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.
Martin Wachs, distinguished professor emeritus of urban planning, spoke to the San Diego Union-Tribune about the county’s newest plan for improving traffic. The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) proposed a controversial plan to invest in a high-speed commuter rail and implement congestion pricing on existing freeways. The proposal shelves planned freeway expansions, which experts have found does little to solve traffic congestion. According to Wachs, “the only proven way to reduce traffic is congestion pricing.” While the policy has been politically unpopular in the U.S., it has “increased highway capacity in the 30 or 40 places it’s been done around the world.” While the rail would not necessarily reduce traffic congestion, it would accommodate population growth in the region while reducing greenhouse gases from cars and trucks. “Transit enables higher density development and reduces vehicle miles traveled in relation to the population, whereas highways are associated with more dispersed growth,” Wachs explained.
In a National Geographic article exploring transit-oriented development in cities across the globe, Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville commented on the challenges facing Los Angeles. The article focused on architect Peter Calthorpe, who highlights the negative effects of car-oriented urban environments on climate, air quality and congestion, in addition to time and money wasted by drivers. Urban planners look to transit-oriented development to remake healthy urban spaces and reverse the damage caused by dependence on automobiles. Calthorpe imagines an urban utopia where cities would stop expanding, pave less and heat the air and the planet around them less. He recommends dense clusters of walkable communities around a web of rapid transit to support a growing population. Manville weighed in on the urban environment of Los Angeles, where residents continue to rely on cars despite efforts to improve public transit. The conundrum, Manville said, is that “driving’s too cheap [and] housing’s too expensive.”
In an LAist article, Urban Planning Professor Martin Wachs commented on the history behind the lack of one-way streets in Los Angeles compared to East Coast cities. Los Angeles built wide roads to accommodate the automobiles and streetcars popular in the first half of the 20th century, Wachs said. The wide streets and long blocks characteristic of Los Angeles would make one-way streets difficult, he added. Los Angeles experimented by converting Pico and Olympic to one-way streets to ease traffic for the 1984 Olympics, but complaints from residents and business owners resulted in the restoration of two-way traffic. “One-way streets tend to work best when blocks are short and streets are narrow, so cars can easily loop around to reach their destination. When there are five or six lanes of traffic, like Venice Boulevard, cars have to merge over too many lanes to make a turn and the flow of traffic gets messy,” Wachs explained.
In a Los Angeles Times article about the prospect of congestion pricing in West Los Angeles, Urban Planning Professor Brian Taylor commented on public opposition to the proposed fees. The article explained the findings of the Southern California Association of Governments’ recently published study, which modeled the effects of a $4 fee to enter a 4.3-square-mile area of West Los Angeles and Santa Monica during weekday rush hour. According to the model, such a fee would immediately reduce traffic delays and miles driven within the area by 20%, leading to increases in transit ridership, biking, walking and carpooling. Despite the predicted successes of congestion pricing, many residents of the area expressed their opposition to the proposal. Taylor, director of the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies, said that “people typically oppose the system before they’ve seen it work, [but] they tend to go majority opposition to majority support when they see it in practice.”
In a Curbed Los Angeles article, associate professor of urban planning Michael Manville explained the obstacles to improving public transit in Los Angeles, as found in a new UCLA study. Recognizing “the extent to which we’ve organized the landscape around the car” is key to implementing a successful transit program, he argued. “Seeing that 70 percent of people support a sales tax for more transit might create a false impression that there’s a lot of consensus about building a transit-oriented city,” he said. Many voters supported the Measure M sales tax in hopes of reducing their own drive time but haven’t displayed interest in actually riding public transportation. The UCLA study concluded that transit systems thrive in places where it’s difficult or expensive to drive. In a city built for cars, Los Angeles may have to make it harder to drive in order to make public transit work.
In response to LA Metro’s ongoing evaluation of different forms of congestion pricing, Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville was featured in a KCRW podcast and an article on LAist explaining how the policy works. “Congestion pricing addresses the root cause of traffic congestion: The price to drive on busy roads at busy times is too low for drivers,” Manville said. “Empirically, it’s the only policy that’s ever been shown to reduce congestion and keep it reduced.” Manville cited economic theory to explain how the “underpricing of goods, like the 405 freeway, results in a shortage.” He likened congestion pricing to metering road use, the “same way we meter the use of services like electricity or water.” Manville also offered the consolation that congestion pricing “does not have to be very prohibitive,” since “the last few vehicles entering the road are responsible for a disproportionate amount of the delay.”
