Autonomous Vehicles Are on the Way. Are Cities Ready? UCLA Downtown Los Angeles Forum on Transportation, Land Use and the Environment focuses on planning for the connected movement of people and goods

By Stan Paul

Autonomous vehicles, once considered science fiction, are quickly becoming a reality.

With the technology and testing of driverless cars and trucks progressing rapidly, private industry is investing. At the same time, planners and policy makers are confronting another challenge: How will technology, policy, governmental legislation and industry practices come together to make the potential benefits of autonomous transportation a reality that is responsible, equitable and good for the environment?

To address these issues, two UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs research centers — the Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS) and the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies — used their April 13, 2007 transportation conference to focus on the implications of autonomous vehicles. The 10th UCLA Downtown Los Angeles Forum on Transportation, Land Use and the Environment brought together speakers representing the technology industry, along with planning researchers, and practitioners in the government and private sectors.

This year’s downtown forum, held at the California Endowment Los Angeles Conference Center was titled, “Steering Connected and Automated Mobility in the Right Direction.” Speakers and expert panels provided a look at the policy aspects of ridesharing and driverless transportation, from liability and equality viewpoints to greenhouse gas emissions and infrastructure. The panelists also discussed how the anticipated disruption of autonomous vehicles might play out locally, across California and around the nation.

Lauren Isaac, director of business initiatives for EasyMile, a high-tech mobility startup, discussed how connected and automated technologies may shape the future.

“What the data shows is that there needs to be either a costs savings or a time savings” to get people to participate, Isaac said. “There needs to be some benefit to a user to make that decision. The good thing is because of the way technology is evolving there’s great potential for both.”

Governments also play a part by providing HOV lanes and infrastructure for a faster ride, she said. “I think those are the kinds of levers that both technology providers and government can pull.”

Isaac said that freight companies will most likely be the No. 1 sector among the early adopters. “That industry is really interested in this,” she said, citing a shortage of drivers and huge cost savings that could come from moving goods this way.

“On the passenger side, I think without question we’re seeing the best response come from the younger generation,” she said, noting that there is also significant interest from the senior and disabled communities. “That being said, the challenge is how do you transfer people in wheelchairs or if they need additional help? People still rely on humans to get into the vehicles. So there’s still a lot of issues to work out around the para-transit piece,” Isaac said.

Chris Ganson, a senior planner from the California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, described some of the research he has seen. “The plus side here is — with a lot of this kind of thinking on automated vehicles — it’s really kind of this funny combination of research and futurism that’s going on,” Ganson said. “We’re extrapolating from our current experiences to try to figure out what things might be like in the future, and what we might need to do about them, but there is a lot of convergence in that thinking.”

Despite this, he said, “We have some tough things to do policywise and politically to receive these autonomous vehicles into our society.”

Ganson also said that it makes sense to be proactive while planning for the future. “While you’re repaving … or building a new transit system, adding the technology now saves 10 times the cost of putting it in later,” he said.

Maya Buenaventura, assistant policy analyst at the RAND Corp., provided a quick primer on common law, tort law and liability issues that would come with taking humans out of the driver’s seat, as well as product liability issues for manufacturers of autonomous cars and parts. There may be some uncertainty in the details initially, she explained, but many of the longstanding concepts of common law that apply to personal injury and property damage would also apply to autonomous vehicles.

“The outcome might not be optimal from a social welfare perspective right away,” she said. “Judges need to start thinking in the long term — what are the long-term costs and benefits — if this is something they’re just going to pick up as autonomous vehicles get introduced. But it is not clear that there are any better options.

“Another thing that we’ve come to realize is the identity of potential defendants isn’t going to be very different when autonomous vehicles are introduced,” Buenaventura added. “There’s still going to be, potentially, lawsuits against the driver, against manufacturers, against the component part manufacturers. And suits against these defendants already exist today.”

For Eric Shaw, director of the Washington, D.C., Office of Planning, “This question of why we want to be ‘smart’ in the first place is actually a question we haven’t answered yet. For us, it’s not just smart vehicles, it’s smart planning. We need to understand how to be smart.”

Shaw, a pre-Luskin 1998 UCLA graduate minored in what was then policy studies, said his city’s overarching commitment is to spatial and racial equity, which must be balanced with the goal of livability, new innovation and understanding urban efficiency.

“We are having crazy growth in our city,” Shaw said of Washington. “We’re a historic city, one of the oldest cities in the nation. We’re one of the most planned cities in the nation.”

With equity and access in mind, Shaw pointed out that the nation’s capital has a huge income disparity. He asked whether creating a system around pricing automatically creates a system that excludes the city’s low-income residents.

With this in mind, Shaw said that his department was looking at a number of scenarios for the city’s future.

“We’re not afraid to test; we’re not afraid to pilot. So we are looking at some of the best practices, looking at ideas of shared mobility and performance, and we’re not afraid to get it all right before we do that,” Shaw added. “We’re OK to test and take some risks, but with the same question right now — racial equity, spatial equity of land use of the built environment.”

Brian D. Taylor, professor of urban planning and director of both the ITS and the Lewis Center, pointed out the importance of addressing the issues covered in the forum.

