Congestion-Pricing Ambitions Slowed by ‘Internal Trepidation’

A Wall Street Journal story about legal challenges to a plan to launch a congestion-pricing zone in parts of Manhattan in June cited Michael Manville, chair of Urban Planning at UCLA Luskin. Pending litigation could delay the start of the program, which would charge passenger vehicles $15 during the day and $3.75 at night to enter the zone, with higher tolls for trucks. Many businesses and commuters argue that the program, approved in 2019, is ill-timed because communities continue to struggle in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Congestion-pricing zones have been successfully launched abroad, and transit advocates had hoped that New York’s program would spur action in other U.S. cities. But in places including San Francisco, San Diego and Los Angeles, momentum has slowed. “I would say it’s at a bit of a standstill,” Manvile said. “What’s happened in California, and particularly Los Angeles, is internal trepidation.”


Accusations of Negligence in Shooting by 6-Year-Old

Social Welfare Professor Ron Avi Astor spoke to the Washington Post about legal repercussions from the 2023 shooting of a Virginia teacher by her 6-year-old student. A grand jury indicted a former assistant principal with eight counts of felony child abuse, and the injured teacher has filed a $40 million suit against the school district, alleging negligence on the part of administrators. The former assistant principal is accused of disregarding at least three teachers’ warnings that the first-grader might be carrying a gun. “Maybe 10 or 15 years ago people could say, ‘I wasn’t educated. I didn’t know this could happen. I thought the kid was too young to have a gun,’” Astor said. “But in this day and age with all the data, reporting and training, it’s really problematic for a vice principal not to follow up on these warnings.”


Returning to Work, Revamping Commuting Habits

Smart Cities Dive spoke to UCLA Luskin’s Donald Shoup for an article on companies attempting to change employees’ commuting habits as they return to in-person work. Historically, private car travel has been the predominant way U.S. workers get to work. An estimated 85% of employers offer free on-site parking, compared with just 13% that offer a transit subsidy, the article noted. Increasingly, employers are offering incentives to encourage commuting options including public transit, walking, biking and carpooling — and disincentives to drive alone, including raising the cost of parking. Shoup, a distinguished research professor of urban planning, is a proponent of the “parking cashout.” This system provides employees the option of compensation in the form of cash or other transportation benefits in exchange for giving up their free parking benefit. “All we’re saying is, when you drive, you pay. When you don’t drive, you save,” Shoup said.


New Delays for LAX People Mover

A Los Angeles Times story on delays in the construction of the $2-billion Automated People Mover at LAX cited Jacob Wasserman of the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies. The 2.25-mile elevated train, which will move people to and from airport terminals, parking lots, a rental car facility and the Metro connector, was originally expected to wrap up in 2023, but new forecasts point to an opening in fall of 2025. “The transit connection to LAX has been the white whale of L.A. rail transit. Some of that has to do with the kind of unique politics and financial structures of airports and transit agencies,” Wasserman said. “There are federal rules for [the] Federal Aviation Administration that say airport money has to stay at the airport.” Wasserman also told KNX radio that the People Mover’s opening will be welcomed but would not necessarily fix congestion issues on the airport’s notorious traffic loop.



Voting Rights Project Prevails at U.S. Supreme Court

The UCLA Voting Rights Project scored another legal victory when the United States Supreme Court denied a last-ditch attempt to invalidate a lower court ruling relating to a redistricting map in Washington state that violated the Federal Voting Rights Act. The map would have diluted Latino electoral influence. Sonni Waknin, VRP program manager and voting rights counsel, said in a news release picked up by media outlets that this will lead to a lawful map during the next general election in the Washington Legislature. “This decision guarantees that all voters can participate, assured their votes count on a map adhering to Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. We are proud to advocate for our clients in the Yakima Valley,” Waknin said. The legal victory is among a string of similar actions by the VRP, which is affiliated with the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Insitute and saw two of its leaders — Matt Barreto and Chad Dunn  profiled in a UCLA Magazine story about professors working to guarantee free and fair elections.