UCLA Luskin’s Martin Wachs, distinguished professor emeritus of urban planning, commented in a Los Angeles Times article about freeway tolls and other revenue-generating methods that could get drivers off the road and help reduce traffic congestion. The issue has prompted L.A. Metro officials to push for a study of congestion pricing in Los Angeles, which includes controversial steps such as converting some carpool lanes to toll lanes and charging drivers by the number of miles they travel. The anticipated billions of dollars in revenue could help expand the region’s transit network. “This would take a very dynamic leader and a very committed leader, and most American politicians back away when they see the opposition,” said Wachs, who said he supports the idea as a good first step. The story also mentions a new study by UCLA Luskin’s Michael Manville that analyzes the reasons that people support transit projects.
Michael Manville of UCLA Luskin Urban Planning commented in a Los Angeles Times op-ed article that weighed proposed solutions to traffic congestion in L.A. neighborhoods. The article highlights research that suggested reconfiguring narrow streets in the city’s smaller neighborhoods to one-way as a way to make streets more efficient and increase vehicle capacity. However, some U.S. cities have converted one-way streets back to two-way in an effort to slow traffic and increase safety for drivers, pedestrians and others. “We need to think about streets as more than conduits. They are multipurpose public spaces,” said Manville, suggesting that increased traffic speed does not necessarily improve a city’s quality of life.
A paper by Michael Storper and Allen Scott of UCLA Luskin has been selected as the year's best by a scholarly journal.
By Stan Paul
The majority of the world’s people live in cities, and numerous theoretical approaches from diverse fields have suggested frameworks for thinking about urbanization and the complexity of the urban form.
Now, two UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs scholars are being recognized for seeking to frame those approaches as a common language, or foundational concept, for the study of urbanization, an effort that has further enlivened and deepened an ongoing debate. It has also sparked a bit of controversy.
Michael Storper of the Department of Urban Planning and his longtime colleague and collaborator Allen J. Scott have been selected by the journal Urban Studies as recipients of the Best Article award for 2016’s “Current Debates in Urban Theory: A Critical Assessment.”
The journal’s website explains that the Urban Studies Best Article designation is awarded by the editors and authors to the most innovative and agenda-setting article published in a given year. Mark Stephens is editor of the international journal, which was established in 1964 and is published by SAGE. The winning article was selected in a process that narrowed a field of 20 initial candidates to five before the final selection was made.
Storper is a distinguished professor of regional and international development at UCLA Luskin, and Scott is a distinguished professor emeritus of public policy and geography. Their article proposed an analytical framework for urban studies while strongly critiquing three existing and influential perspectives: postcolonial urban theory, assemblage theory and planetary urbanism.
Storper, who also holds academic appointments at the Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po) in Paris and the London School of Economics, noted that this was the second paper on this subject in collaboration with Scott. In the earlier paper, the two UCLA professors had argued for a different approach, generating vigorous debate that led proponents of competing theories to offer their own critiques in response.
The newest paper addresses those critiques and offers further explanation by Storper and Scott. In the journal article, they wrote: “We claim that there are fundamental common genetic factors underlying urban patterns, and a robust set of conceptual categories within which urbanisation processes and urban experiences can be analysed, wherever they may occur in the world.”
Storper and Scott considered high levels of diversity and disagreement over the last century, writing “we asked if a coherent, stable theory of the city could be constructed.” Such a theory would need to accomplish all of the following: “account for the genesis of cities in general, capture the essence of cities as concrete social phenomena, and make it possible to shed light on the observable empirical cities over time and space.”
The authors identify and put forth five basic variables, or forces, that shape what they refer to as the “urban land nexus” at different times and places. These include:
- the overall level and mode of economic development;
- prevailing resource allocation rules;
- forms of social stratification;
- cultural norms and traditions;
- and relations of political authority and power.
In refuting other theoretical formulations of what defines urban, Storper and Scott further conclude: “Not only does our analysis provide us with the tools for distinguishing between the general and the particular in urban outcomes, but also for separating out that which is distinctively and inherently urban from the rest of social reality.
“We must distinguish between phenomena that occur in cities but are not generated by urbanization processes as such, and phenomena that are legitimately elements of cities in the sense that they play an active role in defining the shape and logic of urban outcomes.”