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.”
Urban Planning Professor Evelyn Blumenberg commented on the decline in ridership on public transportation in a recent Philadelphia Inquirer article. “Even among population groups where transit ridership and transit use has been highest — low-income, immigrants, recent immigrants, in particular — we found a growth in driving,” Blumenberg said, referring to a Southern California study that reflects a nationwide trend. The article focused on the declining usage of public transportation in lower-income neighborhoods in Philadelphia due to the expense of automobiles, the hours lower-income jobs require, the demands of parenthood and concerns about safety. “We’ve created urban environments that privilege the automobile that make it difficult no matter what transit does,” said Blumenberg, who is also director of the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies at UCLA. “If jobs are dispersing and things are spread out in metropolitan areas, transit is going to have an increasingly hard time meeting those travel needs.”
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.
Visiting Professor of Public Policy, 1988 Democratic nominee for president and three-term governor of Massachusetts Michael Dukakis traveled around Massachusetts in a 1949 Hudson in support of the North-South Rail Link, the Boston Globe reported. Dukakis said he hopes the journey will a send a message to lawmakers that the North-South Rail Link will alleviate traffic and improve the lives of those who use public transit. The project would build a tunnel between two stations to let trains travel through Boston. “We’ve got to get the folks in the State House to start getting serious about this,” Dukakis said, “and connecting these two stations is absolutely critical.” He is set to meet with legislative leadership to discuss the rail link and transportation in general. Dukakis also advocates a “first-class statewide regional rail system.” He emphasized, “These projects have got to start moving quickly and aggressively.”