Blumenberg on Affordable Car Insurance in California

Evelyn Blumenberg, director of the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies and professor of urban planning, spoke to WalletHub about affordable car insurance in California. Studies have shown that drivers from minority neighborhoods have higher insurance rates than other households, and Blumenberg advised states to regulate insurance companies to minimize such disparities. She also encouraged a transparent system of rate-setting that limits the use of factors not linked to driving safety, such as occupation, education and credit score. Blumenberg also pointed out that many drivers have difficulty understanding the full costs of owning a car, such as out-of-pocket expenses as well as congestion, environmental harms and other social costs. But she noted, “If access to a car increases employment outcomes (as many studies show), then the benefits of having a car must be weighed against the costs.”


 

image of traffic congestion on California freeway

Manville Endorses Pricing to Manage the Roads

Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, spoke to LAist about LA Metro’s plans to study toll lanes on the 405. Manville said he is not surprised toll lanes are being considered — he is surprised it took this long, since Metro express lanes on other freeways generate a lot of money. “It’s really one of Metro’s most successful programs, honestly, and so we should not be surprised or upset that they want to expand it,” he said. Manville predicted that winning public support for the tolls will be a challenge. “Yes, we pay taxes right now to provide the roads,” he said, but “saying that because we’ve already paid to bring the road into existence we shouldn’t use prices to manage it is sort of like saying once you have paid to build a house you shouldn’t be able to sell it at a price.”


 

Phillips and Reber on Virtual College Advising

Meredith Phillips, associate professor of public policy and sociology, and Sarah Reber, associate professor of public policy, wrote a working paper on virtual college advising that was featured on Campus Technology. Their research found that students randomly assigned to virtual advising were more likely to feel supported during the college application process and apply to more four-year colleges, but they were not more likely to be accepted or enrolled in those schools. Their research used Virtual Student Outreach for College Enrollment (V-SOURCE), a virtual counseling program intended to reduce barriers to applying to college for low-income students. Phillips and Reber found that while V-SOURCE increased the number of students completing college application milestones, the improvements were modest. “Ultimately, many low-income students will likely need more hands-on help with the application process or more intensive and expensive interventions addressing fundamental financial, academic and institutional barriers to successfully enroll in and complete college,” the report concluded.


 

Villasenor on 5G Cybersecurity Challenges

John Villasenor, professor of public policy, electrical engineering and management, spoke to the Wall Street Journal about the potential challenges of 5G cybersecurity. While 5G is expected to be 100 times faster than 4G, enabling new technologies and strengthening security, Villasenor remained cautious. He predicted that some cybersecurity risks and vulnerabilities will not be addressed right away. “I’m not very confident that we’re going to be on top of these problems,” he said. “People only get cybersecurity right after they get it wrong. We’re going to learn the hard way, and hopefully the mistakes will not be particularly costly and harmful.”


 

Loukaitou-Sideris on Women-Only Transportation System

Urban Planning Professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris was featured in a Stanford Social Innovation Review article about the success of a women-only transportation program in Papua New Guinea. In 2017, more than 90 percent of women reported being sexually harassed or robbed of their daily earnings by men on public transportation in the South Pacific nation. “It’s a worldwide epidemic,” said Loukaitou-Sideris, who has conducted research on college students and their sexual harassment experiences in transit environments in 18 global cities. “Physical harassment — groping and touching — happens in crowded settings because men feel more emboldened,” she explained. The women-only bus system started with a free-to-ride service called Meri Seif (“Woman Safe”) and added a pay-to-ride service called M-Buses in 2017. It now serves over 600,000 female riders. “For many women, public transportation is their first #MeToo moment,” Loukaitou-Sideris said. Despite its initial success, the program faces challenges including financial sustainability, social acceptance and hostility from men.


De León and Newton on California’s Top Environmental Priorities

Public policy lecturer Jim Newton and policymaker-in-residence Kevin de León shared their energy and environmental priorities for California in 2020 with the Sacramento Bee. Newton highlighted the defense of California’s right to set and enforce emission standards under the Clean Air Act as the most important short-term environmental priority for Gov. Gavin Newsom. The right to set emissions standards has allowed the state to pioneer clean air for the rest of the country for decades, despite backlash from auto companies, he said. De León called California’s reliance on fossil fuels for transportation the “single greatest hurdle to achieving our climate goals.” He recommended incentivizing local governments to build better public transit, sending stronger market signals to drive emissions down, and clearing the path for zero-emission ground shipping. “The jaw-dropping beauty of California’s natural environment will be short-lived if we don’t take action to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels for transportation,” he warned.


image of polluting factory

Environmental Economists Warn EPA Analysis Undermines Pollutant Protections

Roll Call, The Hill and Reuters were among news agencies covering a report finding that an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposal that could lead to an increase in mercury pollution from power plants relied on a flawed analysis. The report was issued by the External Environmental Economics Advisory Committee (E-EEAC), which is co-chaired by JR DeShazo, Public Policy chair and director of UCLA’s Luskin Center for Innovation. The E-EEAC examined the cost-benefit analysis underpinning the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards proposal, which emphasized the cost of pollution controls rather than the overall public health benefits. This approach could lead to legal challenges, the E-EEAC warned. The group, made up of environmental economists, is an independent organization providing guidance to the EPA. It was created after the EPA disbanded its own advisory committee of environmental economists in 2018.


 

Pierce on Presence of Lead in State’s Drinking Water

Gregory Pierce, adjunct professor of urban planning and associate director of research at the Luskin Center for Innovation, spoke to Arizona PBS about the presence of lead in California’s drinking water. California is testing pipes and upgrading plumbing at public schools across the state, the article noted. Nearby homes typically share the same water systems, but “there’s no required testing for these privately owned places, which may result in many people not knowing that the water they are using for showers, cooking and drinking purposes may have lead contamination,” Pierce said. The article cited a UCLA report card on water quality in Los Angeles County, where some residents perceive that their tap water is unsafe. “With the lack of trust in their water, these lower-income residents and areas are now having to rely on water stores, or having to buy drinks such as juice or soda because they believe there are issues with their water.”

The Game Is Rigged, Manville Says

Assistant Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville spoke to the Denver Post about the challenges facing the next general manager of the Regional Transportation District (RTD), which serves Denver, Boulder and surrounding areas in Colorado. The current general manager recently announced that he will step down, and the agency’s board of directors is looking for a replacement who will be able to reverse RTD’s declining ridership. Despite the addition of new commuter rail lines and bus rapid transit services, ridership has dropped nearly 5 percent over the last four years. According to Manville, the greatest challenge will be operating in a “metropolitan area that favors those who drive themselves around.” He warns, “The game is rigged. This is what your next director will face, no matter who he or she is.”


Manville on Proposal to Add Toll Lanes to the 405

Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, spoke to ABC7 News about a proposal to add toll lanes to the 405 Freeway. If approved by the Metropolitan Transit Authority, the lanes would be open to drivers in 2027, in time for the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Manville acknowledged that the toll lanes would be likely to draw opposition, as “a lot of people are very accustomed to the road being free.” But he added, “The only thing anyone has ever found that actually reduces congestion is using prices on the roads. So if we are serious about reducing congestion, something like this is what we have to do.” Manville is on the research faculty of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin.