Three in the Class of 2018 who are already changing the landscape of public affairs
Joseph A. Nunn MSW '70 PhD '90 with honorees Helene Creager MSW '85 and Bill Coggins MSW '55. Photos by Les Dunseith
By Stan Paul
During the annual gathering to present Helene Creager MSW ’85 with its Alumna of the Year award, UCLA Luskin Social Welfare also recognized a lifetime of achievement by Wilfred “Bill” Coggins, a member of the Social Welfare graduating class 30 years earlier, in 1955.
Friends, family, faculty and coworkers jammed Loteria Grill in Hollywood on May 19, 2018, to celebrate Creager, a supervising U.S. probation officer, and Coggins, founder of the Kaiser Permanente Watts Counseling and Learning Center.
Since 2007, a Master of Social Welfare (MSW) graduate has received the alumni award named after the former vice chair and longtime director of field education at UCLA Luskin, Joseph A. Nunn MSW ’70 PhD ’90. He was on hand to congratulate both awardees and to introduce Coggins, who was the first-ever recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Distinguished at Every Level
Creager received her award from Professor Emeritus Alex Norman DSW ’74, who had nominated her and is also the person who first encouraged Creager to pursue an MSW at UCLA. “She has distinguished herself at every level of her professional employment,” Norman said.
In 1995, Creager joined the U.S. Probation Office for the Central District of California. Creager has served in a number of roles bringing a social justice emphasis to posts ranging from clinical director of a youth center for wards of the court and the Los Angeles County Probation Department.
During her time as an undergraduate psychology major at UCLA, she enrolled in a class taught by Norman — her first exposure to social work. “Meeting Dr. Norman and taking that class motivated me to obtain my master’s in social welfare instead of psychology,” she recalled.
Creager has served as a field instructor for UCLA students, and her career includes work as a treatment team leader of the supervising and treatment staff at Dorothy Kirby Center. Since 1995, Creager – who plans to retire this year – has been serving with the U.S. Court Office, Central District of California. There she has led the implementation of STARR (Staff Training Aimed at Reducing Re-Arrest), which is a set of skills that U.S. Probation Officers can use in their interactions with the individuals they supervise in the community. She has also provided training and assisted in other districts in implementing STARR.
“I am receiving this award as I am about to retire, by the man who helped me start my career,” said Creager, who is married to another alum.
Creager cites Nunn as a mentor during her studies and throughout her career.
“Being selected for this award is exponentially more meaningful to me because it is named after someone I admire and respect,” said Creager, who also worked with Nunn when she became a field instructor for MSW interns and served with him on the Social Welfare Alumni Board in the 1980s. “We both also share that we worked in the criminal justice system and value what social workers bring to criminal justice agencies.”
Commenting on her early training in social welfare, Creager said, “I have been very fortunate that all of my life’s work has been in line with my social work values, knowledge, skills and education. I have had a career that has been fulfilling and meaningful, and it all began with my graduate social work education and experience.”
A Chance to Develop Something Important
At one time Coggins, trained as a psychiatric social worker, contemplated working in private practice, but his life took a different path shortly after the New York native and U.S. Army veteran returned to the United States in 1966 from a Fulbright Scholar post in London.
Recalling his decision to take a job in South Los Angeles in the wake of the Watts riots, Coggins recalled thinking, “Here’s a chance to develop something for the community.”
Since 1967, Coggins has been known for his work in Watts and for founding and serving as director of the Kaiser Permanente Watts Counseling and Learning Center. Through his leadership and clinical experience, a center that started as a “loosely defined program” for children and their parents became the important community service that today continues to provide counseling and educational services to the Watts community.
“I am reminded of the contribution of Bill Coggins every single day as I work in Watts,” commented Jorja Leap MSW ’80, adjunct professor of Social Welfare at Luskin and director of the UCLA Watts Leadership Institute. “He rolled up his sleeves and got involved in the community.”
Leap said Coggins focused his efforts on the strengths of the people who live in Watts. “Every Monday morning at the Watts Gang Task Force, when the staff of Kaiser gets up to present on their latest efforts, we are all (silently) reminded of the work Bill did — it lives forever,” she said.
