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.
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.
Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, professor of urban planning and associate provost for academic planning at UCLA; Silvia R. González, a doctoral student and researcher at the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge; and Karen Chapple of UC Berkeley conducted a study to analyze the relationship between gentrification, traffic safety and transit-oriented development (TOD). The study, “Transit Neighborhoods, Commercial, Gentrification, and Traffic Crashes: Exploring the Linkages in Los Angeles and the Bay Area,” analyzed the number of collisions near rail stations in L.A. County and the San Francisco Bay Area in both gentrified and non-gentrified areas. The authors had hypothesized that residential and/or commercial gentrification leads to more traffic collision due to increased traffic and increased use of two or more modes of transportation, but the study did not find a significant relationship between residential gentrification and traffic safety in Los Angeles County or the Bay Area. It did, however, find that pedestrians and cyclists are at a higher risk of collision around commercially gentrified stations. Loukaitou-Sideris, González and Chapple suggest that policymakers and urban planners pay special attention to commercially gentrified areas. They conclude that “complete street strategies, traffic calming measures, protected bike lanes, controlled intersections, and other traffic safety improvements and regulations can help respond to this threat” of traffic collisions around commercially gentrified TOD stations. The study is part of an ongoing research partnership with the Urban Displacement Project, a research and action initiative at UC Berkeley.
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.”
Martin Wachs, professor emeritus of urban planning, commented on the prospect of congestion pricing in Los Angeles on KPCC’s Airtalk. To reduce traffic, New York passed a proposal to implement congestion pricing in the form of tolls on vehicles entering Manhattan, prompting speculation about the prospect of congestion pricing in other big cities like Los Angeles. In Stockholm, Wachs explained, citizens voted to implement congestion pricing after a seven-month trial period because “they valued the reduction of congestion more highly than they were worried about the cost of entering the congested area.” Wachs predicts that “the Manhattan experiment will reveal how Americans feel about congestion pricing.” While some critics argue that congestion pricing is regressive taxation, Wachs responded that “congestion itself is regressive. Congestion pricing provides an alternative, but it doesn’t require the low-income person to pay the fee if there is an alternative,” such as public transit.
Urban Planning Professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris shed light on women’s interactions with transportation systems in a Rewire article explaining female riders’ frustrations with rideshare services. Loukaitou-Sideris said sexual harassment is incredibly common in transportation settings around the world. Incidents of sexual harassment and uncomfortable behavior with rideshare drivers have prompted requests for increased safety measures, especially for women. While nearly 45% of female rideshare users have expressed their preference for a female driver, only 20-30% of Lyft and Uber drivers are female, and neither rideshare service allows female riders to request a female driver. Loukaitou-Sideris’ research on women-only public transportation in other countries, such as women-only train cars, found that women worried such an arrangement would “perpetuate discrimination” by taking away the option to sit in other cars of the train. Many women express their desire to be able to safely use the same service as men, instead of needing a women-only solution.
Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville is frequently called upon to share his expertise on congestion pricing as a means to manage traffic in California. Manville spoke to LAist about the public’s reluctance to support congestion pricing, in which drivers are charged tolls for using clogged roadways during peak hours. “When it comes to roads and congestion on roads, we have become accustomed to the idea that our problem can be solved by building something,” he said. Manville told Wired that academics were once skeptical that congestion pricing would ever leave the classroom. Now that more cities have begun to seriously consider congestion pricing, critics say it will hurt low-income communities. However, Manville noted that if low-income residents cannot afford cars, free road use becomes a subsidy for wealthier residents. On KCRW’s Design and Architecture podcast, Manville said public transit must be made appealing and safe or people will stop using it.
Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville’s comments on the progress of the Link Union Station project were featured in a Los Angeles Downtown News article. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has designed the Link Union Station project to transform the outdated Downtown Union Station into a modern transit hub with the addition of up to 10 run-through tracks. Manville explained, “With run-through tracks, the basic logic is right in the name. It allows for some vehicles like express routes to pass through without having to stop or turn around.” The project is designed to increase rider capacity, reduce wait time on the tracks, and offer shorter and more efficient rides. After five years of planning, Metro has released a draft environmental impact report and is currently accepting public feedback on the plan. According to Manville, “[The Link Union Station] project is needed if Metro intends to make the facility the hub of a growing and more connected system linking both local lines and regional light rail.”
Professor of Urban Planning Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris spoke with the Your Call’s One Planet Series podcast about the challenges facing California’s high-speed rail project. Litigation and the lack of regional planning in California contributed to the project’s delay, said Loukaitou-Sideris, who added that it is a mistake that the private sector is not more involved. Loukaitou-Sideris argued that bringing in more local and municipal actors to gauge their interest in developing the land surrounding the rail could lead to economic development for the cities the rail travels through. She also advised looking at European countries for inspiration for the high-speed rail. “With good planning, with good involvement and good management, things can happen,” said Loukaitou-Sideris, who is also UCLA’s associate provost for academic planning.
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.”