Bill 1401, which would eliminate minimum parking mandates for buildings near public transit in California. “Eliminating parking requirements is the simplest, most effective step that California can take to reduce carbon emissions, make housing more affordable, and increase production of homes for families across the income spectrum – all at no cost to the public,” wrote Manville and co-authors Anthony Dedousis and Mott Smith. Some opponents of the bill argue that eliminating parking requirements could harm affordable housing production by making California’s density bonus incentives less valuable. However, the authors pointed to the success of parking reform in San Diego, which eliminated parking requirements in 2019 and saw record increases in the amount of new housing built, including over 1,500 affordable homes in 2020. They see AB 1401 as an opportunity to “learn from San Diego’s success and take parking reform statewide.”

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Manville on Improving Communities by Pricing Roads

Urban Planning Associate Professor Michael Manville spoke to Innovation Hub about the dim chances that traffic congestion will improve post-pandemic. Empty roads invite more drivers to use them, he said. And even if more employees work from home, they’ll still use the roadways to satisfy the craving for human connection after a year of quarantine. Offering a one-sentence summary of congestion — “because we’re all in a hurry, we all slow each other down” — Manville argued that the best strategy for managing traffic is charging drivers to use the roads, just as governments charge for utilities. Higher prices during peak traffic hours would help keep traffic moving at a consistent speed, and revenue could be used to keep the system equitable for people who must drive but cannot afford the fees. Manville also noted that reducing congestion would benefit the often low-income neighborhoods that line highways, which are currently inundated with pollutants from nearby traffic.

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On L.A.’s Gridlock in Politics and Traffic

Los Angeles Initiative Director Zev Yaroslavsky and Urban Planning Associate Professor Michael Manville were featured in a Capital & Main article about the political forces that often derail Los Angeles’ efforts to solve its transit crisis. The gridlock comes as climate change is increasing pressure to transition to greener, faster and more equitable mass transit. Transit-oriented cities like Boston and New York “did not divorce the automobile; they were married to transit from the start,” Manville said. Now, Los Angeles is trying to accomplish the same feat through electoral politics and public policy. As a county supervisor 20 years ago, Yaroslavsky proposed the Orange Line Bus Rapid Transit system, which was expected to carry 7,500 riders daily when it first opened in the San Fernando Valley. By the time Yaroslavsky left office, the Orange Line was carrying 30,000 per day. “Today, if you tried to get rid of the Orange Line, people would lie in front of the tractors,” he said.

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Manville Examines Impact of Gentrification on Rent

Urban Planning Associate Professor Michael Manville was featured on KCRW’s “Greater L.A.” in an episode about the impact of housing supply on rent prices. “It’s important to separate this big question of gentrification with the question of what happens to rent,” Manville said. His research has shown that adding to the housing supply lowers nearby rent, but he explained that the trend is “not always easy to see because developers like to build in places where rents are already rising.” Considering neighborhoods where housing demand is already increasing, Manville asked, “Do you want newer residents moving in and displacing residents in the existing housing, or do you want them to be in brand-new housing where, while they will change the neighborhood by their presence, they don’t put as much pressure on the existing housing stock where a lot of the current people live?”

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Manville on ‘America’s Disastrous Experiment With Parking Requirements’

Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville wrote an article for The Atlantic about the disastrous impact of parking requirements in American cities. Zoning laws that require homes and businesses to include space for parking cars have created “an unreasonable, unaffordable and unsustainable city,” he wrote. “American urban history is stained with tragic missteps and shameful injustices, so parking requirements are hardly the worst policy cities have tried. But they are notable for how much needless damage they have caused, over a long period, with few people even noticing.” Manville argued that parking mandates make driving less expensive and development more so, which in effect prioritizes the needs of cars over the needs of people. He concluded, “In an age of ostensible concern about global warming, it shouldn’t be illegal to put up a building without parking and market it to people without cars.”

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A Case for Removing Minimum Parking Requirements

A Los Angeles Daily News op-ed written by UCLA doctoral student Nolan Gray featured Urban Planning faculty members Donald Shoup and Michael Manville. The piece focused on minimum parking requirements mandating that homes, offices and shops include parking spaces, as well as on Assembly Bill 1401, which would prohibit California cities from imposing these requirements within half a mile of transit — an area where residents, shoppers and employees are least likely to drive. Nolan pointed out that developers already have an incentive to include parking in order to lease or sell a space. Shoup noted that minimum parking requirements are a key culprit in the state’s affordable housing crisis because the cost of including parking gets added to rent and mortgages. Manville added that providing off-road parking is associated with a 27% increase in vehicle miles traveled and a significant increase in emissions, since people are encouraged to buy and drive cars instead of choosing more sustainable transportation options.

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Manville Imagines Congestion Pricing in California

Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville spoke to American Automobile Association (AAA) Magazine about the prospect of congestion pricing in Southern California. Congestion pricing is a traffic-reduction strategy that aims to reduce the number of cars on clogged roads by making driving more expensive and, therefore, less appealing. Supporters point out that congestion pricing has successfully reduced gridlock in major cities, including London, Singapore and Stockholm, and that many people warm up to the strategy once they experience the benefits. When stay-at-home orders took effect early last year, Southern Californians experienced a region without gridlock firsthand, Manville said. “To the extent that you convince people that pricing is the policy path that gets you to a situation like that, then people having had this experience might help the cause,” he said. Congestion pricing is also a powerful revenue-generating tool, and the funds can be directed to other transportation projects and services.

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Manville on Making Space for Driving Alternatives

Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville spoke to KCRW’s Greater L.A. about the return of traffic in Los Angeles. While streets and freeways were empty at the beginning of the pandemic, traffic levels have returned to about 90% of pre-pandemic levels in the region. According to Manville, L.A. needs to go much further when it comes to alternatives to driving. “As someone who studies this, but also as a cyclist and a pedestrian, Los Angeles has a very long way to go,” he said. “We are not a bold-moving city in this regard at all.” He pointed to efforts to create more space for bikes, pedestrians and buses in cities including Portland, Seattle and San Francisco. Local residents and politicians are the biggest barrier to changing the transportation industry, Manville said, but he hopes politicians will consider the needs of the overwhelming majority of residents instead of focusing on the loudest voices on both sides.

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