Alice Harris, an institution in Watts herself, has carried on the tradition of Coggins. “Sweet Alice,” as she is known in the community, met Coggins through a program he established through the Watts Counseling and Learning Center. Harris is one of the original Core Mothers, a group of parents who attended the center with their children and went on to serve as advisers to new parents and their children. Today, Harris continues to serve as executive director of Parents of Watts, a social services agency that she started out of her own home more than 50 years ago.
Harris, who was on hand to see Coggins receive his honor, said, “I went on to college, and then I started a program because I wanted to be like Bill Coggins. I wanted to help the people out like he was helping the people; that’s exactly what I did, and I have been doing that ever since.”
Coggins describes his MSW education as “priceless and valuable,” adding, “skills you develop … can be applied to a variety of settings that can be nonmedical, nonclinical.”
Coggins’ wide-ranging career has included stints as a psychiatric social worker for the Suicide Prevention Center in Los Angeles, providing therapeutic treatment for patients at the Wells Medical Group in Arcadia and serving as a senior psychiatric social worker for the Veteran’s Administration. He has also done work assisting the developmentally disabled.
He has applied his education and training well. “I’ve had a very rich career, and I’ve worked in a variety of quality places. I’ve been lucky, but at the same time, when the luck broke, I had the tools to deal with the situation that was being presented to me.”
This year Coggins will also be inducted into the California Social Work Hall of Distinction along with alumni Kathy Kubota MSW ’82, John Oliver MSW ’69 and Yasuko Sakamoto MSW ’83.
Other UCLA Luskin speakers at this year’s Social Welfare gathering included Dean Gary Segura, Alumni Relations and Social Media Director Marisa Lemorande, and Gerry Laviña MSW ’88, director of field education. Toby Hur MSW ’93, a Social Welfare field faculty member, introduced this year’s Social Welfare Alumni Fellowship Fund recipient, Jennifer Weill, a second-year MSW student.
Annual conference at UCLA Luskin increases awareness and shares information about working with the Latinx community
Social Welfare student Catherine Azzopardi is greeted by Sumiyah Mshaka MSW '04 of the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health during the career event held in the Ackerman Grand Ballroom at UCLA. Photo by Todd Cheney
More than 60 alumni returned to UCLA Luskin on April 26, 2018, to provide informational interviews to students during the second annual Alumni Career Connections event.
The meetings gave Urban Planning, Public Policy and Social Welfare students an opportunity to meet graduates of the School who serve as Luskin Alumni Career Leaders and receive career advice, learn about job opportunities and connect with practitioners in their fields of career interest.
The number of alumni volunteers grew by 30 percent this year, giving UCLA Luskin students additional opportunities to gain invaluable information.
“A 2017 Career Services survey ranked alumni networking as one of the graduates’ top two sources of job leads, so it’s essential to provide these opportunities to students,” said VC Powe, director of Career Services and the Leadership Development Program.
“We were very excited to be able to put on this event for a second year in a row,” said Emily Le, career counselor at UCLA Luskin. “It gives students an opportunity to connect with many alumni in their related fields that they wouldn’t normally get an opportunity to meet with. Some of the first-year students have already said that they’re looking forward to next year’s event.”
Alumni also appreciated the opportunity to meet current students. Sheena Innocente MSW ’15 said, “The students I met with were very interested in learning about research consulting and how it can serve to shift policy at nonprofit agencies and in political ways.”
This year’s Career Connections event was expanded to include a resume station and a free photo booth for LinkedIn and other website headshots.
Many students, such as first-year public policy student Sarah Rubinstein, seized the opportunity to improve their professional profiles by getting photos taken. Others worked with Social Welfare alumnae Christina Hernandez and Juliane Nguyen and Public Policy alumna Emily Williams to review their resumes. The three also coached students on how best to formally present their information for interviews.
The meetings did not end once the doors were shut in the Ackerman Grand Ballroom; some alumni joined students for dinner or coffee and many exchanged business cards to stay in contact with their newfound UCLA Luskin connections.
Ruby Ramirez, who is in her second year as a dual MPP and MSW student, and C.J. Horvath, who is in his first year of the MURP degree, were two of the attendees who said they gained important connections with new alumni, while reinforcing their current networks. “I thought the whole event was done really well,” Horvath said.
As the lights were dimmed and a crew began to clear furniture, Williams MPP ’98, was spotted in the corner with a student. “I can’t leave now,” she called out, “I want to finish with this student before I go.”
