UCLA Luskin Urban and Regional Planning master’s degree candidate Ribeka Toda has received the $10,000 Myra L. Frank Memorial Scholarship for women pursuing career paths in transportation. “Each fatal crash I had ever analyzed in a database had a mother, a father, a child, a dear friend. As a transportation planner, I feel a deep sense of responsibility that we have not done enough,” said Toda of her motivation to focus primarily on roadway safety. Martin Wachs, distinguished professor emeritus of urban planning at UCLA Luskin, described Toda as an exemplary student whose dedication to improving public safety in transportation goes beyond solely an interest in the technical field, but also as a vital public service. Read more about Toda and the Myra L. Frank Memorial Scholarship.
A series of discussions under the umbrella title, “Global Climate Change, Local Growing Pains,” highlighted the 2017 UCLA Lake Arrowhead Symposium on Oct. 15-17, 2017. This annual gathering organized by the Lewis Center and the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin has tackled the connections between transportation, land use and the environment since 1991. Participants learned of the latest research and most innovative practices from around California and the globe related to questions of land use and climate. This year’s attendees included a diverse and influential group of policymakers, private sector stakeholders, public sector analysts, consultants, advocates and researchers. Summaries of the presentations can be found here, along with a video that includes interviews with UCLA Luskin faculty and alumni. Hover over the image below to access a Flickr gallery of speakers, snapshots and scenes from the event.
The Lower Los Angeles River project team gathers after their presentation in June 2017. Photos by Les Dunseith
By Les Dunseith
As the curtain lifts on another academic year at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, second-year Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) students enrolled in one of two group efforts begin to tackle a major planning issue from multiple angles.
Listening, learning, analyzing, synthesizing and debating, the students enrolled in the Community Scholars and Comprehensive Project options will unite by graduation time to produce a shared vision of how best to address a challenge of significant scope and scale.
Exactly how comprehensive are these projects? Here’s the tally from last year:
- 29 Urban Planning students (now alumni)
- 20-plus weeks of class instruction
- 545 total pages (256 pages in one report, 289 in the other)
- 172 charts, tables, illustrations, infographics and complex data maps
- dozens of photographs (including a few shot by a drone camera high overhead)
- hundreds of emails, texts, phone calls and face-to-face sessions
Both of these group efforts are popular among students despite the workload, said Alexis Oberlander, graduate adviser in Urban Planning. In fact, an application and acceptance process is necessary to limit enrollment to a manageable number of about 15 for each.
“Comprehensive projects are more realistic to what it’s like in a professional setting,” Oberlander said of the difference between the group efforts and individual client projects pursued by other MURP students. In the professional world, “You don’t really do anything alone most of the time.”
The group efforts are similar in scope, complexity and instructional approach, but Community Scholars and the Comprehensive Project have key differences.
Community Scholars is a joint initiative of UCLA Luskin and the UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education that has been tackling issues related to jobs, wages and worker rights since 1991. UCLA’s Department of African American Studies was involved in 2016-17 too, joining an effort on behalf of the Los Angeles Black Worker Center to produce a report that reflects broad social concerns: “Black Liberation in Los Angeles: Building Power Through Women’s Wellness, Cooperative Work, and Transit Equity.”
“The idea is that students actually get to take the class with activists from the communities who are trying to accomplish the same things but need the guidance of an academic program,” Oberlander said. “And the students need the guidance of activists. So they learn from each other.”
Conversely, the annual Comprehensive Project is managed solely within Urban Planning. The 2016-17 team prepared a report for the Urban Waters Federal Partnership, which was titled, “Lower LA River Revitalization: An Inclusive Approach to Planning, Implementation, and Community Engagement.”
From concept to completion, a typical Comprehensive Project can stretch over a year or more. Oberlander pointed out that students entering the Luskin School in the fall will decide just six months later whether to register for the next Comprehensive Project, which won’t wrap up until more than a year later.
Thus, now is the time for potential client partners to step forward. “You can come to Luskin and you can get really great research for a third of the cost to hire somebody,” she noted.
The end of an academic year is often a hectic time for Comprehensive Project students. For example, the final presentation to the Community Economics, Health, and Equity Committee of the Lower LA River Working Group was on June 8, 2017. A final (more comprehensive) on-campus presentation took place June 13, 2017, just two days before Commencement.
Public presentations are also typical of Community Scholars. On June 17, 2017, the students gathered at Holman United Methodist Church in South Los Angeles for a rousing public review and reflection on what they had accomplished together.
“It is phenomenal to have the privilege to spend 20 weeks in a room with other organizers and thought leaders who are every day experimenting and making change on the front lines for black workers and black working class families,” said the UCLA Labor Center’s Lola Smallwood Cuevas, the 2016-17 project director.
“We didn’t solve the black jobs crisis in this 20 weeks,” she continued. “But what we did do was create the opportunity for us to get closer, to build the relationships, to build an analysis that will help us shape and continue to hone those definitions and our work together moving forward.”
Their report, which like other student research from UCLA Luskin Urban Planning students can be viewed online, focused on three aspects directly related to African American workers in Los Angeles:
- a curriculum on trauma-informed self-care for women served by the Black Workers Center;
- a feasibility study for a cooperatively owned jobs services center;
- a mobility study of the Slauson Corridor that paid particular attention to the intersection of Slauson and Western avenues, which a collision analysis found to be among L.A.’s most dangerous traffic locations.
Marque Vestal, a PhD student in history who served as a teaching assistant for Community Scholars, noted that the effort was about more than simply doing great research. While studying under Smallwood Cuevas, UCLA Luskin’s Gilda Haas and Gaye Theresa Johnson of UCLA African American Studies, the students examined issues of race, equality and empowerment through the black radical tradition.
“We suspected that something special would be crafted in that room because every week the laughter amid the planning got louder,” Vestal recalled during the presentation. “So we are here today to share that harvest of laughter and planning.”
“And there’s always the people who rise to the top with any group project who end up being the leaders,” Oberlander said. “They are usually the ones who are still working till August after they have graduated, making sure the client has exactly what they need.”
The instructor of the L.A. River project was Diana Varat JD/MA UP ’08, a planner and attorney who was part of the Luskin School’s adjunct faculty for the year. A rotating instructor approach is used for Community Scholars too. In 2015-16, UCLA Luskin’s Goetz Wolff led an analysis of the distribution of goods in Southern California that went on to win a national applied research award.
For the L.A. River project, students looked at gentrification, access and community impacts as part of their detailed analysis of the potential pitfalls of redeveloping the Lower Los Angeles River that runs through 14 cities from Vernon to Long Beach.
“As the potential of the Lower L.A. River becomes more clear, communities along the river are at a critical juncture,” said Alex Linz MURP ’17 during concluding remarks. “By committing to sustained community engagement and empowerment, river-adjacent cities have an excellent opportunity to showcase the Lower L.A. River both as a local and regional reflection of community pride.”
For 2017-18, the Comprehensive Project team will work with Distinguished Professor Emeritus Martin Wachs on the issue of transit-oriented development. Community Scholars will tackle homelessness and housing.
Ahmed Ali Bob discusses the Los Angeles rent stabilization ordinance before his fellow MPPs. Photo by George Foulsham
By Stan Paul
By necessity, the Master of Public Policy (MPP) students at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs quickly begin learning skills and tools to complete the program and prepare for problem-solving careers in the public, private and nonprofit sectors.
The students, working in groups, must clear one final hurdle to graduate: the Applied Policy Project presentation. Each group has 20 minutes to impress faculty and peers by showcasing what they have learned during two rigorous years of study.
Each year, a diverse group of clients “hire” the students, usually in teams of two or more, to tackle real-world problems and offer actionable recommendations and feasible solutions.
“I think one of the exciting aspects of the APP is the variety of topics covered,” said Manisha Shah, associate professor of public policy and faculty coordinator of the program. “Because our students have a diverse set of interests and because we encourage them to identify their own clients, the result is an interesting variety of APP projects.”
Among this year’s clients were the Southern California Association of Governments, Covered California, Peterson Institute for International Economics and a member of the California State Assembly. Internal clients included a research center within the Luskin School, a professional program elsewhere on campus and the University of California’s Office of the President.
“The first-year curriculum of the MPP program is tool-driven,” Shah said. “What I mean by that is we try to give students a diverse set of tools — both quantitative and qualitative — that will help guide them through the APP process and ultimately go out into the real world and conduct policy analysis on issues close to their hearts.”