“The presentations and discussion made clear that the rise of shared, connected and autonomous vehicles poses significant new challenges for transportation planners and policymakers, and in addition cast existing challenges into sharper relief,” Taylor said. “Addressing these challenges head-on today will help to ensure that we steer these new systems in the right direction.”

Getting Transportation Forecasts Right — as Often as Possible In 10th annual Martin Wachs Distinguished Lecture, Professor Joseph Schofer of Northwestern University says systematic learning from experience is vital when predicting the outcome of major infrastructure projects

By Les Dunseith

In the realm of transportation planning, significant time, effort and money go into the process of forecasting, but the gap between predicted outcomes and reality remains a persistent problem for many projects.

“Forecasts don’t always get it right,” said Joseph Schofer, professor of civil and environmental engineering and associate dean of faculty affairs at Northwestern University. Schofer spoke on the topic of forecasting the future during the 10th annual Martin Wachs Distinguished Lecture, held at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs on April 4, 2017.

The Wachs Distinguished Lecture features prominent and innovative scholars and policy makers who draw on many years of research and thinking in the field of transportation. Created by the students in honor of Emeriti Professor Wachs, the lecture rotates between UCLA and UC Berkeley, respectively.

This year’s lecture invitee, Joe Schofer, provided a wide-ranging view about forecasting – a prominent feature of transportation planning. In Schofer’s talk titled “When Forecasting Fails: Making Infrastructure Decisions in an Uncertain World,” he explained that learning to accept the inherent limitations of the forecasting process is a necessary first step in helping planners improve their predictions of cost, utilization, performance and impact.

“Don’t expect that the gap between predicted outcomes and reality is going to get really small,” Schofer told a crowd of more than 50 scholars, planning professionals and transportation decision-makers who came to hear him. “The world is changing at a faster and faster pace. And those big sources of uncertainty — sources of risk — often are outside the transportation system.”

Schofer’s lecture focused less on the shortcomings of forecasting than on “improving decisions by systematic learning from experience,” as Brian Taylor, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies and professor of urban planning, described the topic during his introduction of Schofer.

Schofer acknowledged the significance of the occasion during his opening remarks, taking a moment to recognize the presence in the audience of his “dear friend and colleague of a lot of years. This is not just another lecture. It’s me giving the Martin Wachs lecture,” said Schofer, who also cited Wachs’ “immeasurable impact on ideas in transportation, transportation planning, transportation policy and transportation finance.”

On Limitiations

In his lecture, Schofer focused on “what we can do in a situation where we don’t always get it right.”

For starters, he said, planners need to understand that they can never know everything there is to know about the dynamics of human behavior. It’s also important to keep in mind the rapid pace of change in today’s world.

“Changes that are going on right now literally make it impossible to forecast what the future is going to be like,” Schofer said. He pointed to examples such as the proliferation of cellphones, which enhance the speed of communication but negatively impact the capacity to do telephone-based polling research.

Schofer also pointed to other factors that limit forecast accuracy. “Data aren’t complete. There might be better models that we can use. Perhaps those models are not even available to us yet,” he said.

Although transportation experts are making strides and “using better and better data all the time, it’s not a calculus problem; we will not get infinitely close to zero error,” Schofer said.

He also noted that it’s common for forecasts to be impacted by unforeseen factors. For instance, major infrastructure projects often experience cost overruns and construction delays when previously unknown grave sites of historical or cultural significance are found during excavation.

On Being Grounded

Dealing with uncertainty may be avoided if planners make an effort to ground their projects firmly in the reality of previous experience. When forecasting a new project, planners must “ground that by finding out what someone else has experienced,” Schofer said.

The idea of looking at case studies and data related to past events is an essential element of evidence-based decision making, he said.

Some projects face the added complication of being based on visionary thinking — the “visionary ideas of interesting people,” he said. “It’s very difficult in a forecasting situation to go against that because you are dealing with somebody who has a firmly held vision, who is really committed to a particular idea.”

The goals of a visionary leader may outweigh an expert’s forecasts in the decision-making process, Schofer noted. The upside, he said, is that a diligent and resourceful planner can seize the opportunity in these situations to approach that visionary leader directly.

“You may be able to get his or her attention, which may be an opportunity to talk about a more realistic forecast,” Schofer said.

In most circumstances, however, it’s data that drives forecasting, and Schofer said he has seen some promising signs in getting access to better and more useful information.

Among the notable efforts he cited was a federal effort to mine existing administrative data, not to collect new information, to make better-informed decisions during evaluation of social programs.

In the medical field, he noted an effort known as the Cochrane Collaboration that is a loose confederation of people in medical research around the world who have an agreement to produce evidence-based information and to advocate for sharing of that information.

“A bunch of people around the world who have agreed to share data, agreed to work together, are bringing together data from a variety of studies to amplify the impact of that data,” Schofer said.

It’s a model that could easily translate to transportation planning, he said, an “opportunity to look at cases, to bring cases together, and to codify that.”

Schofer envisions a sharing of information among scholars, doctoral researchers, professionals and, perhaps, even journalists, in which information about the success or failure of infrastructure projects would be gathered into a database that could be accessed by “every one of us who wants to ask the question, “How well is this going to work in my town?’”