— UCLA Luskin staff
Click or swipe to view additional photos from the event on Flickr:
Donald Shoup, distinguished research professor of urban planning at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.
By Stan Paul
“A city where everyone happily pays for everyone else’s free parking is a fool’s paradise.”
— Donald Shoup, “Parking and the City”
“Parking is no longer uncool,” says Donald Shoup, whose newly published book, “Parking and the City,” highlights the remarkable interest, implementation of reforms and growth of research that followed his landmark 2005 publication, “The High Cost of Free Parking.”
The new book, by the distinguished research professor of urban planning at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, serves as an update to work that has caught the attention of leaders and lawmakers, and proven influential locally, nationally and internationally.
“Parking is the Cinderella of transportation,” writes Shoup in his introduction, explaining that the field received little attention or status for many years. More recently, “many academics have joined in what is now almost a feeding frenzy. … Parking is far too important not to study,” asserts Shoup, who started as a lone pioneer in the field more than four decades ago.
“Parking is the single biggest land use in most cities; there’s more land devoted to parking than there is to housing or industry or commerce or offices,” said Shoup in an interview. Citing “The High Cost of Free Parking,” he reminds readers that Los Angeles has more parking spaces per square mile than any other city.
In his new book, Shoup reiterates and distills the earlier 800-page work into three recommended parking reforms designed to improve cities, the economy and the environment:
- Remove off-street parking requirements
- Charge the right prices for on-street parking
- Spend the parking revenue to improve public services on the metered streets
“Each of these policies supports the other two,” writes Shoup. They counteract what he describes as “three unwisely adopted car-friendly policies” that arose from the beginning of the automobile age: separated land uses, low density, and ample free parking to create drivable cities while undermining walkable neighborhoods.
Shoup persistently advocates for removal of off-street parking requirements, allowing developers and businesses to decide how much parking to provide. Charging the “right price,” or lowest price — varying dynamically throughout the day — that can keep a few spaces open, will allow convenient access, ease congestion, conserve fuel, and reduce pollution caused by unnecessary idling and block-circling. In support of the third point, Shoup hypothesizes, “If everybody sees their meter money at work, the new public services can make demand-based prices for on-street parking politically popular.”
Shoup first wrote about parking in 1975. “I don’t think my ideas have changed at all,” he says. “But, I’ve learned an enormous amount since then.”
As part of his ongoing research, Shoup visits cities, talks to public officials and asks what works and what doesn’t.
“Parking and the City” includes 51 chapters that summarize recent academic research on parking, detailing the experiences of practitioners who charge market prices for on-street parking. In addition, the chapters explain how Shoup’s three recommendations, if followed, “…may be the cheapest, fastest, and simplest way to improve cities, the economy, and the environment, one parking space at a time.”
Among the 46 contributors are 11 former UCLA Luskin Urban Planning master’s and doctoral students who are making their own significant contributions to the field. Former planning student Michael Manville, now an assistant professor of urban planning at UCLA Luskin, contributed four chapters.
“The way cities approach parking has massive consequences for how we travel, how our cities look, and how and where we build housing,” Manville says. “Don saw this before almost anyone else, and pursued it unlike anyone else.”
“What this book showcases is Don’s equal talents as a researcher, mentor and activist. His talents as a researcher are evident in the groundswell of parking research that he inspired. It is safe to say that many of the chapters in this book would not have been written had Don not published “The High Cost of Free Parking.” His talents as a mentor are on display in the number of former students who are doing that research,” Manville says.
“I think they have gone completely in their own direction,” Shoup says of his former students. “I hope I helped in that regard.”
“Parking and the City,” a Planners Press Book, is available through Routledge.
Luskin Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) students such as Ryan Shum presented their work at the annual Careers, Capstones & Conversation (CCC) networking event. Photo by Les Dunseith
By Stan Paul
Britta McOmber wants to know “What’s the Dam Problem?” in terms of flood risk in California. Shine Ling wants to know “How Fair is Fair-Share” when it comes to housing law in California. Sabrina Kim asks, “Still No to Transit?” looking at areas in Los Angeles County that do not meet their full transit commuting potential.
