In a San Diego Union-Tribune article about the city’s new high-speed rail proposal, Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, highlighted the challenges of implementing public transportation improvements in cities primarily designed for automobile travel. San Diego recently proposed two tax increases to fund billions of dollars in bus and rail investments, but experts worry that it will follow the example of cities like Atlanta, Houston and Los Angeles, which invested heavily in public transit only to lose riders. Manville describes Los Angeles as a “cautionary tale,” explaining that “you can’t take a region that is overwhelmingly designed to facilitate automobile travel and change the way people move around just by laying some rail tracks over it.” To avoid decreases in ridership, transportation experts recommend making it harder to drive by eliminating street parking, ending freeway expansions, limiting suburban home construction and implementing policies like 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.
Urban Planning Professor Brian Taylor spoke with the Mercury News about a proposed “mega-measure” to turn the Bay Area’s extensive network of rail, buses and ferries into a coordinated transportation network. A $100-billion-plus transportation sales tax that could go before voters in nine counties as early as 2020 would fund the plan. The reforms under consideration include coordinating timetables, standardizing ticket prices and adopting the same maps. Taylor, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, said the individual agencies were created to serve local, rather than regional, customers, adding that smaller bureaucracies tend to be more accessible and cost-effective. However, he said, “right now we have a system, and a tradition, where each transit agency has its own map, its own color scheme, its own way to organize fares, its own way to describe its services.”
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.”
Brian Taylor, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, spoke with CalMatters about ways to change the habits of Californians who are reluctant to give up their cars. “If we can create environments where traveling by other means becomes easier and easier, people will drive less,” Taylor said. “The challenge is the transition.” He added that increasing housing density could help create pedestrian-friendly cities that render automobiles such a hassle that they become an undesirable accessory. CalMatters also spoke to Kevin de León, UCLA Luskin senior analyst and policymaker-in-residence, about the dual challenge of taking on the fossil fuel industry and convincing consumers to change their ways. “You are talking about persuading [millions of] individual car drivers in the largest state in the union to drive zero-emission vehicles, or take public transportation, or ride a bike, or walk, or rideshare,” de León said. “We drive internal-combustion cars in part because they are easy.”
Brian Taylor, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, spoke with the Naples Daily News about declining ridership on public buses, a nationwide trend that has caused alarm among transit managers. In Florida’s Collier County, ridership on public transit increased for 10 years until 2013. Since then, it has steadily declined. In vehicle-friendly areas like Collier County, public transit offers a social service for people who can’t afford a car or access other transportation options, Taylor said. “Very few people make up the most transit trips,” he said, noting that the success of a program often depends on a small group of frequent riders.
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.”
Juan Matute, deputy director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, wrote a Los Angeles Times op-ed about the severe consequences of declining bus ridership. As the average speed of buses on the region’s congested roads has declined to a sluggish 12 mph, average occupancy has sunk to 12 passengers. “There are few means of transportation more energy-efficient than a packed bus — and few more wasteful than an empty one,” Matute wrote. In addition to clogging traffic and squandering taxpayer dollars, near-empty buses are inefficient greenhouse gas emitters that could prevent Los Angeles from doing its part to fight climate change, he wrote. Citing ITS research, Matute argued for “tactical” bus-only lanes that can be installed and reversed daily to reduce peak congestion. “Lower, slower ridership is costing us hundreds of millions of dollars that could be used to improve the system instead of sustaining its inefficiencies,” Matute said.
An Agence France-Presse story featured comments by Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, professor of urban planning, and Martin Wachs, professor emeritus of urban planning, on the status of California’s high-speed rail project. The original plan to connect Los Angeles and San Francisco was revised by Gov. Gavin Newsom in February to link Merced and Bakersfield instead, a distance only a third of the originally planned route. Construction delays and unexpected budget increases have prompted criticism of the “train to nowhere.” Loukaitou-Sideris weighed in on the curtailed route. “It absolutely does not make sense,” she said. “Any transit project needs big [urban] centers as origins and destinations, and so to have something like that … all but kills the project.” Wachs agreed, arguing that “California should have capitalized on its existing rail network, including that currently dedicated to freight.” The AFP story was picked up by several news outlets, including Yahoo! News and Daily Mail.
Urban Planning Professor Evelyn Blumenberg spoke to the Columbus Dispatch about a proposed ride-share program in Grove City, Ohio. The Central Ohio Transit Authority and Grove City plan to implement a ride-share program to bridge the distance between public transit stops and people’s destinations. The pilot program would be offered in an area with many jobs. Blumenberg, director of the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies at UCLA Luskin, noted that most jobs are not located in the central city. “That, no matter what, is going to pose a challenge for fixed-route public transit,” she said.