The shared data would be available for forecasters to evaluate, either analytically or qualitatively, and decide if there’s something useful from which they can learn.

For this type of case-based reasoning, it’s important to have a large dataset from which to draw conclusions. It’s also important for the cases to be kept up-to-date.

“The cases that we studied two years ago or 10 years ago, those are dead,” Schofer said. “We have to look at what’s happening right now.”

On Being Flexible

Given the limitations they face, Schofer said, it’s also important for transportation forecasters to be flexible in their thinking. In his lecture, he called this strategic incrementalism.

Think of it as hedging against uncertainty, he said, “getting ready for something different to happen that you didn’t expect to happen, and maybe putting some dollars against it, so that you are ready for it. So you can preserve future flexibility.”

In practical terms, this might mean erecting a building at a certain height but with the foundation and structure to allow it to become taller should the need for additional space later arise. It could mean building a bridge with one roadway but adequate architectural support to add a second deck later.

It means taking a long view when building major infrastructure projects, then monitoring, collecting data and watching closely to see how the new project actually gets used. If a project has design flexibility in the beginning, any future expansions can proceed at greater speed and at lower cost.

“We have to convey the notion of flexibility and adaptability and real options with the public and decision-makers,” Schofer said. “What you need to say is: “Let’s be a little looser about this, a little more flexible, to get what you really need.’”

Making better decisions in an uncertain world, Schofer said, involves collecting, analyzing and sharing as much data as planners can. Better information leads to better forecasting.

“In the end,” Schofer said, “it’s all about learning.”

 

Luskin Lecture Peers Into Future of an Aging America AARP’s Jo Ann Jenkins urges society to ‘disrupt aging’ with a fresh outlook on the nation’s increasingly older population — and how society must change as a result

By Les Dunseith

The number of Americans age 85 and older now constitutes the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population.

The second-fastest growing age group? Those age 100 and older.

The impact on society of increased longevity thanks to advances in medicine and healthier lifestyles was a centerpiece of a presentation by Jo Ann Jenkins, CEO of AARP, as part of the Meyer and Renee Luskin Lecture Series held Feb. 7, 2017.

Jenkins, whose bestselling book “Disrupt Aging” also served as the title for her lecture, talked about the necessity to rethink how we view the aging process in the years ahead.

“It’s not just about adding years to the end of life. It’s about changing the way we live throughout our lives,” Jenkins told a crowd of more than 200 people at Skirball Cultural Center. “Our ability to live longer, healthier and more productive lives is one of mankind’s greatest accomplishments. And yet we don’t see it that way. We often view it as a problem rather than an accomplishment.”

She urged the audience to think about a youngster they know today, perhaps a child or grandchild around 10 years old. Current research thinking predicts that child will have about a 50/50 chance of living to be 100.

She also noted that gerontology experts speculate that the first person who will live to be age 150 has already been born. “In this audience,” she joked, and the room erupted in laughter.

Her point, of course, is that increased longevity for a significant portion of the population not only impacts healthcare and public policy and the infrastructure of communities, but also the way people deal with the aging process and its impacts on their loved ones and themselves.

“The way people are aging is changing, but our attitudes and our stereotypes have not changed,” Jenkins said in an interview prior to the lecture. “I would like for us to be this ageless society. So that regardless of your age, you are judged on the quality of your mind and what you bring to the workplace, or what you bring into the environment. And that it’s not about being a particular age.”

Coping with the societal impact of the demographic reality is a challenge that “we find ourselves woefully unprepared” to deal with, said UCLA Luskin urban planning professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, who is also UCLA’s associate provost for academic planning. “Most seniors live in cities, but the cities are not really designed, planned or developed for them.”

New policies and approaches are needed to successfully adjust to an aging population. “Older adults are equal citizens who have a right to expect the same rights and benefits and amenities from cities as other groups,” Loukaitou-Sideris said. “This is not yet happening. The onus is on the people who are the city builders, the policymakers, the planners, the politicians.”

Because those are the types of people who work and study at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, hosting a visit by Jenkins was a natural fit. She is the CEO of an influential national organization that has about 38 million members over age 50.

The Luskin Lecture by Jenkins was also an example of a growing relationship between the university and AARP that was fostered by Fernando Torres-Gil, professor of social welfare and public policy, over the past few years while he served on the organization’s board of directors.

“UCLA is the premier university when it comes to geriatrics and the biomedical side of gerontology,” Torres-Gil said in advance of the lecture. “UCLA, as a university, has tremendous research strength in issues of aging.”

AARP is “beginning to understand what we can do for them,” he said about UCLA and its research, educational and planning capabilities. “In a nation becoming old and moving to majority-minority status, AARP needs to take a leadership role in responding to multicultural populations and the nexus with aging.”

People at UCLA in fields of study such as medicine, gerontology, public policy and urban planning “have an enormous opportunity to rethink the course of life,” Jenkins said. “If we are going to live to be 100, how might that change the way we educate — not only the youth, but all of us — throughout the lifespan?”

