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.”


Manville on Feasibility of San Jose’s New Parking Plan

Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, was cited in a Mercury News article about an initiative to deprioritize parking in San Jose to accommodate more housing. San Jose, known for its suburban sprawl, is very car dependent. In an effort to increase retail spaces and housing, transportation advocates are pushing for scaled-down parking garages and more street parking restrictions. Manville said the impact of these measures may not be immediate or dramatic, though over time the city may see a little less parking paired with more housing. He added that investors may be hesitant to finance projects with less parking in a region that has been so reliant on cars. “The key is, do you have a market in mind of people who are willing to walk a block or two to get their car?” Manville said.


Manville on the Benefits of Removing Parking Mandates

Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, was cited in an Urban Land article on the recent push to relax parking mandates in multifamily developments. In a paper presented to the UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate on the benefits of removing parking mandates, Manville wrote, “A sizable [amount of] research literature suggests they undermine housing affordability, encourage driving, and discourage walking and public transit use.” Removing these requirements will help California meet its affordability and sustainability goals, he said. It will also increase different types of housing that have been limited as a result of current parking mandates, including street-front townhomes, bungalow courts, garden apartments and more. Manville said it is important to retain some parking but suggested removing it from housing units. Instead, developers could lease underused storage spaces from nearby garages or offer car-share membership to residents.


On the Clear, Practical and Revolutionary Work of Don Shoup

Donald Shoup’s travels down paths that other academics overlooked have profoundly changed the way we understand cities, and inspired a viable movement to improve them. That’s the message of an essay published in the Journal of Planning Education and Research that offers a personal glimpse into the life and scholarship of Shoup, the distinguished professor whose research has shed light on the consequences of misguided parking policies. The essay is written by Michael Manville, his colleague on the UCLA Luskin Urban Planning faculty, who describes Shoup as the unique academic who offers practical, specific solutions to policy puzzles. His work has led to a “monumental act of reform” in California, a new law abolishing parking requirements within half a mile of transit. “What truly sets Don apart is his relentless pursuit of clarity,” Manville writes. “Don has shown that when we give people knowledge, they will use it, and the world will, in small steps, get better.” 


Manville on Proven Strategies to Improve Transportation

News outlets from around the country turn to Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, for insight into transit and land use issues. Manville spoke to the Los Angeles Times about a question Mayor Karen Bass must consider: Should train and bus rides be free? History shows that this strategy to increase ridership on public transit can work, Manville said. In the San Diego region, a $160-billion plan to expand the rail system includes road charges that will levy a per-mile fee on drivers. “If you design the road-user charge correctly, some of the biggest beneficiaries will be drivers,” Manville told the San Diego Union-Tribune. In Kentucky, an attempt to ease congestion by adding lanes to highways is misguided, he said. “The typical highway widening project has costs that exceed its benefits and probably shouldn’t be done,” Manville told Louisville Public Media, noting that adding tolls is the only proven way to consistently reduce congestion.


Manville Says Removing Parking Mandate Will Bolster State’s Affordable Housing Stock

Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, writes about California’s recent reduction of parking requirements at many housing developments in the November newsletter about real estate and economic issues distributed by UCLA Anderson Forecast and the UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate. He says that Assembly Bill 2097 is an important step in addressing how parking mandates undermine housing affordability and encourage people to drive more, while discouraging them from walking or using public transit. AB 2097 is unlikely to result in a wave of new housing being built without parking. Instead, eliminating mandatory parking requirements will allow for housing to be built on some parcels where it would have previously been infeasible. “Losing a few housing units here and there, or even the occasional parcel, may not seem like a big deal,” Manville writes. “Multiplied over many years and many thousands of parcels, however, these small losses add up.”