Lewis Center Hosts Talk on Policy Implications of Ridesharing with Lyft


By Alejandra Reyes-Velarde
UCLA Luskin student writer 

On Dec. 8, the Lewis Center hosted a presentation about ridesharing transportation services based on smartphone technology and “access over ownership.” The Center invited Emily Castor, the director of Community Relations at Lyft, to speak about implications for policy and planning as these services begin to increase in density.

Over the last 2.5 years, Lyft has provided over 10 million rides and has affected mobility in several ways. Castor said these services can promote a car-free lifestyle and provide transportation options in underserved areas.

Despite some ideas that Lyft is only available in high socioeconomic neighborhoods, Castor discussed the different ride sharing features Lyft offers and its reliability different areas regardless of socioeconomic profile.

She also provided insight into the new industry’s development and how it will impact consumer behavior. For instance, people’s sensitivity to price presents the potential for systems that allow people going the same direction to share a ride. Adopting this feature in high density areas can reduce the cost for consumers up to 60% and benefit drivers who earn more per ride, she said. These features, such as the Lyft Line system, have already launched in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

“The more people adopt this service, the better match rates customers get,” Castor said.

Though these services and features have much potential for mobility in cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, there are questions remaining about successfully implementing and evolving them. For instance, Lyft’s upcoming launch of incidental carpooling will allow drivers to filter customers to focus on the driver’s designation. However, it is likely this would work best when there are events happening in the area.

“For carpooling to be mainstream, it needs to be flexible, reliable, quick, trustworthy and lucrative,” she said.

Public Policy student Begoña Guereca contributed to this report.


Re-Defining Fatherhood in America’s Inner Cities

15712659775_2823703411_kBy Stan Paul

Researcher Kathryn Edin has long been known for her groundbreaking work on poverty and the lives of women and men in American inner-city neighborhoods. Her qualitative work in communities has gone beyond the numbers – and easy assumptions —  to the heart of issues that evade answers by mere quantitative means.

The Johns Hopkins sociologist, whose work has focused on questions such as “How do single mothers possibly survive on welfare,” has more recently turned her lens on the lives of fathers in the complex area of family formation. Edin, spoke this past week at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, part of the 2014 FEC Public Lecture Series sponsored by the Luskin School and the Center for the Study of Inequality.

In her recent book, Doing the Best I Can: Fathering in the Inner City (co-authored with Timothy Nelson), Edin again goes directly to the communities she studies. There, she hears from the fathers themselves, and looks beyond labels such as “deadbeat dads.”

In giving both the good and bad news, Edin comments, “I’m just telling you how it is.” She reports that that good news is that young men want to embrace fatherhood and that overwhelmingly, their first reaction to news that “she’s pregnant” is positive, even enthusiastic despite being “un-planned.” “They, too, see parenting as a key source of meaning and identity,” said Edin, adding, “Children have a tremendous power to transform young disadvantaged men’s lives.” Whether described as “saints” or “deadbeats,” Edin concedes in her studies of these men, “the typical father is both.”

And, the bad news is that, while the fathers (African American and Caucasian) she interviews describe themselves as happy, the “odds are very long that a father will remain closely connected to this child throughout the life course,” said Edin. In addition, when fathers have children with multiple partners, there may be intense daily contact with one child but little or no contact with others, in conjunction with highly contentious co-parenting relationships, she said. This “serial selective fathering” puts fathers in what Edin calls a family-go-round or the children into a “father-go-round.”

Edin says that despite “how it is” that “we shouldn’t give up,” looking “farther upstream” for solutions to this complex problem. This includes both a “societal change of heart for these men,” to get things started, but also a “call to honor their fatherhood in every stage.”

Edin’s presentation was co-sponsored by the Ralph and Goldy Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies, the Institute for Labor and Employment, the Institute of American Cultures, The Bunche Center for African American Studies, The California Center for Population Research, and the Sociology Family Working Group.


Revitalizing Cities with ‘Urban Acupuncture’ Renowned planner Jaime Lerner shared his views on building cities in Brazil at the inaugural Global Public Affairs at UCLA Luskin lecture.


You could feel the collective breath in the room hold for a brief moment as Jaime Lerner leaned in to the podium and began to speak.

