Posts

Manville on Proposal to Add Toll Lanes to the 405

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.


 

Manville on Efforts to Reduce Congestion Near Utah Resorts

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.”


Matute on E-Scooters in Santa Monica

Juan Matute, deputy director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, spoke to LAist about the future of e-scooters in Santa Monica. “Santa Monica has a relatively stable system … that can demonstrate to other parts of Southern California what might be possible,” Matute said. The city launched a pilot program of 3,250 dockless scooters in September 2018. Matute said its manageable level and investment in quality over quantity is key to its success, in comparison with Los Angeles’ pilot program of 36,000 e-scooters and e-bikes. “It would be hard for any group of people to regulate that many devices,” he said. Better roads and investment in bikeways are also key, he said. While Santa Monica’s new green bike lanes are a step in the right direction, Matute advocated for more bike lanes that are segregated from car lanes.


 

Shoup on Battle Over Street Parking in Manhattan

A New York Times article on a Manhattan transportation panel’s proposal to do away with free street parking in a 50-block stretch of the Upper West Side cited Donald Shoup, distinguished research professor of urban planning. New York City has installed miles of bus and bike lanes and banned cars from a major thoroughfare. Next year, it will start charging drivers in Manhattan’s most congested zones. Some drivers feel unfairly targeted, while many transportation advocates say car culture has been unjustly subsidized for too long. Shoup, who has long promoted pricing as a way for cities to manage parking demand, noted that New York is the only major city in the country that does not have some form of residential parking permit. Such permits are meant to let people with cars park near where they live and keep outsiders out.

Congestion Pricing Is Good for Drivers, Manville Says

Michael Manville, associate professor of urban planning, was featured in a Government Technology article about Los Angeles’ plan to study congestion pricing to reduce traffic. City officials and LA Metro, the region’s public transit agency, plan to complete the feasibility study within the next two years. Manville said that, while the public should be informed of environmental benefits, such as cutting back emissions and reducing transportation’s total footprint, people should also be aware that congestion pricing would also make driving easier. “If you have a region full of drivers, it’s real important to frame congestion pricing as a policy that is good for drivers,” said Manville, who was speaking at CoMotion, a recent conference on urban mobility.


 

New LAX-it Shuttle Can Work, Matute Says

Juan Matute, deputy director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, spoke to LA Curbed about the Los Angeles International Airport’s implementation of a new shuttle service called LAX-it. The airport ended curbside pickups by ride-share and taxi services at the end of October. Ride-share users must now use LAX-it, which shuttles passengers to an off-site lot that will reportedly be expanded by 50 percent to increase capacity and decrease long wait times. Matute said LAX-it would work if engineering and regulatory changes are made that prioritize shared transportation. “If they can’t implement these here, there’s a lot less hope for the rest of L.A.,” Matute said. He said Los Angeles World Airports should promote public transit options such as the FlyAway buses because they present good alternatives that would “eliminate all these headaches” the LAX-it service has created. “This is dictatorial fiat for transportation,” he said of the LAX-it service. “I’d like to see it go well.”


 

Taylor on Bay Area’s Mega-Plan to Coordinate Transit

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.”

Matute on E-Scooters Hitting an Invisible Fence

Juan Matute, deputy director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the emergence of electronic geofences that slow down or shut down e-scooters to enforce rules of the road. Cities across California are testing the technology, which erects invisible fences to enforce speed and parking restrictions and, in some places, create dead zones. The rules change from neighborhood to neighborhood and have caused confusion and frustration among riders whose rented e-scooters come to a halt. Cities and scooter companies negotiate the restrictions, but “these aren’t on the books,” Matute said. “Given that what the companies are asked to do changes week to week, it can be hard for an individual to keep up with what’s permitted and what each company’s restrictions are.”

Visiting Scholar Has His Eyes on the Road — Literally — in Search of Wildfire Impacts Climate adaption expert Mikhail Chester focuses on infrastructure vulnerabilities in a changing environment

LUSKIN UP-CLOSE

By Claudia Bustamante

For the next year, the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin will benefit from the research and expertise of a climate adaptation specialist.