Questions like these launched 36 research projects that brought together Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) students with clients to produce research projects that address a specific planning issue. The second-year students, completing their required capstones, showcased their work at the annual Careers, Capstones & Conversations (CCC) networking event held April 5, 2018, at UCLA’s Covel Commons.
The event followed a day of welcoming activities for newly admitted UCLA Luskin Urban Planning students, who had the opportunity to view the projects and interact with current students, as well as faculty and staff.
Newly admitted student Bradley Bounds II said his interest in urban planning is local.
“I want to work on building up my community,” said the Compton resident. “I’m looking more toward open space projects; I’m looking for transportation projects and economic development,” said Bounds, who enthusiastically affirmed his intent to join the new Urban Planning class in fall 2018.
Project clients include governmental organizations, local agencies and cities, as well as private planning and design firms and nonprofit organizations concerned with regional, state and national urban issues.
Video highlights of the students practicing for CCC. [full size]
In addition to engaging titles, the projects — produced individually or in teams — include solid research and data that has been analyzed and put into context by the students. Topics included transportation, housing and social justice issues, including foster care in the region and environmental, resource conservation and energy challenges. At CCC, the students pitch and support their approaches via posters that frame the issues and their proposed solutions.
UCLA Luskin Urban Planning faculty, alumni and Luskin Senior Fellows were on hand to evaluate the projects displayed in Covel’s Grand Horizon Room.
McOmber, who has studied coastal cities and flood risk resulting from rising sea levels, as well as designated flood plains, said her project was inspired by last year’s Oroville Dam overflow incident in Northern California.
“There are quite a number of dams and large reservoirs in L.A. County,” said McOmber, explaining that, from the perspective of Oroville’s near disaster, the state faces a broader problem of dam and water storage infrastructure that is aging, underfinanced and sometimes not well-maintained.
“I noticed that there really wasn’t any information on dam flood zones, so I thought that was an area that’s lacking in the academic field and also very relevant, not only for California, but I think more broadly for the country,” she said.
Her project also looked at who may be impacted based on factors such as income and education. For example, McOmber asked whether socially vulnerable households are more likely to live within dam flood zones in California. She found that almost 50 percent of households in these areas are Hispanic or Latino.
Presentation is an important aspect of the projects. Commenting on the eye-catching displays, Ananya Roy, professor of urban planning, social welfare and sociology, looked at how effectively information was conveyed, noting those that “made a very dramatic and legible point.”
In Public Policy and Social Welfare, newly accepted graduate students were welcomed at daylong events designed to introduce them to the School and provide information about topics such as program content and financial aid. They got a day-in-the-life experience at UCLA Luskin through lectures, breakout sessions, tours and informal social gatherings.
UCLA was the top choice for many of the students attending the April 3, 2018, Welcome Day for newly accepted students in UCLA Luskin Social Welfare who learned about topics such as public child welfare stipend programs and social welfare field education.
“I’ve already decided on UCLA,” said Nancy Salazar, who joined other admitted students for roundtable discussions with UCLA Luskin faculty. Salazar, who also has a master’s degree in public administration, said that in addition to a focus on social justice, she was attracted by the leadership aspect of the program.
For Guillermo Armenta Sanchez, UCLA was the only choice. “That’s the only one; that’s where I’m coming,” said the Long Beach resident who is interested in focusing on mental health.
At the Master of Public Policy (MPP) Welcome Day on April 9, 2018, J.R. DeShazo, department chair and professor of public policy, provided introductory comments and introduced faculty and staff to incoming students.
“At Luskin, you are making a commitment to mastering a very challenging set of policy tools,” said DeShazo, who also serves as director of the Luskin Center for Innovation, the state’s premier environmental policy research center.
DeShazo highlighted the outstanding faculty and research institutes across all three departments, then continued, “There are a tremendous number of extracurricular activities that we present to you. The challenge is a scheduling challenge: How do you take advantage of everything that we offer?”
The new cohort of policy students gathered at the School to participate in a number of informative activities that included an ice-breaking exercise and an inside look at student life and the strengths of the UCLA Luskin program as presented by a students-only panel.
An invitation to Professor Michael Stoll’s Methods of Policy Analysis course was included, as were a variety of student-led breakout sessions on policy areas such as education, criminal justice, the environment, international issues and transportation. The conversations continued into a lunch with members of the faculty.
