Wachs, Wasserman on Car-Free Streets

Martin Wachs, distinguished professor emeritus of urban planning, spoke to Mashable about the effectiveness of car bans on selected urban thoroughfares. Cities such as New York, San Francisco and Seattle, as well as Oslo, Norway, and Barcelona, Spain, have banned cars from certain roads at certain times, with positive results. Wachs spoke about the growing support for people-friendly streets and unpolluted surroundings. “We are in a period of awakening over safety, quality of life and the nature of our physical environment,” he said. The article also quoted Jacob Wasserman, senior research manager at the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin. A century ago, Los Angeles boasted the nation’s largest electric railway, but city planners abandoned the transit system to launch a system of concrete freeways, the article noted. “I’m a scholar of public transit, but I would never blame someone for taking a car to work because designers designed our city this way,” Wasserman said.

Manville on Limited Success of Public Transit Projects in L.A.

Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville spoke to the Economist about the limited success of recent efforts to improve public transit in Los Angeles. While voters have approved ballot initiatives such as Measure M that have increased funding for public transit, the number of people actually using public transportation has declined. Manville describes public transit as a “safety net for the poor, not a service for most people.” According to Manville, the proportion of households without access to a car has fallen from 10% in 2000 to 7% in 2015, with an even sharper fall among immigrant households. He explained that in order to persuade Angelenos to get out of their cars, “trains and buses must be almost as fast and convenient as driving.” At the recommendation of urban planning experts, the city is now planning a congestion pricing pilot program.

Turner Explores Environmental Benefits of New Urbanism

A CNU Journal article cited Assistant Professor of Urban Planning V. Kelly Turner, one of several scholars who contributed their expertise to the publication of A Research Agenda for New Urbanism. The book highlights research needs from the social, environmental and economic sides of New Urbanism, including transportation, diversity, accessibility and theoretical foundations. Turner highlighted the impact of urbanism on microclimate as a critical area of climate research and stressed the need for “studies that evaluate the role of design in adapting to hotter urban environments.” Some environmental benefits of New Urbanism, including transit-oriented design and reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, have been well-established. However, Turner pointed out the “lack of empirical assessment of the relationship between new urbanist design and ecosystem services, climate adaptation planning and other environmental outcomes.” She recommended establishing field tests at new urban projects in the U.S. and abroad to gather valuable environmental data.

Manville Links Poverty, Car Access and Transit

New Geography article on the links between car access and poverty summarized the conclusions of a paper co-authored by Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville. The paper, which was published in the Journal of Planning Education and Research, argued that proximity to transit does not necessarily correspond with transit use and effectiveness. While 89% of workers live “near transit” in Los Angeles, only 5% of Los Angeles commuters use transit. Furthermore, Manville and co-authors David King and Michael Smart found that U.S. households without access to vehicles have a 70% greater chance of being in poverty than those that have access to vehicles. In addition, they found that the incomes of households without vehicles rise at a lower rate than households with vehicle access. The authors pointed to door-to-door access as the ultimate solution and concluded that universal auto access would lead to less unemployment, less poverty and higher standards of living.

Image of Larry Sanders on a bike

CalGang Stirs Distrust in Community, Leap Argues

Jorja Leap, adjunct professor of social welfare, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the secretive CalGang database. Fifteen individuals placed in the statewide database by the Los Angeles Police Department challenged the designation, and all of their names were removed. One was singer and anti-gang interventionist Larry Sanders, known for his work on Coolio’s hit “Gangsta’s Paradise,” who said he was shocked when informed he had been added to the database. The LAPD says it refers people to CalGang for legitimate reasons, and requests to be removed are rare. “There are very few stories of people getting off the CalGang database,” Leap said. “All of this creates a stew of distrust and people not trying and people not succeeding.”


DeShazo on Future of Electric-Car Infrastructure in Indianapolis

JR DeShazo, director of the Luskin Center for Innovation and professor of public policy, spoke to the Indianapolis Star about the demise of the electric-car-sharing service BlueIndy. The service allowed people to rent a car in one neighborhood and leave it in another for a relatively low cost, but the company never gained traction. After nearly five years of sluggish growth and financial losses, the car service will shut down in May, and the city must decide what to do with the 81 electric car stations that have already been built. City officials are debating between reverting the stations to parking spots or purchasing the charging stations and building upon environmentally friendly infrastructure. According to DeShazo, BlueIndy’s demise creates a potential opportunity for Indianapolis. “Even if the car-share isn’t successful,” he said, “they’ve created a network of charging stations, which can be repurposed to support other charging needs the community might have.”

Villasenor Illustrates Asymmetry in Data Privacy Laws

Public Policy Professor John Villasenor co-authored an article with UC Berkeley Professor Rebecca Wexler describing the dangers of new data privacy laws and their unintended contribution to wrongful convictions. They explain how the “growing volume of data gathered and stored by mobile network providers, social media companies, and location-based app providers has quite rightly spurred interest in updating privacy laws.” However, these laws often favor prosecutors in legal cases, making it easier for them to deploy state power to search for and seize data, while defense attorneys struggle to access the same data using subpoenas. The article for the Brookings Institution’s TechTank blog describes a “fundamental asymmetry”: “While law enforcement can compel the production of data that can help establish guilt, a defendant will have a much harder time compelling the production of data that establish innocence.” The authors recommend drafting laws that accommodate “the legitimate needs of both law enforcement and defense investigations.”

Astor Weighs In on Violence Against Teachers

Social Welfare Professor Ron Avi Astor co-authored an article in the Conversation discussing the findings of an American Psychological Association task force investigation of violence against teachers. The task force surveyed about 3,000 teachers across the country in 2010 to gauge the scope of the issue. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that only 9% of U.S. teachers recounted being threatened with injury, 80% of those surveyed by the APA said they had personally experienced some form of violence or abuse in the past year. The article noted that the discrepancy in statistics could be attributed to teachers choosing not to report incidents of violence out of fear of jeopardizing their jobs. The task force is now focusing on whether the way schools are managed and their overall cultures contribute to the conditions that lead to teacher assaults.

Manville, Monkkonen, Lens Zero In on Single-Family Zoning

A new Sidewalk Talk article on Medium highlighted the main points of a paper written by Associate Professors of Urban Planning Michael Manville, Paavo Monkkonen and Michael Lens arguing for the elimination of single-family housing regulations. The three associate professors wrote the essay for the January issue of the Journal of the American Planning Association, which presented nine different arguments about the future of single-family zoning. The debate over single-family zoning has been fueled by new bills in Maryland, Oregon, Minneapolis and California that have proposed loosening single-family regulations, with limited success. In their paper, Manville, Monkkonen and Lens argue that removing single-family zoning doesn’t prevent single-family homes from being built; this means that developers can continue to build them in response to household preference and market demands. However, “in the 21st century, no city should have any land where nothing can be built except a detached single-family home,” they conclude.

small community in Alaska

Census Change Could Reduce Indigenous Population Count, Akee Finds

The New York Times featured a study conducted by Randall Akee, associate professor of public policy and American Indian studies, in an opinion piece about the 2020 Census. The Census Bureau is testing an algorithm that scrambles the final population count to preserve the confidentiality of individual data records. A test run using records from the last census showed that the algorithm may produce wildly inaccurate numbers for rural areas and minority populations. Akee’s study found this to be true for Native American reservations. On reservations where the population fell below 5,000 people, the algorithm reduced the count of indigenous people by an average of 34%, the study found.