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Manville on Lessons From the Measure M Campaign

An article on Streetsblog USA featured a report authored by Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville on the transit funding initiative Measure M. Voters approved the measure overwhelmingly in 2016, largely due to a political campaign that focused on boosting the economy and easing traffic, but not on transforming the region’s car culture, the report noted. “Voters were expressly not offered a vision of a more multimodal or environmentally sustainable Los Angeles; they were mostly offered instead a vision of more jobs, better roads and easier driving,” Manville wrote. The transportation investments ushered in by Measure M have not led to higher use of public transit. “Los Angeles has a hard road in front of it in making the vision of Measure M a reality,” the report said. “An electoral victory is the end of a political process, but only the beginning of a policy process.”


 

image of traffic in Southern California

Transit Ridership Still in Decline, Manville Reports

Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville spoke to Transit California about a 2018 report he co-authored with other Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS) scholars that found public transportation ridership in Southern California has declined. Manville confirmed this trend has continued with one difference. “What is different from then to now is that San Francisco has now joined the ranks of ridership in decline, which was not the case when we originally did the study,” Manville said. Despite political support for Measure M, which created a tax in Los Angeles to pay for transit improvements, ridership remains low. The measure appealed to voters — but not enough to change their travel behavior, Manville said. “We can’t depend or model transit ridership on low-income riders. That model falls apart today,” he said. “Instead, transit has to be built in a way that we expect people to ride it.” Urban Planning Professors Brian Taylor and Evelyn Blumenberg coauthored the 2018 report.


 

L.A. Landscape Organized Around Cars, Manville Explains

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.


Manville Notes Role of Party Identity in Support for L.A. Public Transit

Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville’s research highlights a discrepancy between voter support for expansion of Los Angeles County public transit and the realities of ridership. Despite an overwhelming 72 percent approval during the 2016 elections for Measure M, a sales tax measure that will generate $120 billion to expand public transit over 40 years, Manville told KNX radio and other media outlets that many people voted for Measure M as an “expression of their political beliefs” and in support of the greater social good, not because it would directly benefit them. Manville’s study found that on average, supporters of Measure M had a high likelihood of driving; they owned cars and had higher incomes. When Manville surveyed the riders at trains and bus stops, he found that “70 percent of riders did not own a vehicle to make their trip,” and “40 percent would have chosen to drive if they could have.” Furthermore, Manville has noted that while L.A. voters like the idea of transit, they don’t actually seem to want a city that’s built for it.