DeShazo advised that the two-year graduate program goes quickly and that students are soon thinking about what’s next.
“One of the things we’re very committed to — alums are committed to, our office of career services is committed to — is providing you with the internship opportunities and the alumni connections that will help you get a great job coming out of our program,” DeShazo said. “You are invited to start to develop your CV, practice in your interviewing skills, your public speaking skills, honing and refining your networking skills.
DeShazo summed it up. “When it’s time to engage with prospective employers, you’re ready.”
By Will Livesley-O’Neill
The UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies kicked off its spring speaker series with one of the world’s most influential urbanists, Gil Penalosa, an advocate for public spaces and sustainable mobility. Cities must meet the challenges of the 21st century through public policy and design that improves the quality of life for all residents, Penalosa argued.
“We need to decide how we want to live,” he told a large crowd of Luskin School students, staff, faculty and community partners.
Penalosa, a graduate of the MBA program at the UCLA Anderson School, is the founder and chair of 8 80 Cities, a nonprofit organization based in Toronto and dedicated to the idea that urban spaces should benefit an 8-year-old or an 80-year-old equally. He also chairs the board of World Urban Parks, an international association in favor of open space and recreation, after getting his start by transforming parks programs as a commissioner in Bogotá.
The groundbreaking programs overseen by Penalosa in Colombia included a weekly event to turn city streets into activity centers for walking, biking and other activities, which has served as a model for CicLAvia in Los Angeles and similar programs worldwide. Penalosa said that after streets turn into “the world’s largest pop-up park,” people begin to think about how much of their city is usually off-limits.
“All of a sudden we realize that the streets are public,” he said, adding that in a given city, around 35 percent of the total land is occupied by roadways. “We need to be much better at using everything that is public.”
Penalosa, who has consulted for more than 300 cities around the world, urges local leaders to use public space such as libraries and schoolyards for communal activities. He said that “playability” is a feature in urban design — making spaces more welcoming for children opens them up for everyone else as well. Every city should set a goal to have some kind of park within a 10-minute walk of any home, Penalosa said.
“Parks and public spaces are fantastic equalizers,” he said, describing the social integration that takes place during large sporting events, political protests and smaller exchanges such as children interacting with a sculpture. Penalosa added that public space helps people make friends and live healthier, but it can also promote transit and climate policy goals.
“Safe and enjoyable walking and biking should be a human right,” he said, noting that non-driving transit modes are not just recreational activities but the primary means of transportation for most of the world’s population. As the global urban population has surged — with the number of people living in cities expected to grow from 3.5 billion to 7 billion people over the next four decades — Penalosa believes that policymakers must shift their focus away from accommodating car travel and toward improving quality of life. This means prioritizing human interaction in public spaces by expanding parks, building sidewalks, reducing speed limits to make walking safer, connecting bicycle routes into cohesive grids, and much more.
Penalosa’s talk was presented in partnership with the California Association for Coordinated Transportation (CALACT), a statewide nonprofit association advocating for small transit agencies, rural transportation funding and coordinated mobility programs. The full schedule for the spring transportation speaker series will soon be available on the ITS website.
View additional photos from the presentation in a Flickr album:
Professor Laura Abrams introduces the panelists for a discussion of desistance and youth justice. Photos by Les Dunseith
By Les Dunseith
On March 13, 2018, UCLA Luskin Social Welfare hosted an event that featured two panels of experts in youth justice engaged in critical conversations about efforts to intercede on behalf of troubled young people before they become entangled in a corrections system that often perpetuates a cycle of crime and punishment.
The event was organized by Professor Laura Abrams, chair of UCLA Luskin Social Welfare, building on themes outlined in her recent book co-authored with Diane Terry MSW ’04 PhD ’12, who is a senior research associate at Loyola Marymount University: “Everyday Desistance: The Transition to Adulthood Among Formerly Incarcerated Youth.”
The first panel was moderated by Jorja Leap MSW ’80 PhD ’89, an adjunct professor of social welfare. It focused on diversion, a process that enables young people in contact with the justice system to bypass formal prosecution if they meet specific criteria and successfully complete a program that fits their potential needs (such as restorative justice and counseling).