California and Los Angeles, in particular, present a perfect opportunity for organizations such as AARP to achieve a better understanding of the needs of older Americans from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. One aspect of that effort is a $300,000 grant from AARP to help fund the research of faculty members such as Loukaitou-Sideris, whose studies of the public environment in and around cities have previously noted shortcomings related to the needs of older residents, particularly those in minority populations.

In a question and answer session that followed the lecture and was moderated by Torres-Gil, he asked for Jenkins’ perspective on diversity given the fact that so many of those entering old age are from ethnic minority populations.

“We at AARP have a huge role to play in showing how nonprofit organizations ought to be community partners at the local level,” Jenkins responded. “Our goal at AARP is to be in your life every day, concerned about the issues that are important to you, not just necessarily about what’s important to AARP. And that absolutely includes diverse communities all across this country.”

Not only are people living longer, but their expectations for quality of life are changing as well. This notion of rethinking what it means to grow old is one that Jenkins has championed since she became the leader of AARP in 2014, and it is the core message of “Disrupt Aging.”

“We ought to accept our age and feel good about where we are in life,” Jenkins said. “Among our members, many of them are not retiring. They might be leaving a particular job, but it’s to do something different.”

Still, she noted, American society is obsessed with age. When people are asked what they are most likely to lie about, age is the top answer. “But what if we could eliminate our preoccupation with a number? For example, what if we decided that middle age started at 65? What would that do to your own preconceptions?” Jenkins asked.

“It’s not our own aging that we need to fight against,” Jenkins said during the lecture. “It’s the ageist attitudes and perceptions that permeate society and play such a huge role in our culture.”

She acknowledged that aging does create challenges that older Americans wrestle with every day. “As we get older, many of us find things that we have always taken for granted more difficult to achieve,” she said. “Our wants and our needs change, but our environment does not always adapt to address those changes.”

In her view, the capacity to deal successfully with that reality is an issue that impacts individuals, governments and businesses in equal measure. “We blame ourselves. Instead of changing our environment to fit our needs, we bemoan getting older,” she said.

Efforts by AARP and by researchers such as Loukaitou-Sideris seek ways to make communities more livable for an aging population. Jenkins cited a research example that focuses on the fact that many older people have trouble getting in and out of a car.

“We attribute it to the weakening of the leg muscles and the loss of sense of balance rather than considering the inadequacies of a car seat that does not swivel and allow us to emerge straight forward rather than trying to slide out of the car sideways,” Jenkins said. “Car seats were not made with a 75-year-old in mind.”

The idea of refocusing our thinking to better accommodate an aging population also applies to communities and housing. Today, more people are living into their 80s and 90s and want to stay in their homes as long as possible.

“Basic access should be built into the homes, just like wiring and plumbing,” Jenkins said. “Living in a community with services nearby and having a home that accommodates our needs are tremendous assets for those of us who want to age in place.”

Luskin Lecture to Peer Into Future of an Aging America Speaker Jo Ann Jenkins seeks to ‘disrupt aging’ with a fresh outlook on the nation’s increasingly older population – and how society will change as a result

By Les Dunseith

Thanks to advances in medicine, the number of Americans age 65 or older is expected to double in the next 25 years, and the oldest of the old – those 85 and older – now constitute the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population, according to the National Institute on Aging.

Coping with the societal impact of this demographic reality is a challenge that “we find ourselves woefully unprepared” to deal with, said UCLA Luskin urban planning professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, who is also UCLA’s associate provost for academic planning. “Most seniors live in cities, but the cities are not really designed, planned or developed for them.”

New policies will be needed to successfully adjust to an aging population, and a key player in helping to shape those policies is the next Meyer and Renee Luskin Lecture speaker, AARP’s Jo Ann Jenkins. She is the CEO of an influential national organization that has more than 37 million members over age 50.

During her lecture at Skirball Cultural Center at 6 p.m. on Feb. 7, Jenkins will talk about the transformation of AARP into a leader in social change, dedicated to enhancing quality of life for people as they age.

“She will convey very clearly that older adults are equal citizens who have a right to expect the same rights and benefits and amenities from cities as other groups,” Loukaitou-Sideris said. “This is not yet happening. The onus is on the people who are the city builders, the policymakers, the planners, the politicians.”

Because those are the types of people who work and study at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, hosting a visit by Jenkins was a natural fit. But her presentation about AARP will also be of interest to staff, faculty and students in many other departments on campus.

“UCLA is the premier university when it comes to geriatrics and the biomedical side of gerontology,” said Fernando Torres-Gil, professor of social welfare and public policy. “UCLA, as a university, has tremendous research strength in issues of aging.”

The Luskin Lecture by Jenkins is an example of a growing relationship between the university and AARP that was fostered by Torres-Gil over the past few years while he served on the organization’s board of directors.

AARP is “beginning to understand what we can do for them,” he said about UCLA. “In a nation becoming old and moving to majority-minority status, AARP needs to take a leadership role in responding to multicultural populations and the nexus with aging.”

California, and Los Angeles in particular, present a perfect opportunity for organizations such as AARP to achieve a better understanding of the needs of older Americans from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. One aspect of that effort is a $300,000 grant from AARP to help fund the research of faculty members such as Loukaitou-Sideris, whose studies of the public environment in and around cities have previously noted shortcomings related to the needs of older residents.