Shah said she was fortunate to advise a diverse set of APP groups this year. One group of students found that behavioral tools such as reciprocity and commitment devices should be implemented in schools to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables in an attempt to combat obesity. Another group helped improve the service delivery model of an organization in L.A. that tries to get at-risk youth into better employment opportunities. And another group proposed interventions and policies aimed at reducing displacement and gentrification in South L.A.
In all, 18 presentations were made. Luskin faculty watched and then asked questions that tested the students’ depth and breadth of knowledge and the thoroughness of their projects.
The range of projects is broad, including:
- Local and regional issues such as investments in electric vehicle charging stations in Los Angeles and a rent stabilization ordinance to prevent displacement of low-income minority communities in South Los Angeles.
- Statewide issues such as bail reform, insuring Californians, health care, access to water and juvenile justice.
- National and global issues like mitigating the negative impacts of trade on employment in the U.S. auto industry and improving local-level governance amid decentralization reforms in the Ukraine.
A closer look at some of this year’s APPs follows.
Gender Issues in Engineering
Applying qualitative and quantitative methods to their study for the UC’s Office of the President, Traci Kawaguchi, Yuhan Sun and Eri Suzuki focused on the need for connections in their analysis of system-wide retention by gender in engineering at the undergraduate level. They initially determined that the retention rate of female engineering students was significantly lower than for male engineering classmates across the UC system.
Their faculty adviser, Professor of Public Policy John Villasenor, also holds an appointment in electrical engineering at UCLA. He helped connect them with UCLA engineering students, which led to interviews with aspiring female engineers.
Women and men had similar levels of academic performance in the first year, but the qualitative interview uncovered that “affinity groups play a key role in affirming engineering identity and belonging in the field,” according to the UCLA Luskin students’ written summary.
“I think the big thing that came up was just the idea of fitting in,” Kawaguchi said. “When you go into a classroom that is 80 percent male … it may make you feel that you don’t necessarily belong.”
Team members analyzed policy options based on anticipated effectiveness, cost feasibility and institutional feasibility, and they recommended support for female students based on a sense of community and belonging. Adoption of residential living communities and formal peer mentoring programs for female undergraduate students in engineering were also recommended.
A Program to Help Plug-In Commuters
Another APP team focused on plug-in vehicles with a limited range on all-electric power that switch to gasoline-based power after batteries are exhausted. Specifically, the group studied how workplace charging stations in Los Angeles could increase the number of miles that vehicles travel without burning gasoline.
MPP students James Di Filippo, Mahito Moriyama, Toru Terai, Kelly Trumbull and Jiahui Zhang completed their project, “Prioritizing Electric Vehicle Charging Station Investments in Los Angeles County,” for the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG). Their model combined commuting data from SCAG’s transportation demand study with plug-in electric vehicle registration data, information on vehicle all-electric range, and point data on existing charging infrastructure locations.
The students found that nearly 6,000 plug-in hybrid commuters could benefit from workplace charging but currently do not have access. Full support of those commuters’ vehicles would yield about 76,000 additional miles driven on electric power each day.
The potential increase is concentrated in just a few zones. Di Filippo said that the group used a tool from the Environmental Protection Agency to identify zones that fall within disadvantaged communities that might require additional support, which were more than a third of all zones identified as having potential for investment across Los Angeles County. SCAG should direct additional funding toward those disadvantaged communities to ensure that the benefits are distributed equitably, the students said.
Di Filippo said that the APP process was challenging but rewarding. “I credit my teammates for pulling together quickly, conceptualizing and delivering a strong report that offers actionable information for SCAG’s electric vehicle charging infrastructure siting decisions in only eight weeks,” he said. “My team was fortunate to have the support of faculty and peers who were invaluable in shaping our thinking on key aspects of the report.”
Healthy Food for Children
Sarah White and teammates Sydney Ganon, Hiroto Iwaoka and Jonathan McIlroy examined behavioral economics for tools in nutrition education curricula. Their goal was to promote long-term healthy food choices and habits in third and fourth grade students in light of a growing recognition of negative health outcomes of childhood obesity.
“While the field of behavioral economics is still fairly new, we read a lot of the existing literature and had reason to believe that really low-cost interventions could potentially have large impacts on getting people to make better choices for themselves,” White said.
