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image of a vehicle at a gas station pumping gas

Gas Tax Is ‘Absolutely Necessary,’ Wachs Says

Martin Wachs, distinguished professor emeritus of urban planning, spoke to the San Diego news site inewsource about Senate Bill 1, a gas tax  passed in 2017 to improve the condition of California roads. Some communities are unsatisfied with the pace of road repairs, the article noted. But Wachs called the law “a short-term fix that was absolutely necessary.” In the future, he added, different solutions will be needed as fuel mileage rates increase and more people drive electric cars that don’t use gas — two trends that will cut into gas-tax revenue. “We’ll be selling less gasoline in relation to the driving that we do as years go by,” Wachs said.


 

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.


 

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.


 

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.

Taylor on ‘America’s Worst Freeway’

Brian Taylor, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, spoke to Mashable about the prospects for relief on “America’s worst freeway” — Los Angeles’ congested 405. Mayor Eric Garcetti has called for a transportation revolution that encourages ridesharing and emission-free cars and expands the system of rail, subways and electrified buses — all by the time the 2028 Olympics come to town. The plan includes a new public transit system through the 405 corridor. However, Taylor cautioned, “if that freeway becomes free flowing, it is an invitation to use it.” Los Angeles has built an enormous commuter rail system, yet public transit use is plummeting and auto ownership is rising, he said. Though it has been met with suspicion and hostility, his solution to fixing the 405 — charging motorists to use it — is the surest way to change ingrained driving habits, said Taylor, a professor of urban planning. He concluded, “There must be consequences to driving.”


 

Taylor on New Freeways, Same Old Congestion

Brian Taylor, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, spoke with KCRW’s Greater L.A. program about several freeway expansion plans in the region. For motorists hoping the projects would bring lighter traffic, Taylor tempered expectations. As the region grows, more people and goods will need to move around and the expanded freeways will eventually clog up again, he said. The key to relieving congestion is charging for the use of the road, which is “wildly unpopular” among motorists and elected officials, he said. The urban planning professor also linked the planned High Desert Freeway project, which would connect Palmdale and Lancaster with the Victorville area, to the affordable housing debate in the L.A. Basin. With resistance to higher-density housing near L.A.’s transit corridors, “we end up building out on the fringe, and then we have to accommodate the demand for the traffic out there,” he said.


 

Taylor on the ‘Longest Freeway Revolt in California History’

Brian Taylor, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, was quoted in a Los Angeles Daily News story revisiting the 60-year grassroots battle against extension of the 710 Freeway. A group of South Pasadena residents known as the Freeway Fighters launched the campaign against connecting the 10 and 210/134 freeways in 1959, when the proposed route would have cut through their hometown. Different iterations of the freeway extension plan came and went until November 2018, when Caltrans abandoned the effort. “What is unusual about this one is how long it went on,” Taylor said of the 710 fight. “This is the longest freeway revolt in California history.” Called heroes by some and obstructionists by others, many of the Freeway Fighters recently shared their stories in an oral history project by the California State Library.


 

Wachs Explains Lack of One-Way Streets in Los Angeles

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.


Gridlock Rage: Manville Offers Possible Traffic Solutions for Los Angeles

UCLA Luskin’s Michael Manville recently did an on-camera interview for Fox 11 News about possible solutions to traffic gridlock in Los Angeles. The piece by reporter Phil Shuman is also available for viewing with a short text summary on the station’s website.