For example, because of a lack of public transit options, many elderly people are reluctant to give up driving their cars even when continuing to do so presents a safety concern for themselves and others.

“The truth of the matter is that American cities, and especially West Coast cities that have built so much around the automobile, are not age-friendly cities,” Loukaitou-Sideris said.

Not only are people living longer, but their expectations for quality of life are changing as well. This notion of re-thinking what it means to grow old is one that Jenkins has championed since she became the leader of AARP in 2014, and it is the core message of the bestselling book, “Disrupt Aging,” that will also serve as the topic for her UCLA lecture at Skirball Cultural Center.

In Jenkins’ view, people need to challenge the negative stories often associated with getting older. Her book chronicles Jenkins’ own journey, as well as those of other individuals who are working to change what it means to age in America.

Jenkins has been described as a visionary and thought leader, a catalyst for breakthrough results, accelerating progress and contribution while fostering positive relationships inside and outside her organization, according to Tammy Borrero, UCLA Luskin’s director of events.

The societal evolution that Jenkins and AARP envision cannot be accomplished through words alone, of course. “You want to disrupt aging – this can be your desire – but you really need to have design, planning and policy in place to do that,” Loukaitou-Sideris said. “And that’s where UCLA Luskin comes in.”

Jenkins’ UCLA Luskin Lecture is free and open to all, but an advance RSVP is required for admittance. Details can be found here.

A Multimillion-Dollar Boost to Tackle Transportation Challenges Grant will support UCLA Luskin’s Institute of Transportation Studies as part of a research collaboration in a new regional center

By Stan Paul

Thanks to a multimillion-dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, faculty, staff researchers, and students affiliated with the UCLA Luskin Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS) will be part of a new regional transportation center that will tackle some of the most important transportation issues facing America.

“Universities are at the forefront of identifying solutions, researching critical emerging issues and ensuring improved access to opportunity for all Americans,” U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx said in announcing more than $300 million in grants to 32 University Transportation Centers (UTCs) nationwide, selected from among 212 proposals submitted. “This competition supports the future transportation workforce by providing students with opportunities to take part in cutting-edge research with leading experts in the field.”

UCLA Luskin’s ITS will collaborate on this new center with USC and universities in four states — California, Nevada, Arizona, and Hawaii — as well as the U.S. Pacific Island territories. The new Pacific Southwest Region University Transportation Center is one of ten new federal regional centers, and will focus on transportation issues facing the southwestern and Pacific regions of the U.S.

“We are thrilled to be a partner in this new university transportation research center, and by the opportunity it presents to our faculty and students to conduct needed research on the many transportation challenges facing our region,” said Brian Taylor UP PhD ’92, director of the UCLA ITS and a professor of Urban Planning at UCLA Luskin. Taylor noted that the new center will address new transportation technologies, improving mobility for vulnerable populations, improving transportation system resilience and protecting the environment, and managing mobility in high-growth urban areas.

“This new center will help the Institute of Transportation Studies continue to recruit the best and the brightest transportation students to UCLA for graduate study, and it will in addition support both faculty and students across the campus in conducting a wide range of research projects — from harnessing the benefits of cleaner technology-driven smart mobility, to better serving the mobility needs of the poor,” explained Taylor, who also leads the Luskin School’s Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies.

The five-year, $14-million DOT grant will be matched by an additional $14 million from the California Department of Transportation and other sources to support a wide array of research, education and technology transfer programs at the consortium member universities. Taylor said the new center will bring at least $500,000 per year to UCLA, with more than half of that amount funding graduate student fellowships and research projects.

The new Pacific Southwest Region UTC will be directed by USC professor Genevieve Giuliano, who in winter and spring of 2016 was the Harvey Perloff Distinguished Visiting Professor of Urban Planning in the UCLA Luskin School. The other participating institutions in the consortium are Cal State Long Beach, UC Davis, UC Irvine, the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Northern Arizona University and Pima Community College.

 

The Problems and Possibilities of Parking Highlights of the latest issue of the Lewis Center’s ACCESS magazine

By John A. Mathews

The UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs brings you a special edition of ACCESS dedicated to the most controversial topic in transportation: parking. Parking invokes immediate emotional responses. We experience joy when a stranger gives us his or her parking spot and rage when someone steals a space we waited 20 minutes for. And what better thrill is there than running to your car to feed the meter just in time to avoid a ticket?

The issues surrounding parking, however, go beyond our immediate reactions. Parking takes up valuable space that could go to better use. It can cause congestion and inflict additional costs on people who can’t even afford to own cars. But parking can also bring social benefits to a community. In this issue, ACCESS explores the good, the bad and the ugly of parking.

Parking as far as the eye can see

Whether you’re building a bar, a hair salon, or a zoo, you will have to build parking spaces to go with it. Now, after decades of development under excessive minimum parking requirements, parking dominates our cities. But how much parking is there really?

In their article, “Do Cities Have Too Much Parking?” Andrew Fraser, Mikhail Chester, Juan Matute and Ram Pendyala explore the distribution of parking in Los Angeles County and how the county’s parking infrastructure evolved over time. The authors found that, as of 2010, Los Angeles County had 18.6 million parking spaces. This amounts to more than 200 square miles of parking, or 14 percent of the county’s incorporated land area. So now the question is: Do we really need all of this parking?

Fraser is a postdoctoral researcher in Civil, Environmental and Sustainable Engineering at Arizona State University. Chester is associate professor in Civil, Environmental and Sustainable Engineering at Arizona State University. Matute is associate director of the Lewis Center and the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs. Pendyala is a professor of Civil, Environmental and Sustainable Engineering at Arizona State University.

Keeping people from cruising

One possible solution to cruising for parking comes in the form of performance-based pricing, where the rate at the parking meter changes based on demand. The theory is that, with the right price, there will always be one or two empty spaces for drivers to park. Drivers can then park sooner instead of cruising for parking over longer distances, causing additional congestion. But do performance-based pricing programs actually help reduce cruising?

In “Cruising for Parking: Lessons from San Francisco,” Adam Millard-Ball, Rachel Weinberger and Robert Hampshire evaluate whether SFpark, San Francisco’s performance-based pricing initiative, actually reduced cruising. By simulating parking occupancy using parking sensor data, block length, and the probability that a block is full, the authors were able to conclude that SFpark did indeed work. The average cruising distance fell by 50 percent, but people don’t cruise as far as they think.

Millard-Ball is assistant professor in the Environmental Studies Department at UC Santa Cruz. Weinberger is a transportation consultant based in New York City. Hampshire is assistant research professor in the Transportation Research Group at the University of Michigan.

Parking theories versus parking practice

The idea is simple: Charge more for parking and you should get more open parking spaces. Charge less for parking and parking spaces should fill up. But does this theory play out in the real world?

In their article, “Market-Priced Parking in Theory and Practice,” Michael Manville and Daniel Chatman evaluate how San Francisco’s market-priced parking program affected parking occupancy and cruising. They found that, when parking prices rose on a block, the block’s “average occupancy rate” for parking fell. The problem, however, is that drivers look for vacant parking spaces, not average occupancy rates. The longer the time included in average parking occupancy rates, the more misleading they can be.

Manville is assistant professor in the Department of Urban Planning at UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs. Chatman is associate professor in the Department of City and Regional Planning at the UC Berkeley.

Making do with less

When you’re in a crowded parking lot trying to get in some holiday shopping, you might think there’s not enough parking. But if you drive around that same parking lot after hours, you can see the vast waste of space that occurs daily.

In his latest article, “Parking Management for Smart Growth,” Rick Willson asks how we can transition from too much parking to a more efficient use of a smaller parking supply. He argues that transportation demand management can reduce parking demand by encouraging drivers to carpool, walk, bike, or take public transit. Parking management strategies can further reduce the number of parking spaces needed through increased space efficiency. The use of sensors and sophisticated pricing meters can ensure open parking spots and help drivers find them.

Willson is professor of Urban and Regional Planning at Cal Poly Pomona, and a Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners.

London changes its parking requirements

Do we build so much parking because it’s needed or because it’s required? Parking theorists say that the market would provide fewer parking spaces if parking requirements did not exist. The evidence of this has been inconclusive, however, until now.

In his article, “From Parking Minimums to Parking Maximums in London,” Zhan Guo evaluates what happened after London reversed its parking requirements in 2004. The city removed the previous minimum parking requirements and instead adopted new maximum requirements for all metropolitan developments. What’s interesting is that the new maximum parking limits were often lower than the previous minimum requirements. What’s even more interesting is that most developments provided far less than the maximum limit allowed. This means that, with the previous minimum parking requirements, London was requiring far more parking than the market demanded.

Guo is associate professor of Urban Planning and Transportation Policy at the Wagner School of Public Service, New York University.

Parking: the new beachfront property

Many commercial areas have implemented Parking Benefit Districts that spend meter revenue for public services in the metered areas. But can Parking Benefit Districts work in purely residential neighborhoods as well?

In his article, “Parking Benefit Districts,” Donald Shoup argues that a residential Parking Benefit District can manage on-street parking and provide a neighborhood with revenue to clean and repair sidewalks, plant trees, and remove grime from subway stations. He also argues that residential Parking Benefit Districts can help unbundle the cost of parking from the cost of housing to create more affordable housing. If cities manage their curb parking as valuable real estate, they can stop subsidizing cars, congestion, pollution, and carbon emissions, and instead provide better public services and more affordable housing.

Shoup is editor of ACCESS and Distinguished Professor of Urban Planning in UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs.

A Transportation Research Honor, ‘With Distinction’ Urban Planning professor Brian Taylor named National Associate of the National Research Council by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

By Stan Paul

Urban Planning professor Brian Taylor has been named a National Associate of the National Research Council (NRC), the operating arm of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, for his longtime service to the organization’s Transportation Research Board (TRB).

Taylor, who also serves as the director of both the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies and the Institute of Transportation Studies at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, was one of nine individuals recognized nationwide for his pro bono publico, or voluntary service, “with distinction” to the TRB.

“This service is valued, honored and appreciated by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, as well as by the government and the public at large,” said Ralph J. Cicerone, president of the National Academies and chair of NRC. “Our work in advising government and the public on matters of science, engineering and health would not be possible without these contributions.”

Cicerone said each year thousands of individuals nationwide serve on committees as reviewers for the organization, which was established in 1863 by Congress. “Among these many people are some whose dedication to our work is truly extraordinary,” Cicerone said. He explained that, in recognition of this extraordinary service, the honorary title of National Associate of the National Research Council was established. Membership in the select group is offered as a lifetime appointment.

“The Luskin School of Public Affairs is extremely proud of this recognition of Professor Brian Taylor,” Lois Takahashi, interim dean of the UCLA School of Public Affairs, said. “In addition to his stellar research, teaching and mentoring, we all know Brian as a tireless advocate for better and more accessible transportation options for all.”

Taylor, whose research is focused on transportation and planning, said as an example of this work, he most recently served as the committee chair for a TRB report, “Between Public and Private Mobility: Examining the Rise of Technology-Enabled Transportation Services.”

The report contains policy recommendations related to today’s “sharing economy” and the rapidly emerging technology-enabled transportation services sector which allows people to access transportation via their smartphones. These include on-demand services such as bike-sharing, car-sharing and transportation network companies (TNCs) including Uber and Lyft, Taylor said.

“A key hurdle for policymakers at all levels of government is to both promote and facilitate innovations that meet the public’s mobility needs while achieving greater policy consistency among these new services and between them and traditional taxi and limousine services,” said Taylor.

“This recognition is well deserved,” said Martin Wachs, professor emeritus in the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs’ Department of Urban Planning and former chairman of the TRB. “Brian has been a TRB leader, contributing countless hours to chairing influential committees, serving on expert panels, and writing original research papers for TRB publications.”

In addition to his service to the TRB, Taylor, who received his Ph.D. in Urban Planning at UCLA in 1992 and joined the UCLA Luskin School’s Urban Planning faculty in 1994, has been a program reviewer for the Planning Accreditation Board and is a Fellow in the American Institute of Certified Planners.

The full TRB report may be found at: http://www.trb.org/Main/Blurbs/173511.aspx

Redesigning a New York City Icon UCLA Urban Planning professor emeritus Martin Wachs to chair design competition jury for new Port Authority Bus Terminal

By Stan Paul

The Port Authority Bus Terminal of New York traces its roots back to the late 1930s, the days of Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, a skyline already filled with iconic skyscrapers such as the Empire State Building and city streets crowded with interstate bus traffic.

Since its opening in 1950, and expansion in 1979, demand for the aging icon’s services has continued to grow beyond its capacity.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has announced the selection of eight experts who will serve as the jury for a two-phase Port Authority Bus Terminal Design and Deliverability Competition. Helping the Port Authority realize its vision of transportation needs through 2040 — nearly a century after its founding — will be Martin Wachs, professor emeritus in the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs’ Department of Urban Planning.

“The opportunity to play a role in the development of one of the nation’s most important transportation terminals is enormously satisfying because I have always tried to relate teaching and research to current policy challenges,” said Wachs, who will chair the design jury. “This is a complex project, the jury is composed of wise and experienced people, and the entries are creative and varied.”

Today, the “gateway to New York,” located in midtown Manhattan near Times Square, serves more than 7,000 buses daily and more than 220,000 passengers on an average weekday. That is expected to increase to 270,000 daily peak hour passengers by 2020 and approximately 337,000 by 2040. It is linked to the Lincoln Tunnel, with access to more than 90,000 peak-period weekday bus commuters; 11 subway lines; five City transit bus lines; and pedestrian access to offices, theaters, shopping and entertainment in the surrounding city. It is the largest and busiest facility of its kind in the world, according to Port Authority history.

Wachs’ fellow jury members include experts in urban planning, transportation operations, architecture, construction management, engineering and other fields.

Wachs is expected to present the jury’s recommendations to Port Authority Board of Commissioners at their September meeting. The board will make the final decision.

“The jury will help inform the design of a bus terminal that will be scalable to meet future needs, and that the Port Authority can have confidence will be delivered on time and on budget using our limited capital resources, that maximizes the value of PA-owned air rights and real estate, and reduces the $100 million-plus annual operating loss at the existing facility while addressing concerns of the local community and City of New York,” Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye said.

Wachs has served as a professor of civil and environmental engineering and professor of city and regional planning at the University of California, Berkeley, where he also served as director of the Institute of Transportation Studies. Prior to this, he spent 25 years at UCLA, where he served three terms as chairman of the Department of Urban Planning. He retired as senior principal researcher and director of the Transportation, Space and Technology Program at the RAND Corporation.

Wachs is the author of 160 articles and four books on subjects related to relationships between transportation, land use and air quality; transportation systems; and the use of performance measurement in transportation planning. His research addresses issues of equity in transportation policy, problems of crime in public transit systems and the response of transportation systems to natural disasters, including earthquakes. His most recent work focuses on transportation finance in relation to planning and policy.

He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, two Rockefeller Foundation Humanities Fellowships, a UCLA Alumni Association Distinguished Teaching Award, the Pyke Johnson Award for the best paper presented at an annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) and the Carey Award for service to the TRB.

The entire Port Authority release and list of jury members may be found here.

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The ‘Perfect Place’ to Explore Urban Planning UCLA Luskin Master of Urban Planning students' research projects are showcased as part of a daylong welcome for admitted students

By Stan Paul

Are bike lanes making Angelenos safer? What elements make a street “grand” in L.A.? And, what exactly is a road diet, and should the City of Angels lose a few lanes?

These questions and others — from transportation planning and peak-hour parking restrictions to housing and pedestrian safety issues — were among the subjects of an annual UCLA Urban Planning tradition: Careers, Capstones and Conversations. Second-year students in the Master of Urban Planning (MURP) program showcased their research as the culmination of a daylong welcome for admitted Urban Planning graduate students at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

The April 11 event, held at UCLA’s Fowler Museum, brought together Urban Planning faculty, students, incoming students and staff to get to know each other and learn more about the Urban Planning department and programs at Luskin. Each year, MURP second-year students are paired with faculty advisers and organizations representing industry, engineering, consulting firms and small entrepreneurial businesses, as well as local, regional and state agencies, educational institutions and nonprofit service organizations.

Lance MacNiven’s project, “Closing the Gap Between the Valley and Westside,” is a study of the performance of L.A. Metro’s Westside Express and how it might be improved to better serve potential riders. MacNiven’s faculty adviser is longtime Urban Planning professor and nationally known transportation planning expert Martin Wachs.

“He’s brilliant, I couldn’t ask for more in an adviser,” said MacNiven, who was kept busy explaining his project and fielding questions from clients, faculty and fellow urban planning students.

Wachs, viewing the projects, said he was impressed by the student displays, which are backed by their research and accompanying required reports. “They’re doing great,” said Wachs, who served as adviser for three other projects.

In addition to providing practice for each student to take on a real-world problem, collect data and analyze the information, the projects also provide the students with experience as planning consultants. The clients receive professional-level analysis and policy recommendations that can be implemented in planning decision-making.

MURP candidate Marissa Sanchez narrowed her focus to seven elements that go into making a “grand” street in Los Angeles. For Sanchez, who said her client was interested in improving ordinary streets, grand streets “enhance the local neighborhood physically, socially and economically by providing a safe place for users to connect, participate and engage their environment.” Sanchez’s research also concluded that grand streets “captivate residents, visitors, and all modes of users through pleasant qualities and characteristics that appeal to the various senses.”

Contrast that with the notion of a “road diet” in which streets/lanes are actually removed or displaced. Severin Martinez’s project, “Who Wins When Streets Lose Lanes?: Analyzing Safety on Road Diet Corridors in Los Angeles,” cited a Federal Highway Administration estimate that road diets actually reduce traffic collisions by almost 30 percent. Lane reductions are used to create improvements such as medians, street parking, bike lanes, center turn lanes and sidewalks.

In addition to road diets, food was also a topic of a number of the students’ projects. Food was addressed as “medicine” in terms of accessibility to patients in California as well as the benefits of urban agriculture in public housing sites. Also explored was the spatial distribution of food at UCLA, the purpose of which was to determine the accessibility of and provide recommendations for healthy food options on campus.

Worldwide, food security and sustainability are topics of increased interest so the Luskin School has become the administrative home of the UCLA Food Studies Graduate Certificate program, which is available to all UCLA graduate students.

With an initial interest in design, Casey Stern said after studying affordable housing for a few quarters, “I was hooked.” Her project focuses on secondary units in the city of Cudahy. Secondary units are also known as accessory dwelling units (ADUs), backyard cottages, in-law units, or the more familiar “granny flats.” However they are labeled, many are non-permitted, non-compliant with safety regulations, or just not legal by any means. Because of high housing demand and a large number of such non-permitted units, especially in L.A., Stern recommends that this city draft more permissive ordinances that, at the same time, would ensure safety and habitability among other supportive factors.

Admitted graduate student Ribeka Toda, who will join the program in the fall, is not new to UCLA. She completed her undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering and has a keen interest in transportation, which led her to seek out courses in urban planning at Luskin. Encouraged by professor Brian Taylor, who is director of Luskin’s Institute of Transportation Studies, Toda took graduate-level courses in transportation that further developed her interest the field.

“Civil engineering is the how of transportation … urban planning is the why,” said Toda. She added that planning provides options for people. She said exposure to “passionate grad students planted seeds” that led to her pursuing graduate study in planning. “Covering everything from parking to complete streets, this is the perfect place to explore these.”

Kelcie Ralph Wins UCCONNECT Outstanding Student of the Year

By Adeney Zo

ralph-kelcieKelcie Ralph UP Ph.D ’15 was selected as the UCCONNECT Outstanding Student of the Year, an award which will grant her a $1,000 honorarium and cover her cost of attendance for the 2016 95th Annual Transportation Research Board Meeting.

UCCONNECT is an organization established to support faculty research in its consortium of five UC campuses along with Cal Poly, Pomona to align with the new University Transportation Center’s theme: “Promoting economic competitiveness by enhancing multi-modal transport for California and the region.” Each year, a review panel of transport experts selects one Outstanding Student of the Year based on the strength of the student’s candidacy and academic work.

Ralph was recognized at the Council of University Transportation Centers Annual in Washington, D.C.