One challenge that behavioral economics has “rarely, if at all, studied within the realm of children’s nutrition.” That made evaluating different policy options more difficult. “We had to evaluate each policy option on our own,” White said.
The group’s recommendations bundled three potential behavioral tools that are cost-effective. Giving attractive names such as “power peas” to fruits and vegetables in the cafeteria would frame foods in a way that is appealing to children. Giving students something as simple as a sticker and thanking them for choosing the healthy option would promote reciprocity. Having students set goals for eating better would make them more likely to stay committed.
Rocking his Comeback
For one student, Ayappa Biddanda, the final APP presentation was a long time in the making. In the early 2000s he left UCLA Luskin to pursue an opportunity that turned into a career in the music industry. He came back this year to do his final presentation — and thus finish his master’s degree.
Biddanda’s project evaluated the impact of an educational enrichment program called Rock the Classroom that paired local musicians with students in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Biddanda’s solo presentation on the final night of the APP program literally rocked the classroom with musical sound bites and his enthusiastic, informative and professionally presented argument that, in education, “art matters.”
A Fond Farewell
Wrapping up two decades of APP presentations, Mark Peterson, chair of the department, thanked the students for their efforts. “I really want you all to applaud yourselves,” he said. “The hard work that went into all of the presentations was obvious to us all, and we really just admire the time you put into all of this and the work that you did to put these presentations on a scale of professionalism that we like to see.”
The 2017 APPs ended on a bittersweet note, with Peterson acknowledging the retirement of a key player. Maciek Kolodziejczak is a longtime UCLA staff member who joined the public policy program when it was founded more than 20 years ago and has long coordinated the APP presentations.
“Sadly, this is the last time that this part of the APP program will be orchestrated, moderated and run by Maciek,” Peterson said.
From the UCLA Luskin Flickr feed:
Martin Wachs Honored for Outstanding Research and Scholarly Work Urban planning scholar and transportation planner to receive UCLA’s 2016-17 Edward A. Dickson Emeritus Professorship Award
By Stan Paul
Martin Wachs has spent a life and career in transportation planning, but the emeritus professor of urban planning at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs doesn’t plan on hitting the brakes any time soon.
“I have had an extremely rewarding and long career, but I can’t quit now because urban transportation is facing its greatest challenges since the invention of the automobile,” said Wachs, who has been named a recipient of the 2016-17 Edward A. Dickson Emeritus Professorship Award at UCLA.
The award honors outstanding research, scholarly work, teaching and service performed by an emeritus or emerita professor since retirement. It also includes $5,000 funded from a gift endowment established by the late Edward A. Dickson, who served as a Regent of the University of California (1913-46).
Following a 25-year career at UCLA, Wachs continued his teaching and research at UC Berkeley and then at the RAND Corp. until his 2011 return to UCLA where he has continued to teach, conduct research, mentor, consult, and serve on numerous committee and advisory boards.
Most recently, he served as an international design competition juror for a remake of the historic Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan, N.Y. Wachs said he also has been invited to be a juror in a competition to design a new Gangnam Intermodal Transit Terminal in Seoul, South Korea.
Wachs said it’s especially rewarding to be able to share his many years of experience and learning with the Luskin School’s urban planning students.
“I have had the great pleasure of working on many complex real-world projects and bringing what I learned from them into the classroom to benefit my students,” Wachs said. “UCLA graduate students in Urban Planning were outstanding when I arrived on campus in 1971, but they seem to get stronger every year. I keep learning by working with the latest generation of emerging scholars.”
Wachs will receive his award May 10, 2017, at the annual UCLA Emeriti Association dinner.
From left, Veronica Siranosian with AECOM, Sam Morrissey with Iteris, and Eric Shaw, director of the Washington, D.C., Office of Planning, participated in a panel discussion at the 10th UCLA Downtown Los Angeles Forum on Transportation, Land Use, and the Environment. Photo by Stan Paul
By Stan Paul
Autonomous vehicles, once considered science fiction, are quickly becoming a reality.
With the technology and testing of driverless cars and trucks progressing rapidly, private industry is investing. At the same time, planners and policy makers are confronting another challenge: How will technology, policy, governmental legislation and industry practices come together to make the potential benefits of autonomous transportation a reality that is responsible, equitable and good for the environment?