In his calm even tone, Lerner the acclaimed architect, urban planner, and former mayor and governor of Curitaba, Brazil and Parana State credited for fathering a type of planning that is utilized by cities worldwide, gave a short presentation that was equal parts inspirational and educational.

At one moment Jaime waxed poetically on the beauty of cities in the lives of people. The next moment he was encouraging the audience of UCLA students from across campus that their ideas are good enough to be executed now. And another moment, in a review of some of the ways he revitalized areas of Curitaba, Brazil when he was mayor, he revealed the innovative mind of one who is far above the norm. It is no wonder he is the recipient of numerous international awards, and the list of his accomplishments – creating a subway system, building a theater in two months, coming up with a solution for city waste to where it achieved the highest rate of garbage separation in the world in 1989, and much more —  make for very chunky sentences.

Such is the heft that Lerner brought to the evening. It explains the enthusiasm with which his appearance on UCLA campus was received. The event on Oct. 28 titled “Urban Acupuncture & Sustainable L.A.” was co-sponsored by Global Public Affairs at UCLA Luskin, the Department of Urban Planning, the Healthy Campus Initiative, the Center for Brazilian Studies, the Lewis Center, and Island Press.

Lerner began his presentation by noting that in order to make a change in a city, there will need to be political will, solidarity, strategy, and good equation of co-responsibility – knowing how to transform a problem into a solution.

When it comes to building smart cities, Lerner said plans need to respect the identity and socio-diversity of the city.

“For me a city is a structure of living, working, moving, and leisure together,” he said. “When we separate urban functions, when we separate people by income, by ages, by religions, every time we want a more human city we’ll need to mix. Mix functions, uses, ages. Then it becomes more human.”

He explained that the city is the family portrait for the inhabitants, and just because one aspect is unseemly, it can’t just be cut off. Urban acupuncture – making focal pinpricks that revitalize cities quickly – help to provide new energy to cities during the long process of city planning.

Lerner encouraged the audience to reinvigorate their cities by putting their ideas into action.

“Innovation is starting,” he said. “If you try to have all the answers, you will never start.”

He added: “If you want creativity, cut one zero from your budget. If you want sustainability, cut two zeros. If you want solidarity, keep your own identity and respect other’s diversity.”

As for how those ideas can be used in Los Angeles, Lerner said his first innovation would be to start with simple demonstrative effects – building new transportation lines here and there, giving examples of improvements that citizens can grasp on to.

He noted that local planners and students probably already have great ideas for how to improve Los Angeles, but the question is how to organize the ideas

“First of all, I think it’s important to create a scenario – a broad view of the city that everyone or the large majority understands is desirable,” he said. “If they understand, then they will help you to make it happen.”

Lerner emphasized that communication is key to getting inhabitants of a city on board with a collective vision. He recommended starting by teaching children about their city

“Try to have them design their own city. Then they’ll understand their city and respect it better,” he said, adding that teaching children how to live in a city, such as educating them on how to cross streets safely, are only teaching them the rules of automobiles – not about the city itself.

He repeated again that city planning just need to be about starting.

“Planning is not magic…We have to understand we don’t have all the answers. Planning a city is like a trajectory where you start and then you have to leave some room for people to correct you if you’re not on the right track,” he said.

Panelist Seleta Reynolds, the general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, noted that Lerner’s concept of urban acupuncture is used in Los Angeles today. In an interview in the Washington Post, Mayor Eric Garcetti referenced the concept when promoting the “Great Streets” program to improve defined areas of Los Angeles.

Though the projects developed for the Great Streets initiative were conceived of my LADOT members, Reynolds noted that Lerner’s planning concepts are “inherent, embedded in a lot of the ideas that flow through the strategic plan.”

“Those ideas were so powerful that they really have spread so quickly and they’re not bleeding edge anymore,” Reynolds added. “They are the playbook for urban streets and big cities. There’s not really a question of if we should do those things, but how we should do those things.”

When asked about the level of traffic in Los Angeles hampering reliable bus schedules, Reynolds said that buses are impacted when in mixed flow with cars. While it is not a big cost issue to develop bus lanes, it is a design issue that is mired in problems of process, political will, and environmental review, she said.

In the meantime, Reynolds said she expects to see more shared-ride models to be created to provide flexible on-demand transit. However, she said government has a role in making sure there is not too much privatization of public transit.