Restoring Confidence in New York’s Subway System

UCLA Luskin Interim Dean Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris spoke to the New York Times about strategies to increase safety on New York’s subway system. A string of recent attacks, some involving firearms, have eroded many subway riders’ sense of security. To keep guns out of the subway system, officials should consider stepping up security screenings in ways that affect service as little as possible, said Loukaitou-Sideris, who co-authored a chapter of the 2015 book “Securing Transportation Systems.” In addition to conducting frequent and rigorous bag checks, transit officials could install metal detectors and X-ray machines — a more expensive option but one that the Shanghai Metro has implemented efficiently, Loukaitou-Sideris said. Transportation officials around the world have also been studying the addition of firearm-detecting sensors to fare-collection devices and ticketing machines. “You have to eliminate the opportunity to bring the gun on the train,” Loukaitou-Sideris said.


A Spike in Entrepreneurship Among Latin American Immigrants

Robert Fairlie, chair of UCLA Luskin Public Policy, spoke to the Wall Street Journal about a spike in entrepreneurship among Latin American immigrants, who are starting businesses at more than twice the rate of the U.S. population as a whole. Startups of all types swelled in 2020, as COVID-19 upended work lives, changed consumer behavior and created business opportunities, according to an analysis of U.S. Census data conducted by Fairlie. “COVID has put us on a different trajectory,” he said. One reason that Latin American immigrants have maintained a strong entrepreneurial momentum is their focus on sectors that have experienced increased demand since the onset of the pandemic, including food, services and delivery, Fairlie said.


Hecht Joins Podcast to Discuss Deforestation in Latin America

UCLA Luskin Professor Susanna Hecht joined the LatinNews Podcast to talk about deforestation and other environmental issues in the Amazon. Hecht, a professor of urban planning who also serves as director of the Center for Brazil Studies at UCLA, spoke about the region’s history and the complex dynamics relating to forest resurgence in the tropical world. To begin, she noted with a laugh that the interview was taking place “from climate-battered Southern California. My road is closed from landslides, so just to keep things in proportion, climate change is pretty generalized these days, even in places that view themselves as immune from it.” As the podcast proceeded, she spoke about geopolitical issues and provided an overview of the various types of resource depletion that continue to plague the Amazon and how these practices contribute to climate change. 


A Push to Plant Trees in L.A.’s Hottest Places

Edith de Guzman of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation authored a blog post on a new step-by-step framework to help residents, advocates, city leaders and planners work together on real cooling solutions in the hottest neighborhoods. “Beneath the reputation of Los Angeles as a land of cars, palms and sunshine lies a reality of stark inequalities — including access to trees and shade,” de Guzman wrote for The Equation, the blog of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Nearly 20% of L.A.’s urban forest is concentrated where only 1% of the city’s population lives, endangering lower-income communities and people of color with hotter-feeling summers and poor environmental quality.” de Guzman, a University of California Cooperative Extension specialist on water equity and adaptation policy, stressed the importance of partnering with community members to cool their neighborhoods and combat shade inequity.


Torres-Gil on Fixing the Caregiver Shortage

A Next Avenue series on individuals who are breaking new ground on issues surrounding aging highlighted the work of Fernando Torres-Gil, professor emeritus of social welfare and public policy at UCLA Luskin. Torres-Gil has has served as a senior advisor on aging to three U.S. presidents and has a long record of scholarship and advocacy in the field. He spoke of the urgent need for caregivers for older or disabled Americans, saying that the current workforce is underpaid and undervalued. “Young caregivers now will not work for $12 an hour to take care of a disabled person, not when they can go to In-N-Out and get $18, $19, almost $20 an hour and be better treated, have health insurance and have a job that doesn’t wear them down physically,” Torres-Gil said. He also weighed in on the 2024 election, expressing fears that political campaigns will reduce aging issues to “mudslinging, distortions and lies, no substantive discussion.”