Manville, Lens and Monkkonen on ‘the Consequences of Inaction’

A CityLab article on housing supply as a hot-button issue delved into the robust debate around the best strategies to make shelter affordable. Los Angeles is the epicenter of the housing crisis, and UCLA Luskin urban planning scholars have conducted extensive research on the issue, with varying conclusions. The article described arguments made for and against upzoning, which would increase the housing stock by lifting regulatory limits on density. In an earlier article, Professor Michael Storper cast doubt on the effectiveness of such policies. In rebuttal, three of his UCLA Luskin colleagues, Associate Professors Michael Manville, Michael Lens and Paavo Monkkonen, authored an essay pointing to studies that support upzoning. “When every neighborhood acts to preserve itself, soon the city is mired in regulation, and rents and prices rise,” they wrote. “Were regulations relaxed, these places would have more housing, and price increases would first slow and eventually fall.” They concluded, “The consequences of inaction also matter.”


 

image of traffic in Southern California

Transit Ridership Still in Decline, Manville Reports

Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville spoke to Transit California about a 2018 report he co-authored with other Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS) scholars that found public transportation ridership in Southern California has declined. Manville confirmed this trend has continued with one difference. “What is different from then to now is that San Francisco has now joined the ranks of ridership in decline, which was not the case when we originally did the study,” Manville said. Despite political support for Measure M, which created a tax in Los Angeles to pay for transit improvements, ridership remains low. The measure appealed to voters — but not enough to change their travel behavior, Manville said. “We can’t depend or model transit ridership on low-income riders. That model falls apart today,” he said. “Instead, transit has to be built in a way that we expect people to ride it.” Urban Planning Professors Brian Taylor and Evelyn Blumenberg coauthored the 2018 report.


 

conceptual drawing of Elon Musk's people mover under Las Vegas Convention Center

Manville on Elon Musk’s Vegas People-Mover

Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville spoke to the Los Angeles Times about Elon Musk’s underground people-mover for the Las Vegas convention center’s expansion. Musk’s Boring Co. secured a $48.7-million contract after the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority board approved construction of the roughly mile-long transit loop. Manville was surprised to learn that an underground plan was more affordable than a proposed elevated rail because tunneling is often more expensive. Based on the few details released by the Boring Co., Manville said it would be difficult to assess the project. “This is kind of a market test for him. Can he now build something that is more commercially viable than what he’s done with his test tunnel in Hawthorne?” Manville said. “But there’s nothing intrinsically interesting about building a tunnel to move people around. That’s what a subway is, right?”


 

SB50 Would Have Helped Ease Housing Crisis, Manville Says

Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville weighed in on the controversial Senate Bill 50 in a recent Los Angeles Times column. SB50 aims to relieve the housing shortage, reduce commuting time and combat climate change by requiring cities to allow multi-family complexes to be built in areas near mass transit, among other provisions. Many California residents have expressed concern that SB50 would increase housing density and destroy the integrity and character of their neighborhoods. Manville understands the concerns of residents but believes that everyone must contribute to solving the housing crisis, including those living “smack dab in the middle” of the nation’s second-largest city. “We have people in our city living in tents. They live in their cars. They live under our highway overpasses and they die on our sidewalks,” Manville said. “At a certain point, the pedigree of your house has to matter a little bit less.”


More Is Less on L.A.’s I-405, Michael Manville Says

Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville is quoted in a StreetsBlog USA article on worsening traffic congestion in and around Los Angeles, especially in the Sepulveda Pass. The completion of the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvement Project in 2015 was projected to alleviate congestion, but studies have shown that traffic is worse despite the addition of an extra lane. This phenomenon, known as the law of induced demand, explains how travel time on the pass during rush hour has gone up by 50 percent in the past four years. According to the theory, when the supply of a good (in this case traffic lanes) is increased, more of that good will ultimately be consumed. “So you have a road that is every bit as congested, just wider,” Manville said. On possible fixes for the problem, Manville explained that establishing a toll system may be the best way to combat traffic: “When you do price the road, people switch to transit.” 