To address these issues, two UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs research centers — the Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS) and the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies — used their April 13, 2007 transportation conference to focus on the implications of autonomous vehicles. The 10th UCLA Downtown Los Angeles Forum on Transportation, Land Use and the Environment brought together speakers representing the technology industry, along with planning researchers, and practitioners in the government and private sectors.
This year’s downtown forum, held at the California Endowment Los Angeles Conference Center was titled, “Steering Connected and Automated Mobility in the Right Direction.” Speakers and expert panels provided a look at the policy aspects of ridesharing and driverless transportation, from liability and equality viewpoints to greenhouse gas emissions and infrastructure. The panelists also discussed how the anticipated disruption of autonomous vehicles might play out locally, across California and around the nation.
Lauren Isaac, director of business initiatives for EasyMile, a high-tech mobility startup, discussed how connected and automated technologies may shape the future.
“What the data shows is that there needs to be either a costs savings or a time savings” to get people to participate, Isaac said. “There needs to be some benefit to a user to make that decision. The good thing is because of the way technology is evolving there’s great potential for both.”
Governments also play a part by providing HOV lanes and infrastructure for a faster ride, she said. “I think those are the kinds of levers that both technology providers and government can pull.”
Isaac said that freight companies will most likely be the No. 1 sector among the early adopters. “That industry is really interested in this,” she said, citing a shortage of drivers and huge cost savings that could come from moving goods this way.
“On the passenger side, I think without question we’re seeing the best response come from the younger generation,” she said, noting that there is also significant interest from the senior and disabled communities. “That being said, the challenge is how do you transfer people in wheelchairs or if they need additional help? People still rely on humans to get into the vehicles. So there’s still a lot of issues to work out around the para-transit piece,” Isaac said.
Chris Ganson, a senior planner from the California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, described some of the research he has seen. “The plus side here is — with a lot of this kind of thinking on automated vehicles — it’s really kind of this funny combination of research and futurism that’s going on,” Ganson said. “We’re extrapolating from our current experiences to try to figure out what things might be like in the future, and what we might need to do about them, but there is a lot of convergence in that thinking.”
Despite this, he said, “We have some tough things to do policywise and politically to receive these autonomous vehicles into our society.”
Ganson also said that it makes sense to be proactive while planning for the future. “While you’re repaving … or building a new transit system, adding the technology now saves 10 times the cost of putting it in later,” he said.
Maya Buenaventura, assistant policy analyst at the RAND Corp., provided a quick primer on common law, tort law and liability issues that would come with taking humans out of the driver’s seat, as well as product liability issues for manufacturers of autonomous cars and parts. There may be some uncertainty in the details initially, she explained, but many of the longstanding concepts of common law that apply to personal injury and property damage would also apply to autonomous vehicles.
“The outcome might not be optimal from a social welfare perspective right away,” she said. “Judges need to start thinking in the long term — what are the long-term costs and benefits — if this is something they’re just going to pick up as autonomous vehicles get introduced. But it is not clear that there are any better options.
“Another thing that we’ve come to realize is the identity of potential defendants isn’t going to be very different when autonomous vehicles are introduced,” Buenaventura added. “There’s still going to be, potentially, lawsuits against the driver, against manufacturers, against the component part manufacturers. And suits against these defendants already exist today.”
For Eric Shaw, director of the Washington, D.C., Office of Planning, “This question of why we want to be ‘smart’ in the first place is actually a question we haven’t answered yet. For us, it’s not just smart vehicles, it’s smart planning. We need to understand how to be smart.”
Shaw, a pre-Luskin 1998 UCLA graduate minored in what was then policy studies, said his city’s overarching commitment is to spatial and racial equity, which must be balanced with the goal of livability, new innovation and understanding urban efficiency.
“We are having crazy growth in our city,” Shaw said of Washington. “We’re a historic city, one of the oldest cities in the nation. We’re one of the most planned cities in the nation.”
With equity and access in mind, Shaw pointed out that the nation’s capital has a huge income disparity. He asked whether creating a system around pricing automatically creates a system that excludes the city’s low-income residents.
With this in mind, Shaw said that his department was looking at a number of scenarios for the city’s future.
“We’re not afraid to test; we’re not afraid to pilot. So we are looking at some of the best practices, looking at ideas of shared mobility and performance, and we’re not afraid to get it all right before we do that,” Shaw added. “We’re OK to test and take some risks, but with the same question right now — racial equity, spatial equity of land use of the built environment.”