The panelists included retired Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza, the director of the Los Angeles County Office of Diversion and Reentry, who has played a leadership role in recent efforts to reframe how L.A. County handles youth when they first get into trouble with the law. He described the significance of the County Board of Supervisors’ recent motion creating a new Office of Youth Diversion and Development, which will be overseen by Espinoza within his office.
“That action culminated almost a year of work where disparate justice partners, community organizations and law enforcement came together to try to hammer out what became an 80-page road map for youth diversion in Los Angeles County,” Espinoza explained.
The new model will “divert youths at first point of contact with law enforcement and not at the point of arrest,” Espinoza noted.
Panelists Gloria Gonzales and Kim McGill are organizers with the Youth Justice Coalition, one of the community-based groups that will be providing some of the services for the new diversion program. Both have personally had experiences with juvenile justice systems in the past. Out of their commitment to systems change, they have also been part of this effort and expressed cautious optimism.
“It’s at the point where this is the best start to building a relationship between the community-based organizations and the police and law enforcement agencies,” Gonzales said. “But I also know that is going to be a really, really hard new model to establish.”
“We have a really strong plan,” McGill said about the effort, which she participated in creating. “But how do we make a dream real in L.A. County?”
Panelist Sean Kennedy, the former director of the federal public defender’s office who now serves as director of the Loyola Law School Center for Juvenile Law and Policy, observed: “I think this is a great start. But, in the past, diversion is often too limited. Too many great kids are excluded.”
Although Leap and the four panelists all said they view the new approach as being a positive development, similar efforts in the past have fallen short in part because of outmoded attitudes that emphasized punishment of youth without dealing with the root causes of their actions.
“Diversion, in my view, isn’t about accountability – although I guess that is a part of it,” Kennedy said. “It’s really about addressing unaddressed trauma, seeking to heal damaged kids, and — and I think this is too often overlooked — education advocacy to deal with problems in the schools where they often first arise.”
Abrams moderated a second panel that focused on the concept of desistance, which relates to efforts by individuals to cease — or at least moderate — the attitudes, behaviors and habits that contributed to criminal justice involvement. Desistance is often defined as the gradual process of establishing a new, crime-free lifestyle.
Terry offered examples from her book with Abrams to illustrate that desistance is far more complicated than simply forcing someone to abide by the law.
“Desistance is a process,” Terry said. “It does not happen linearly; it’s fluid. But it starts with the changes that the young people themselves are trying to make.”
Panelist Harry Grammer is founder and president of New Earth, which provides arts, educational and vocational programs to empower youth ages 13-25 to transform their lives and move toward positive, healthier life choices. He applauded the contributions of academics to the transformative justice movement, but cautioned the many students in attendance against viewing young people only as they fit into groups or populations for statistical purposes.
“This is important if you are going to be doing research or evaluations on anyone,” Grammer said. “If you don’t understand their culture, where they come from, the foods that they eat, who they love in their lives, then there is no way to build a true rapport.”
Chuck Supple, director of the Division of Juvenile Justice for the California Department of Corrections, flew in from the Sacramento area to participate in the panel discussion and express his support for research and policy that changes the ways that society deals with young people who have gotten into trouble.
“We hope to be able to play a part in helping to develop new skills to reduce risk while they are in DJJ, but, more importantly, to be able to build strengths that are going to transcend into the community,” Supple told an audience of about 50 people at UCLA’s James West Alumni Center.
“It’s not just doing no harm, but going back into the community and playing important roles in terms of employment, education and community involvement. It’s helping them to change the very conditions that led to them coming to us in the first place,” he said.
The evening closed with an emphasis on the factors that will play out in the implementation of both the diversion plan and ongoing desistance.
“It’s critical to think about the key themes that emerged from both panels – the importance of paying attention to individual youth as well as the need for lasting systems change,” Leap said. “These two poles are connected, always, by the crucial role played by the community – the nonprofit organizations, the families and the residents – who are all involved and part of the change that is underway.”
From left, Madeline Brozen MA UP '11, associate director of ITS and the Lewis Center; LA Metro Deputy CEO Stephanie Wiggins; UCLA Luskin Urban Planning Professor and ITS faculty fellow Evelyn Blumenberg MA UP '90 PhD '95; Seleta Reynolds, Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) general manager and ITS advisory board member; and Investing in Place Deputy Director Naomi Iwasaki. Photo by Investing in Place
By Will Livesley-O’Neill, UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies
The gender imbalance of transportation planning — a field traditionally dominated by men who designed a system that too often falls short for women and families — was the subject of the second installment of the ongoing Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS) discussion series Transportation is a Women’s Issue on March 7, 2018.