Paula Daniels, former Senior Advisor to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and current senior fellow on Food Systems, Water, and Climate for the Office of Governor Jerry Brown, said delegations of Los Angeles officials visited Curitiba to see how the city had been revitalized.

“The concept of thinking of things more physiologically, which I think originated in Curitiba, is an important design construct. I do see how that pinprick in Curitiba is already radiating in other ways,” she said. She cited the improvements to the city’s storm water system as an example of a system developed from Lerner’s concepts.

Luskin Center sets out to make L.A. a greener place to live, work The Luskin Center for Innovation has set a goal to produce research that will help Los Angeles become more environmentally sustainable

By Cynthia Lee

Green power. Solar energy incentives. Renewable energy. Smart water systems. Planning for climate change. Clean tech in L.A. For the next three years, the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation has set an ambitious goal to produce research that will help Los Angeles and state and federal agencies reach the Holy Grail of environmental sustainability.

Five Luskin scholars are working on initiatives that could change how residents, businesses, industries and government meet the challenge of living more sustainably. The Luskin center is carrying out a mission that was broadly outlined by Chancellor Gene Block in his inaugural address on May 13, 2008: to marshal the university’s intellectual resources campuswide and work toward intense civic engagement to solve vexing local and regional problems. “I believe that UCLA can have its greatest impact by focusing its expertise from across the campus to comprehensively address problems that plague Los Angeles,” the chancellor told an audience in Royce Hall.

With an agenda packed with six hefty research initiatives, the center is diving into that task under the leadership of its new director, J.R. DeShazo, an environmental economist and associate professor of public policy who also heads the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies. DeShazo took the reins in October when the center moved from the Chancellor’s Office to the School of Public Affairs, a move that took advantage of the school’s outward orientation. “It’s focused on policy solutions, so this is a natural place for us to grow,” DeShazo said. “But even though the center is located here, we’re very cross-disciplinary. We have researchers from chemistry, public health, engineering, the Anderson management school, the Institute of the Environment (IoE) and public policy.”

The five scholars working on the six initiatives are DeShazo; Yoram Cohen, an engineering professor and director of the Water Technology Research Center; Magali Delmas, professor of management and the IoE; Hilary Godwin, professor of environmental health sciences; and Matt Kahn, professor of economics in the departments of Economics and Public Policy and IoE. “We started off by identifying problems that our community is facing and that it can’t solve,” DeShazo said. Then, they asked two questions: “Does UCLA have the research capacity to address this deficit? And can we find a civic partner who can make use of this new knowledge?” Proposals were prioritized by a 16-member advisory board with a broad representation of business and nonprofit executives, elected officials and a media expert. Among the high-profile board members are State Senators Carol Liu and Fran Pavley; Mary Nichols, chairman of the California Air Resources Board; Los Angeles Council President Eric Garcetti and Controller Wendy Greuel; Assemblymember Mike Feuer; John Mack, chairman of the Police Commission; and William Ouchi, professor of the Anderson School and chairman of the Riordan Programs.

“We take our research ideas and develop real-world solutions that can be passed on to a civic partner with whom we can engage and support,” DeShazo said. “We let them carry through with the politics of policy reform as well as the implementation. We don’t get involved in advocacy.” An array of local green research DeShazo recently completed Luskin’s first initiative with his research on designing a solar energy program for L.A. that would minimize costs to ratepayers. His research – the basis of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s new energy policy – proposes a solar feed-in tariff that would help everyone from homeowners and nonprofits to commercial property owners buy solar panels and be able to sell their solar energy to utility companies for a small profit.

Other Luskin research initiatives involve creating smart water systems for Southern California with water reclamation, treatment and reuse (UCLA researcher Cohen will work in partnership with the Metropolitan Water District); helping local governments plan for climate change (DeShazo with the California Air Resources Board and the Southern California Association of Governments); and reducing toxic exposures to nanomaterials in California (Godwin with the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.) In another initiative in partnership with the Mayor’s Office and the California Air Resources Board, researchers are compiling a database of jobs created by clean tech activities in L.A. County and will document best practices that other cities have used to attract and support clean tech development. Luskin’s Kahn is working with the Sacramento Municipal Utility District to pinpoint what determines how much electricity is used by residential and commercial consumers and how the district can market its major green energy programs to increase participation.

