The Financial Times quoted Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville on the growing issue of urban congestion. According to Manville, congestion is caused by “a shortage of road: There is more demand for road space than there is space available.” Manville drew a parallel between roads and other utilities like water and gas, explaining that “the big difference between road networks and other utilities is that we don’t meter for use. Consequently, roads are the only type of infrastructure that suffer from regular shortages.” Manville recommends congestion pricing to encourage drivers to make fewer trips or take public transport. He argued that “Americans just drive more than they need to” because of the lack of associated costs of driving. Congestion pricing has been successful in London, Stockholm and Singapore, and New York is planning to implement the policy in 2021.
Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville was featured in a Boston Globe article discussing the efficacy of congestion pricing as a potential solution to the traffic in Boston. A panel of transportation experts gathered to discuss the issue after Massachusetts Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack remarked that traffic will always be a feature in and around Boston due to the city’s density. Manville argued that, while other strategies can help boost public transit usage, faster drives can best be achieved by implementing some form of toll on drivers. “Traffic congestion is caused by the road not being priced,” he explained, “and the only thing we’ve ever found that reliably makes a dent in that sort of problem is pricing the road.” According to Manville, creating “managed lanes,” where one or more road lanes charge tolls and others remain free, could be “a good stepping stone toward congestion pricing.”
Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the logic behind congestion pricing. While the idea of paying for freeway use has prompted backlash from drivers, transportation experts argue that congestion pricing is the only way to combat the traffic problem in California. “What happens on the 405 every day is what happens at Best Buy and Target on Black Friday,” Manville said. With the implementation of congestion pricing, “those who can afford to pay the fees are able to avoid congestion for a reliable daily commute, while presumably lessening traffic for those who don’t pay and use the general lane,” he said. Toll lane expansion is in the works across the state, including plans in Los Angeles, Riverside, Alameda and Orange counties. “People who study congestion have known for a long time that the only thing [that will relieve congestion] is dynamic pricing,” Manville said.
Brian Taylor, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, spoke to the Wall Street Journal about a decline in driving across the United States. The average number of miles driven per person has declined since its peak in 2004, the report said, citing migration to dense urban areas; young adults’ preference to use alternate modes of transportation; more online working, shopping and streaming; and a growing population of retirees who no longer commute to jobs. The trend is a break from the past, when the country’s driving pattern moved in sync with the economy, with people driving more when times were good. “In the midst of a fairly substantial economic recovery between 2009 and 2017, we’re seeing a decline in person trip-making, which suggests that something pretty fundamental is going on here,” Taylor said.
The New York Times spoke with public policy lecturer Jim Newton for an article about California’s socioeconomic conundrum: The state has a thriving $3-trillion economy with record low unemployment, but also has a pernicious housing and homelessness problem and faces a future of ever-worsening wildfires. California’s biggest cities, plagued by traffic and trash, have gone from the places other regions tried to emulate to the places they’re terrified of becoming, the article noted, adding that the state has lost more than 1 million residents to other states since 2006. “What’s happening in California right now is a warning shot to the rest of the country,” Newton said. “It’s a warning about income inequality and suburban sprawl, and how those intersect with quality of life and climate change.”
Martin Wachs, professor emeritus of urban planning, spoke to the Orange County Register about the prospect of converting carpool lanes to toll lanes on Orange County freeways. Seventy-seven percent of Orange County carpool lanes don’t meet the federal law’s requirement to move at a speed of 45 mph or faster. Turning carpool lanes into toll lanes would help unclog the flow of traffic because drivers willing to pay for access would move out of the general-purpose lanes, Wachs explained. “In every case, the facility is carrying more people than it would have had the lane either been not tolled at all, or remained a high-occupancy-vehicle lane alone.”
Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, spoke to LAist about LA Metro’s plans to study toll lanes on the 405. Manville said he is not surprised toll lanes are being considered — he is surprised it took this long, since Metro express lanes on other freeways generate a lot of money. “It’s really one of Metro’s most successful programs, honestly, and so we should not be surprised or upset that they want to expand it,” he said. Manville predicted that winning public support for the tolls will be a challenge. “Yes, we pay taxes right now to provide the roads,” he said, but “saying that because we’ve already paid to bring the road into existence we shouldn’t use prices to manage it is sort of like saying once you have paid to build a house you shouldn’t be able to sell it at a price.”
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.
Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville told NPR Utah that public transportation improvements may not be enough to solve a congestion problem in the state’s Cottonwood ski resort area. Utah transit officials recently upgraded the area’s bus service in an effort to reduce traffic during the winter ski season. The officials predicted that the improvements, including an increased number of trips, faster service between routes and more seat space, will increase bus ridership by at least 25 percent. However, Manville pointed out that, while improved public transit is a positive step, it’s not necessarily going to solve the problem. “At its best, public transportation offers people the chance to avoid the headache of driving in traffic,” he explained, “but it has never been demonstrated to actually reduce congestion.” According to Manville, “The textbook solution is a toll on the road based on the level of demand for it.”
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.