Policymakers, practitioners, scholars and students gathered at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center in downtown Los Angeles for a panel featuring Seleta Reynolds, Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) general manager and ITS advisory board member; LA Metro Deputy CEO Stephanie Wiggins; and UCLA Luskin Urban Planning Professor and ITS faculty fellow Evelyn Blumenberg. Moderating was Investing in Place Deputy Director Naomi Iwasaki.
The transportation system is fundamentally designed to accommodate a 9-to-5 work schedule traditionally associated with higher-income men, panelists said. Even as women’s participation in the labor market has surged, that system continues to ignore the needs of travelers at off-peak hours and those with complex trip-making patterns, who are much likelier to be women, especially lower-income women, they said.
Women and men travel similarly in terms of mode, but Blumenberg said that the purposes are often different: Women make more trips that serve their household — a “trip-chaining” form of travel that can include multiple stops on the same tour — in addition to commuting.
“In most households, women work and have a disproportionate responsibility for the unpaid labor in the home,” Blumenberg said. “It’s really hard to carry out those multiple tasks with public transit, or using a bike, or walking.”
Watch the full panel discussion:
In Los Angeles and beyond, work and household trips usually require access to a car. Transit agencies attempt to reduce congestion by focusing on service during traditional peak commute hours, Reynolds argued, ignoring off-peak travel that could benefit women.
“If what you are solving for is the peak, the peak, the peak, then you’re never going to have a system that has reliable, frequent, comfortable service at the times of day when women need it the most,” she said.
Wiggins said that, too often, transit agencies such as LA Metro have adopted supposedly gender-neutral plans that fail to account for the different travel patterns of women.
“They say that what gets measured gets done, and we haven’t been measuring it at all,” she said. “We have to make sure that we don’t use the planning tools of the past to inform planning for the future.”
To that end, LA Metro’s CEO has approved a recommendation from the agency’s women and girls council to gather data about female passengers and hire a consultant to help develop a gender action plan. As LA Metro embarks on a next-generation study to revisit its bus network amid dramatic ridership decline, Wiggins said that women must be at the table for all levels of decision-making — not just in leadership roles but also in conducting the studies or scheduling service changes. Further research into female travel patterns is required to understand what women and families need and to persuade the federal and state agencies that fund transportation projects to emphasize those needs.
Improving transportation safety is critical for women’s travel. A survey of former riders cited safety as their primary reason for leaving the system, and Wiggins said that LA Metro now examines safety concerns through the lenses of sexual harassment and design. New campaigns with Peace Over Violence and local law enforcement agencies aim to crack down on harassment while applying a gender lens to design. Results could include better lighting at bus stops and transit stations, creation of accommodations for strollers, and changes to where passengers sit on buses and trains to minimize unwanted contact.
Blumenberg noted that better off-peak service requires safer conditions getting to and waiting for transit — lower-income workers are more likely to need to travel at night but often feel unsafe using the bus or train at those times.
Reynolds pointed out that too many futurist conversations about the potential benefits of automated buses and rideshare vehicles fail to recognize that many women will not feel comfortable without a driver, who acts as a chaperone.
“That is a really overlooked value and quality that a transit operator brings,” she said, adding that such discussions perpetuate a male way of thinking about mobility. “Most women, we feel like we move through the world always on guard about sexual harassment or assault.”
Reynolds said that her department’s new strategic plan includes a concerted effort to understand what women are looking for from their transportation system. Then, implementation of pilot programs could lead to larger changes.
LADOT plans to start with after-school transportation, a burden that now largely falls on women to arrange as a result of long-term school budget cuts. A pilot electric car-sharing program in the MacArthur Park neighborhood incorporated local women’s requests for features such as carseats and the ability to add elderly caregivers to family service accounts.
Moving forward, a more comprehensive and inclusive approach to transportation planning is needed, panelists said. That approach should factor in the economic benefits of car access, better off-peak transit service and bike infrastructure catered not just to male preferences, and much more.