Brian D. Taylor, professor of urban planning and director of both the ITS and the Lewis Center, pointed out the importance of addressing the issues covered in the forum.
“The presentations and discussion made clear that the rise of shared, connected and autonomous vehicles poses significant new challenges for transportation planners and policymakers, and in addition cast existing challenges into sharper relief,” Taylor said. “Addressing these challenges head-on today will help to ensure that we steer these new systems in the right direction.”
Protesters rally during a 2013 May Day March in downtown Los Angeles. Photo by Anna Bryukhanova/iStock
By George Foulsham
More than one-third of Los Angeles County residents are worried that they, a family member or a friend will be deported from the United States, and nearly half of county residents believe that repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act with a new federal health law would make their access to health care worse.
These two major findings highlight the 2017 UCLA Luskin Los Angeles County Quality of Life Index, a project of the Los Angeles Initiative at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs in partnership with the California Endowment. The annual survey, which is in its second year, is based on interviews conducted with about 1,600 county residents from Feb. 28 to March 12, 2017.
The index is an annual survey of Los Angeles county residents that asks them questions to rate their quality of life in nine different categories. In addition to the categorized questions, the survey also asks specific standalone questions that relate to their quality of life. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percent.
In one noteworthy finding, 37 percent of county residents are worried about deportation from
the U.S., and more than half of them are very worried. Of respondents who expressed
deportation worries, an overwhelming 80 percent said that they, a friend or a family member
would be at greater risk of being deported by enrolling in a government health, education or
housing program. More than half of them are very worried.
“The level of anxiety over deportation among county residents is staggering,” said Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative. “The national debate on immigration in
recent months has heavily impacted Los Angeles. The extraordinary number of people who now
fear engaging local government for services should be of concern to all of us.”
Those observations are reflected in follow-up interviews conducted by the Luskin School. A man
in his early 30s who lives in the San Fernando Valley and is half-Latino said he worried for his
girlfriend’s family, most of whom are in the country legally but one of whom is not. “I wouldn’t
even call the police,” he said.
These concerns are not limited to minority groups. Another respondent, a white woman in her
late 50s who lives in the South Bay, said she’s concerned about neighbors and others being
deported. “I hear from a lot of people who are afraid,” she said.
Significant findings on deportation worries include:
- Younger residents are more worried about deportation (50 percent between the ages of
18-39, compared to 25 percent of those over 50).
- Latinos, who make up 43 percent of the survey sample, are the most concerned about
deportation (56 percent) and nearly one-third of Asian residents are worried (31
- Lower-income residents are more likely to be worried (49 percent of those earning less
than $30,000 annually, compared to 30 percent of those earning over $120,000
- Residents born in another country (52 percent) are more worried, compared to U.S.-
born (30 percent). Twenty-nine percent of the survey sample are foreign born.
Nearly one-fifth of whites (19 percent) expressed concerns about deportation.
Nearly half of survey respondents said that repeal of the ACA, also known as Obamacare, would
make their access to quality medical care worse. Forty-eight percent of respondents said
replacing the ACA would worsen their access to care, while 14 percent said the repeal would
improve access. Thirty percent said it would make no difference. The survey was taken before
the Trump administration and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan made the decision to withdraw
legislation that sought to repeal the ACA with the American Health Care Act.
Follow-up interviews bear out these findings. A young African-American man living in the San
Gabriel Valley thinks Obamacare could use some improvement, but “it’s better than what we
had.” He added that he had no confidence in the Trump/Ryan proposal to replace it.
Significant findings on the ACA’s repeal and replacement include:
- Younger residents are more likely to say that changes would negatively impact them (58
percent between the ages of 18-39, compared to 32 percent of those older than 50).
- Those with Medi-Cal or an ACA insurance policy are more likely to say changes would
negatively impact them (59 percent).
- A significant majority of African-Americans (63 percent) and Latinos (56 percent) say
changes would negatively impact them.
The gentrification of many Los Angeles County communities also is a cause for concern,
according to the survey. Fifty-five percent of those contacted said they have a negative reaction
to the displacement of their neighbors by those who are willing to pay more for housing. Only 19
percent viewed this as positive. And the number went up to 57 percent negative among those
who were asked about community-serving shops and stores being replaced by businesses willing
to pay higher rents.