 

Manville Imagines Transit-Oriented Future of Cities

In a National Geographic article exploring transit-oriented development in cities across the globe, Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville commented on the challenges facing Los Angeles. The article focused on architect Peter Calthorpe, who highlights the negative effects of car-oriented urban environments on climate, air quality and congestion, in addition to time and money wasted by drivers. Urban planners look to transit-oriented development to remake healthy urban spaces and reverse the damage caused by dependence on automobiles. Calthorpe imagines an urban utopia where cities would stop expanding, pave less and heat the air and the planet around them less. He recommends dense clusters of walkable communities around a web of rapid transit to support a growing population. Manville weighed in on the urban environment of Los Angeles, where residents continue to rely on cars despite efforts to improve public transit. The conundrum, Manville said, is that “driving’s too cheap [and] housing’s too expensive.” 


Manville Provides Context on Congestion Pricing

Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville, an established expert on congestion pricing as a traffic-management strategy, commented to several news outlets after New York officials approved a plan to charge motorists more than $10 to drive into Manhattan’s busiest neighborhoods. Manville told Pacific Standard, “To an economist, you could have congestion charging in Manhattan, take all the money, put it in cash form, and then sink it in the harbor, and it would still be an incredibly beneficial program.” The New York Times, American Prospect and Wired also consulted Manville, who is on the faculty of UCLA Luskin’s Institute of Transportation Studies, to provide context. Congestion pricing is under serious consideration in Southern California, and Manville explained the ramifications in an extended conversation with Peter Tilden on KABC radio. He was also cited in a San Diego Union-Tribune piece and, further afield, in a Vietnamese Best Forum article, translated here.


 

Manville Comments on Santa Ana’s Auto Dealer Subsidies

Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, was quoted in a Voice of OC article about subsidies to local car dealerships in Santa Ana. Amid fears of lowered levels of commerce in the wake of rising sales taxes, Santa Ana officials said they are reinvesting in the local economy through the automotive industry, by subsidizing a number of car dealerships in hopes that city residents will see direct benefits. This subsidy is designed to push residents to spend their money at local car dealerships rather than going elsewhere to purchase cars. The article noted that a number of the dealerships have been important campaign contributors to some city officials. “The city seems to be concerned about the sale of automobiles as opposed to other sales and is taking steps to selectively exempt or cushion those sales from whatever it imagines the impact of the sales tax increase will be,” Manville said.


 

Image of traffic on the 101 freeway in Los Angeles

Manville on Congestion Pricing as a National Traffic Strategy

Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville, who comments frequently on reducing traffic by implementing congestion pricing during peak hours, shared his views with a national audience in an interview with NBC News.  The article noted that congestion pricing has been successfully adopted in Singapore, Stockholm, London and Milan and is under serious consideration in Los Angeles, Seattle, Boston and New York. “If you can find a way to deter a small proportion of vehicles, you get a big improvement in speed and big increase in flow,” Manville said of congestion pricing. Cars stuck in traffic contribute more to pollution than cars in free-flow traffic, he added. Manville said congestion pricing is sensible yet politically difficult because politicians are wary of imposing added costs to voters. The key is to change people’s mindset, he said. “We are so used to the road being free,” he said. “If your water wasn’t metered, you might take a longer shower, even if it wasn’t that important to you.”


 

Downtown San Diego skyline pictured from Coronado Bay

Manville on Efforts to Relax Parking Requirements

Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville spoke to KPCC’s AirTalk about parking requirements for new housing developments in California. Manville was surprised to see that San Diego succeeded in eliminating minimum parking requirements for new housing developments. While this would be tough to implement in Los Angeles, he said, he believes it would be a good idea because parking requirements have been harmful to the city. Parking requirements for new housing do not promote the city’s stated goals of encouraging transit use, sustainability and more housing development, Manville said. More parking demands additional land or capital to build expensive underground parking, which results in smaller developments, he said. Manville also discussed proposed legislative solutions that would reduce local jurisdiction of land zoning in order to build more densely near public transit.