Right now, Reynolds said, “we’ve trapped women into finding the one choice that feels safe and comfortable and works for them, because of the design of the system.”
Moderator Jim Newton, left, and Chelsea Manning at the Luskin Lecture on March 5, 2018, at Royce Hall. Photo by Todd Cheney
By Zev Hurwitz
Chelsea Manning, a transgender activist and former U.S. Department of Defense intelligence analyst who was convicted of espionage, spoke at Royce Hall on March 5, 2018. Her Luskin Lecture, “A Conversation with Chelsea Manning,” focused on topics including ethics in public service, transgender rights activism and resistance in light of advancing technologies.
Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for handing over to WikiLeaks sensitive documents that demonstrated human rights abuses related to American military action in Afghanistan and Iraq. While serving her sentence, Manning began her medical transition from male to female after having publicly announced her gender identity.
Her sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama in 2017, after she had served seven years of her sentence. Since her release, Manning has been an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ rights, as well as government transparency. In 2018, she announced her run for the U.S. Senate in Maryland.
Manning spoke with reporters at a press conference prior to the Luskin Lecture. Asked if she had any advice for UCLA students, Manning said: “Think on your own. Don’t read a book and think you know everything. Question yourself and debate other people.”
Manning noted the significance of speaking to a crowd largely made up of students. “I like to speak to students who are going to be in positions of making decisions, or being in media or working with technology,” she said.
Manning said that when she works with students she focuses on topics beyond technology — like civic engagement.
“Not just showing up to a ballot box and casting a vote, but being actually engaged,” she said. “Sometimes that means protesting; sometimes that means resisting, fighting institutional power and authority.”
Manning continued her student outreach the day after the lecture at a workshop sponsored by the Luskin Pride student group. She led about 60 Luskin School students in a wide-ranging dialogue about military tactics in law enforcement, communities abandoned by the left and whether universities are complicit in government surveillance.
“A system is legitimate because you give it legitimacy,” she cautioned the students.
UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura introduced Manning at the Royce Hall lecture and acknowledged the controversial nature of her appearance.
“There are some in this room who think Ms. Manning is a traitor,” Segura said. “A number of UCLA students asked me to rescind her invitation and reminded me that her actions may well have cost the lives of American servicemen and women. For the record, the Luskin School is opposed to treason.
“Others,” he added, “will argue that her actions, laying bare war crimes, acts of torture and the extent of civilian casualties, might well have saved the lives of some of those non-combatants. For the record, the Luskin School is opposed to war crimes.”
Moderator Jim Newton, UCLA Luskin Public Policy lecturer and Blueprint magazine editor, began with a conversation about Manning’s conviction. Manning said she feels her actions reflect her true self.
“I have the same values I’ve always had,” she said. “I acted on those values with the information I had.”
As an intelligence analyst deployed in Iraq, Manning took a data-based approach to the American presence in the country. Over time, she came to understand the humanity behind the data. “It was a slow realization that what I was working with is real,” she told the audience.
At one point, Newton asked Manning if she thought the government had a right to keep secrets.
“Ten years ago I would have said, ‘of course,’ ” Manning said. “But who even makes these classifications?”
Manning went on to discuss what she sees as the political nature of classified information. She spoke at length about the process for data classification and her skepticism about its role in protecting national security.
Newton asked Manning if she sees herself as a role model. Manning said no, and then described the role model she would like to have had, adding she has aspired to be that person, though it has been challenging.
“I went from being homeless to being in college to being in the military to being at war to being in prison,” she said. “I haven’t had the time to do the things people are expected to do.”
Following the lecture, Manning held a question and answer session with Ian Holloway, professor and assistant chair of UCLA Luskin Social Welfare. The fireside chat, which focused largely on Manning’s identity as a gay man and later a transgender woman in the military, was held in front of a small group of UCLA Luskin board members and friends of the School.
Holloway asked Manning about her being a whistleblower. Manning said she didn’t agree with the term.
“I’ve never used the word whistleblower to describe myself,” she said. “I’ve never really related to it because it’s hard to reconcile.”
She added that she felt her actions, regardless of their classification, were just.
“Institutions do fail, and when they do, you can’t rely on them, you have to go around them,” she said.
View a video recorded during Manning’s lecture:
View a video recorded during the fireside chat that followed Manning’s lecture: