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Manville Speaks to Inevitability of Congestion Pricing

Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the logic behind congestion pricing. While the idea of paying for freeway use has prompted backlash from drivers, transportation experts argue that congestion pricing is the only way to combat the traffic problem in California. “What happens on the 405 every day is what happens at Best Buy and Target on Black Friday,” Manville said. With the implementation of congestion pricing, “those who can afford to pay the fees are able to avoid congestion for a reliable daily commute, while presumably lessening traffic for those who don’t pay and use the general lane,” he said. Toll lane expansion is in the works across the state, including plans in Los Angeles, Riverside, Alameda and Orange counties. “People who study congestion have known for a long time that the only thing [that will relieve congestion] is dynamic pricing,” Manville said.


Wachs Points to Toll Lanes to Reduce Congestion

Martin Wachs, professor emeritus of urban planning, spoke to the Orange County Register about the prospect of converting carpool lanes to toll lanes on Orange County freeways. Seventy-seven percent of Orange County carpool lanes don’t meet the federal law’s requirement to move at a speed of 45 mph or faster. Turning carpool lanes into toll lanes would help unclog the flow of traffic because drivers willing to pay for access would move out of the general-purpose lanes, Wachs explained. “In every case, the facility is carrying more people than it would have had the lane either been not tolled at all, or remained a high-occupancy-vehicle lane alone.”


image of traffic congestion on California freeway

Manville Endorses Pricing to Manage the Roads

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


 

Manville on Proposal to Add Toll Lanes to the 405

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


 

Manville on Efforts to Reduce Congestion Near Utah Resorts

Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville told NPR Utah that public transportation improvements may not be enough to solve a congestion problem in the state’s Cottonwood ski resort area. Utah transit officials recently upgraded the area’s bus service in an effort to reduce traffic during the winter ski season. The officials predicted that the improvements, including an increased number of trips, faster service between routes and more seat space, will increase bus ridership by at least 25 percent. However, Manville pointed out that, while improved public transit is a positive step, it’s not necessarily going to solve the problem. “At its best, public transportation offers people the chance to avoid the headache of driving in traffic,” he explained, “but it has never been demonstrated to actually reduce congestion.” According to Manville, “The textbook solution is a toll on the road based on the level of demand for it.”


image of Interstate 710 signage

Taylor on the Incomplete 710 Freeway

Brian D. Taylor, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, spoke to KCRW’s Greater L.A. about shelved plans to expand the 710 Freeway through the San Gabriel Valley. Taylor, a professor of urban planning, said the project was one of many freeway expansion proposals to face opposition. The major difference, he said, was that much of the 710 project was completed. “The dilemma we have is, as we built fewer and fewer of the projects that were to be the planned network, we ended up making the freeways that were built larger and larger,” disrupting surrounding communities, Taylor said. Now that the freeway will not be extended on land that had been procured, officials have an opportunity to develop an already built-up area, he added. “The larger nut to crack, which is how not to have chronic congestion, probably doesn’t lie in building more of these kinds of highways,” Taylor concluded.


 

Congestion Pricing Is Good for Drivers, Manville Says

Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, was featured in a Government Technology article about Los Angeles’ plan to study congestion pricing to reduce traffic. City officials and LA Metro, the region’s public transit agency, plan to complete the feasibility study within the next two years. Manville said that, while the public should be informed of environmental benefits, such as cutting back emissions and reducing transportation’s total footprint, people should also be aware that congestion pricing would also make driving easier. “If you have a region full of drivers, it’s real important to frame congestion pricing as a policy that is good for drivers,” said Manville, who was speaking at CoMotion, a recent conference on urban mobility.


 

image of road construction

More Lanes Does Not Mean Less Congestion, Manville Says

Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, spoke to WWJ Radio’s The Break Down: Road Work Ahead about the impact of deteriorating infrastructure on traffic congestion. Governments cannot keep up with road repairs, and adding more lanes has proven to be ineffective, the podcast noted. In Los Angeles, an additional lane was added to Interstate 405 in the hopes of alleviating congestion. This project ultimately failed, which was “actually entirely predictable,” Manville said. “Anything that you’re doing to try and add capacity will not reduce congestion,” he said, explaining that adding lanes simply attracts more drivers. “It lowers the price in time of using the road, and you can’t reduce congestion by making driving on a busy road at a busy time less expensive. It becomes fundamentally self-undermining,” he said.


 

Manville on Benefits of Congestion Pricing

Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, was featured in a Sierra Club article about the prospect of congestion pricing in major U.S. cities. Earlier this year, paralyzing traffic delays in New York City prompted the state to approve a plan to implement congestion pricing by 2021, and Los Angeles recently approved a two-year study to investigate the feasibility of the traffic-management strategy. By charging people to drive on traffic-clogged roads, congestion pricing encourages people to drive at different times, carpool or take public transit, all while reducing carbon emissions and raising revenue for transportation projects. Manville explained that congestion pricing is “the only thing that has ever been demonstrated to reduce [congestion]. So either we can do this or everyone has to stop complaining.” Manville reiterated his support for congestion pricing as one of the most viable solutions to traffic gridlock in a Shift article.


Manville on East Coast Traffic Relief

Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, spoke with WGBH News in Boston about a proposal to add dedicated toll lanes on Massachusetts’ major highways. As the state considers options to alleviate traffic during rush hour, Gov. Charlie Baker has come out in support of adding “managed lanes” that let drivers choose whether to pay a fee for a quicker commute. “While drivers have a choice to commute in a faster lane for a cost, drivers who remain in the un-tolled lane will also experience lighter volume from those who peel off for the faster lane,” the governor explained. Manville said the benefits of creating such lanes are clear. “Almost anytime these managed lanes have been put in, you see traffic flowing much more smoothly, delay going down and many more vehicles being moved in these managed lanes. They are, at this point, a proven intervention,” he said.