Sixty-five percent of Latinos and African-Americans viewed gentrification as negative, compared
to 43 percent of whites and 38 percent of Asians. Geographically, 68 percent of residents of
Central Los Angeles viewed gentrification negatively.
Interestingly, the QLI’s overall satisfaction score of 59 remained the same as last year, though
there were some shifts within various categories. The score remained slightly above the
midpoint of 55 (on a scale of 10-100). Overall satisfaction, according to the QLI, depends a lot on
one’s age. Those in the 18-29 age group had a satisfaction score of 53, at the low end of the scale,
while those who are 75 and older had the highest satisfaction score, 67.
That’s true throughout the survey, with younger residents the least satisfied overall in many
categories, including the cost of housing, educational opportunities and the fairness of the local
Other highlights from the index:
- Transportation and traffic scores are lower this year, driven in part by the condition of
streets and the length of commutes.
- Satisfaction with the cost of living, especially as it relates to housing, also declined from
last year, from 51 to 47. That was true among residents from all income groups. Nearly
half of the respondents (48 percent) said that what they paid for housing was the most
important factor in their rating of the cost of living category.
- The scores for education also dropped slightly from 2016, with respondents expressing
lower satisfaction with the overall quality of K-12 public education and the training
children and young adults receive for jobs of the future.
- The most positive score in the QLI was in race relations. Overall satisfaction in relations
among different ethnic and racial groups rose to 79, compared to 76 last year.
Asked to rank the overall impact that immigrants are having on this region, the
satisfaction rating was four points higher than last year, at 69.
- Satisfaction with neighborhood quality was also high — and unchanged from last year, at
75. Homeowners are more satisfied with their neighborhoods than are renters.
Health care continues to have a relatively high level of satisfaction, though those under
age 39 are less satisfied than those over 50.
- Other categories showing slight improvement included the environment, jobs and the
“Overall, county residents generally feel positive about their quality of life, the communities in
which they live and their relations with one another,” Yaroslavsky said. “However, it is troubling
that younger people, who should have so much to look forward to, often feel most pessimistic,
especially when it comes to the excruciatingly high cost of housing.”
The QLI was prepared in partnership with the public opinion research firm Fairbank, Maslin,
Maullin, Metz & Associates.
Download the 2017 QLI (PDF)
Review the data (PDF)
Summary Narrative (PDF)
By Zev Hurwitz
In a city famous for traffic jams and rush-hour gridlock, a return to rail may be putting Los Angeles on the right track.
Rail lines and transit policy were the focus of a UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs lecture delivered by professor Ethan Elkind, director of the Climate Program at the UC Berkeley School of Law’s Center for Law, Energy and the Environment (CLEE) on Jan. 25, 2017. Elkind spoke about the history of rail transit in Los Angeles and what the future for trains in the county might look like.
Elkind began with a discussion about the early years of Los Angeles rail. Prior to the rise of the automobile, Los Angeles developed a complex system of electric streetcars, which became the primary mode of public transportation for the region.
“At its heyday, there were 1,164 miles of electric streetcars, covering four counties,” Elkind said. “By 1911, the average Angeleno rode the system at least one ride per day.”
Elkind displayed a map of the old Pacific Electric Railway system and its vast number of routes crisscrossing Southern California — a far cry from the relatively modest number of rail lines in Los Angeles today.
“For many Angelenos, they look at this map and it’s hard not to break down in tears at what used to be,” he said. “From Santa Monica to the San Gabriel Mountains you could literally get wherever you needed to go.”
The last streetcar ride took place in 1961, the demise attributed in part to a shift toward policies that favored automobile drivers, such as widening of streets and development of parking. Additionally, the street cars faced their own popularity decline, due in part to poor maintenance, scheduling issues and operator strikes.
Explosive population growth bred traffic congestion, Elkind said, which led one public figure to make addressing transportation a top issue.
“In 1973, City Councilman Tom Bradley ran for mayor of Los Angeles and for the first time made transit a priority,” Elkind said, noting an “overly ambitious” campaign promise by Bradley to break ground on a new rail line within 18 months of his inauguration.
Rail development in the 1970s was an attractive proposition for municipalities because the federal government granted 80 percent of the funds needed to construct a new rail line, contingent on a 20 percent match by local governments.