Finally, Delmas is looking into whether the Green Business Certification Program approved recently by the City Council will reduce the overall carbon footprint of small businesses. The program offers incentives and assistance to small business owners in L.A. to become more efficient and less wasteful in their everyday practices. Those businesses that meet certain “green” criteria will be certified as being environmentally friendly. Her partner in this venture is the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation Releases Solar Feed-in Tariff Report Informing Renewable Energy Policy in Los Angeles The Luskin Center for Innovation at the UCLA School of Public Affairs unites the intellectual capital of UCLA with the Los Angeles Business Council to publish a report on an effective feed-in tariff system for the greater Los Angeles area

By Minne Ho

The UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation and the Los Angeles Business Council has publicly released the report, “Designing an Effective Feed-in Tariff for Greater Los Angeles.” The report was unveiled yesterday at the Los Angeles Business Council’s Sustainability Summit, attended by hundreds of the city’s elected officials and business, nonprofit, and civic leaders.

J.R. DeShazo, the director UCLA’s Luskin Center for Innovation, has long studied how governments can promote and help implement environmentally friendly energy policies. His recent research on solar energy incentive programs, conducted with Luskin Center research project manager Ryan Matulka and other colleagues at UCLA, has already become the basis for a new energy policy introduced by the city of Los Angeles.

On Monday, March 15, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced an ambitious program to move the city’s energy grid toward renewable energy sources over the next decade. Included in the plan is a provision — based in large part on the Luskin Center research — for a “feed-in tariff,” which would encourage residents to install solar energy systems that are connected to the city’s power grid.

The overall plan would require ratepayers to pay 2.7 cents more per kilowatt hour of electricity consumed, with 0.7 cents of that — a so-called carbon surcharge — going to the city’s Renewable Energy and Efficiency Trust, a lockbox that will specifically fund two types of programs: energy efficiency and the solar power feed-in tariff.

Under the feed-in tariff system, homeowners, farmers, cooperatives and businesses in Los Angeles that install solar panels on homes or other properties could sell solar energy to public utility suppliers. The price paid for this renewable energy would be set at an above-market level that covers the cost of the electricity produced, plus a reasonable profit. “A feed-in tariff initiated in this city has the potential to change the landscape of Los Angeles,” said DeShazo, who is also an associate professor of public policy at the UCLA School of Public Affairs. “If incentivized appropriately, the program could prompt individual property owners and businesses to install solar panels on unused spaces including commercial and industrial rooftops, parking lots, and residential buildings. Our projections show that the end result would be more jobs and a significant move to renewable energy with no net cost burden to the city.”

Feed-in tariffs for solar energy have been implemented in Germany and several other European countries, as well as domestically in cities in Florida and Vermont. The programs have moved these regions to the forefront of clean energy. And while these programs have necessitated slight increases in ratepayers’ monthly electricity bills, they have also generated thousands of new jobs. The mayor estimated that under the program announced Monday, 18,000 new jobs would be generated over the next 10 years. “For Los Angeles to be the cleanest, greenest city, we need participation from every Angeleno,” Villaraigosa said. “We know that dirty fossil fuels will only become more scarce and more expensive in the years to come. This helps move us toward renewable energy while at the same time creating new jobs.”

The new program had its genesis last year, when Villaraigosa announced a long-term, comprehensive solar plan intended to help meet the city’s future clean energy needs. The plan included a proposal for a solar feed-in tariff program administered by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. In September 2009, the Los Angeles Business Council created a Solar Working Group consisting of leaders in the private, environmental and educational sectors in Los Angeles County to investigate the promise of the feed-in tariff for Los Angeles and commissioned the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation to lead the investigation. In addition to DeShazo and Matulka, the working group also included Sean Hecht and Cara Horowitz from the UCLA School of Law’s Emmett Center on Climate Change and the Environment. The first phase of their research examined current models operating in Germany, Spain, Canada, Vermont and Florida to propose guidelines for a feed-in tariff design. The second phase looks at the potential participation rates in a large-scale solar feed-in tariff program in Los Angeles and its impact on clean energy in the Los Angeles basin.

The Luskin Center for Innovation at the UCLA School of Public Affairs unites the intellectual capital of UCLA with forward-looking civic leaders in Los Angeles to address urgent public issues and actively work toward solutions. The center’s current focus in on issues of environmental sustainability.