The Financial Times quoted Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville on the growing issue of urban congestion. According to Manville, congestion is caused by “a shortage of road: There is more demand for road space than there is space available.” Manville drew a parallel between roads and other utilities like water and gas, explaining that “the big difference between road networks and other utilities is that we don’t meter for use. Consequently, roads are the only type of infrastructure that suffer from regular shortages.” Manville recommends congestion pricing to encourage drivers to make fewer trips or take public transport. He argued that “Americans just drive more than they need to” because of the lack of associated costs of driving. Congestion pricing has been successful in London, Stockholm and Singapore, and New York is planning to implement the policy in 2021.
A study by the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin was featured in a Mercury News article on declining public transportation ridership in the Bay Area. Researchers found that transit ridership in the area fell 5.2% between 2016 and 2018. “Compared to the rest of the country, the Bay Area is doing better, but it is on the decline,” senior research manager Jacob Wasserman noted. The study found that ridership has declined on transit lines that do not serve major job hubs but remains strong in locations such as downtown San Francisco. Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing apps may be contributing to the decline, but the impact is difficult to determine because these companies do not share detailed ridership data, the researchers found. The forthcoming study, which was also featured on ABC and NBC television affiliates in the Bay Area, proposes lowering ticket prices during off-peak hours and building more housing near transit hubs to increase ridership.
Michael Lens, associate professor of urban planning and public policy, joined WBUR Here & Now to discuss the growing housing affordability and homelessness crisis across the country. Some cities have addressed the issue with the implementation of a vacancy tax. However, Lens pointed out that “there is little active data collected on the number of vacant units — and why no one is residing in them.” He stressed the importance of “collecting good and timely data to know exactly what is vacant for how long and why.” Lens also said a vacancy tax is a colorblind solution that fails to get at the core of race and class inequality. “If you think about eviction, if you think about homelessness, if you think about the negative impacts of segregation, this is a problem that is often very concentrated in particular communities amongst households of color,” he said. “And so a vacancy tax is not getting at those root problems.”
A new National Park Service article highlighted the findings of a national park visitor survey co-conducted by the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation in collaboration with Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area staff and volunteers. The survey analyzed equity and access by comparing demographics and geographic characteristics of visitors; travel distance, time and cost to visit; modes of park access; activity engagement; and amenities used or desired. By comparing the results of the 2002 and the 2018 surveys, researchers found that the park has grown not only in popularity but also in the diversity of its visitors. Survey respondents stressed their desire to see improvements in trailhead facilities, including bathrooms, drinking fountains, trash cans, and maps of trailheads and trails. The findings will also be used to better allocate resources throughout the national park.
Michael Storper, distinguished professor of regional and international development in urban planning, spoke to Politifact for an article on claims supporting and opposing controversial Senate Bill 50. The bill would require cities and counties to allow higher-density housing near job and transit centers. Proponents say it would ease the state’s affordable housing crisis; opponents say it would spur gentrification and overcrowd suburban neighborhoods. Storper said SB 50 is based on a “deeply flawed” analysis of what it would take to solve the state’s housing crisis. He said there is some truth to claims that SB 50 would create more luxury housing units. Existing zoning laws in California already permit millions of potential new housing units, but developers choose to build where they know they can make a profit, he said. Under SB 50, he said, developers would be inclined to target wealthy areas and “produce housing at price points that are only accessible to higher-income people.”
Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville was featured in a Boston Globe article discussing the efficacy of congestion pricing as a potential solution to the traffic in Boston. A panel of transportation experts gathered to discuss the issue after Massachusetts Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack remarked that traffic will always be a feature in and around Boston due to the city’s density. Manville argued that, while other strategies can help boost public transit usage, faster drives can best be achieved by implementing some form of toll on drivers. “Traffic congestion is caused by the road not being priced,” he explained, “and the only thing we’ve ever found that reliably makes a dent in that sort of problem is pricing the road.” According to Manville, creating “managed lanes,” where one or more road lanes charge tolls and others remain free, could be “a good stepping stone toward congestion pricing.”
Ian Holloway, associate professor of social welfare, spoke to the infectious disease news site Contagion about legislation in California that could help curb HIV transmission. Senate Bill 159, which was enacted on Jan. 1, is expected to increase access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a medication taken before coming into possible contact with HIV to reduce the risk of infection. The law is intended to increase the availability of the regimen at pharmacies and through Medi-Cal providers. Holloway pointed to research showing significant gaps in access among populations including the state’s Hispanic residents, the group with the largest numbers of new HIV diagnoses, and people between ages 16 and 24. “We expect SB159 to reduce many of the barriers to PrEP uptake,” said Holloway, who has conducted extensive research on health disparities among sexual and gender minority populations. “We hope other states will look to California and see the success of these programs and try to replicate them.”
An article in the Hechinger Report highlighted Assistant Professor of Public Policy R. Jisung Park’s research findings on the relationship between heat and student test performance. Air pollution and heat are becoming increasing concerns as a result of climate change, and research indicates that these factors may inhibit student performance in classrooms. In a study conducted in New York City, Park found that hot testing days reduced students’ performance on Regents exams, which are required for graduation in New York, thus decreasing the probability of a student graduating from high school. He found that students are 10% more likely to fail an exam when the temperature is 90 degrees than when it’s 72 degrees. Park also co-authored a study that examined PSAT scores across the country and found that students “had lower scores if they experienced hotter school days in the years preceding the test, with extreme heat being particularly damaging.”
Jorja Leap, adjunct professor of social welfare and co-founder of the Watts Leadership Institute, was cited in a Los Angeles Daily News report on the city’s crime rate and gang interventions. Leap attended a meeting between South Los Angeles community members and Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore about an investigation finding that some officers falsified data about the city’s gangs. At least 20 officers have been accused of portraying innocent people as gang members in information submitted to the state’s CalGang database. At the meeting, Moore spoke about steps the department will take in light of the investigation. Leap commented that, given its history of brutality in the area, the LAPD struggles to maintain its credibility with the people of South Los Angeles. “Many residents still don’t trust LAPD,” Leap said. “This seems to confirm their worst feelings.”
Juan Matute, deputy director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, spoke to Marketplace about the downsizing of e-scooter company Lime. Lime is reportedly pulling out of 12 cities worldwide and laying off 14% of its workforce. Since their first appearance, Lime scooters have been prevalent in many major cities. However, high maintenance costs have prompted Lime and other e-scooter companies to find ways to improve profitability. Matute noted that the U.S. cities Lime is pulling out of share a common physical obstacle to a sweeping adoption of e-scooters. He noted they are all Sunbelt cities where cars are widely used for transportation. “That makes integrating bikes, scooters and other lower-speed mobility options very challenging,” he said.