Mikhail Chester, an associate professor of civil engineering at Arizona State University, has joined the institute as a visiting scholar, focusing his yearlong appointment on studying infrastructure vulnerabilities in a changing environment.

Specifically, Chester will study how roads are vulnerable to wildfires.

“Roads are not designed for the worsening conditions of climate change,” Chester said.

The old, conventional thinking about this problem was to map the hazards: Where will it be hotter? Where will it flood? Where do the roads and bridges intersect?

“Infrastructure are not fragile, brittle things. They’re tough,” he said. “What I’ve been trying to do is shine a light on how we can think more critically about what ‘vulnerability’ means.”

Last year, California experienced its largest and deadliest wildfire season. And despite a wet winter, the state is again braced for an active wildfire season spurred by rising heat and driven by winds.

In recent years, Californians have seen wildfires burn near, and eventually cross, freeways.

And yet, “for the most part, the asphalt is OK,” Chester said. “It turns out the biggest danger to roads is after the wildfire.”

‘As infrastructure professionals ― planners and engineers ― if we can’t recognize issues and make changes, we’re going to be irrelevant.’

— Mikhail Chester

A fire will burn up vegetation, creating ground debris. It will also shift the soil chemistry, making it less likely to absorb water. The two can combine to disastrous effects following heavy rains. In what has become a routine post-wildfire concern, rocks, mud and other debris flow down hillsides left barren from recent fires and wreak havoc on roadways and other infrastructure.

While at UCLA, Chester ― who hopes to engage with professionals across multiple campus disciplines, such as urban planning, engineering, climate science and public health ― plans to connect the state’s fire forecasts and transportation infrastructure with various environmental indicators, like terrain, vegetation and soil characteristics.

“When you connect the dots and put all these things together, ideally, you come up with a better way of characterizing vulnerability,” Chester said.

Once the risks are identified, local officials and policymakers can draft an array of responses ranging from strengthening infrastructure and managing forests to detouring traffic away from vulnerable roadways.

A civil engineer with a public policy background, Chester is a leading researcher on the interface between infrastructure and urbanization. His work on the environmental impact of transportation looks beyond tailpipe emissions to assess the role of roads, fuel supply chains and manufacturing.

In Arizona, with high temperatures and flash flooding, he has explored climate adaptation and resilience. He is also currently involved in an interdisciplinary study with UCLA on the sun and heat exposure a person experiences in their day-to-day travels.

All of this work, as Chester explains, is the groundwork for a larger question: How will we manage infrastructure for the next 100 years?

The world is rapidly changing and new technology constantly emerging. People will continue to demand more from an infrastructure that is rigid and not designed to quickly and efficiently accommodate changes such as, for example, autonomous vehicles.

“I think we are woefully unprepared for how we manage infrastructure or how we think about the problem,” said Chester, whose work aims to reimagine these concepts for the 21st century and beyond.

“We are so stuck with the status quo that I’m worried whether or not we can make substantive change fast enough. I think as infrastructure professionals ― planners and engineers ― if we can’t recognize issues and make changes, we’re going to be irrelevant.”

Matute on Monetization of Google Maps

Juan Matute, deputy director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, spoke to Fox Business about reports that Google Maps will soon launch advertising on the app — to the tune of $11 billion in annual revenues within four years, according to some estimates. The app has become so popular that its users are not expected to strongly object to the ads. “Google has developed a high-quality mapping product with a significant user base over the past two decades. That they haven’t fully monetized it sooner is the anomaly,” Matute said. Linking people with information about nearby businesses, services and events is a useful service, he added. Google has also announced plans to integrate bike riding, ridesharing and transit information into their maps. “Google Maps helps transit and commuters,” Matute said. “It provides them with easy-to-understand, actionable information in context, which can help them make informed travel decisions.”