Ultimately, several tax-raising measures were passed by county voters that paved the way for the first crop of new rail lines in Los Angeles, beginning with a downtown-to-Long Beach route that opened as the Metro Blue Line in 1990 — nearly 20 years after Bradley’s 18-month promise.
Today, 105 miles of railway track reach different corners of Los Angeles County and draw more than 360,000 riders daily. More tracks are on the way, thanks to the 2016 passage of Proposition M, which raised sales taxes to pay for new rail projects, including an extension of the Purple Line subway to Westwood and a Green Line connector to LAX.
“Two cents of every dollar now go into transit,” Elkind said of Measure M’s passage. “It’s a big win. It will generate over $30 billion for transit over the next 40 years.”
Some obstacles remain for transit in Los Angeles, including an ongoing struggle to make projects more cost effective and efficient and keeping pace with continuing population growth for the region.
Elkind drew much of the material for his lecture from the research for his 2014 book, “Railtown: The Fight for the Los Angeles Metro Rail and the Future of the City.”
Zev Yaroslavsky, former Los Angeles county supervisor and director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, introduced Elkind — noting that Elkind had spoken earlier in the day to Yaroslavsky’s undergraduate capstone seminar about the history of transportation in Los Angeles.
“There are a lot of exciting dynamics that are going on in Los Angeles and Southern California in public transportation that are changing the face of the region,” Yaroslavsky said.
The event drew a big crowd that included Luskin and other UCLA students, as well as community members. The lecture was also streamed live online.
First-year MPP student Estefania Zavala attended the lecture because of her interest in transportation policy. “I think it was really interesting to hear about how equity plays a role in the system and what introducing a new Metro station in a really impoverished neighborhood does to gentrifying that neighborhood,” she said. “That’s really interesting to me as a graduate student.”
Transit issues are also personal to her. “It was a little bit frustrating just to hear about inefficiently the system has been laid out,” Zavala said, noting that, as a commuter from Azusa, she wishes that better transit options existed to get her to Westwood.
The Public Policy Department at the Luskin School of Public Affairs co-sponsored the event with the Department of History and the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies.
The grant will allow "faculty and students to conduct needed research on the many transportation challenges facing our region,” said Brian Taylor, director of the UCLA ITS and a professor of Urban Planning at UCLA Luskin.
By Stan Paul
Thanks to a multimillion-dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, faculty, staff researchers, and students affiliated with the UCLA Luskin Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS) will be part of a new regional transportation center that will tackle some of the most important transportation issues facing America.
“Universities are at the forefront of identifying solutions, researching critical emerging issues and ensuring improved access to opportunity for all Americans,” U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx said in announcing more than $300 million in grants to 32 University Transportation Centers (UTCs) nationwide, selected from among 212 proposals submitted. “This competition supports the future transportation workforce by providing students with opportunities to take part in cutting-edge research with leading experts in the field.”
UCLA Luskin’s ITS will collaborate on this new center with USC and universities in four states — California, Nevada, Arizona, and Hawaii — as well as the U.S. Pacific Island territories. The new Pacific Southwest Region University Transportation Center is one of ten new federal regional centers, and will focus on transportation issues facing the southwestern and Pacific regions of the U.S.
“We are thrilled to be a partner in this new university transportation research center, and by the opportunity it presents to our faculty and students to conduct needed research on the many transportation challenges facing our region,” said Brian Taylor UP PhD ’92, director of the UCLA ITS and a professor of Urban Planning at UCLA Luskin. Taylor noted that the new center will address new transportation technologies, improving mobility for vulnerable populations, improving transportation system resilience and protecting the environment, and managing mobility in high-growth urban areas.
“This new center will help the Institute of Transportation Studies continue to recruit the best and the brightest transportation students to UCLA for graduate study, and it will in addition support both faculty and students across the campus in conducting a wide range of research projects — from harnessing the benefits of cleaner technology-driven smart mobility, to better serving the mobility needs of the poor,” explained Taylor, who also leads the Luskin School’s Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies.
The five-year, $14-million DOT grant will be matched by an additional $14 million from the California Department of Transportation and other sources to support a wide array of research, education and technology transfer programs at the consortium member universities. Taylor said the new center will bring at least $500,000 per year to UCLA, with more than half of that amount funding graduate student fellowships and research projects.
The new Pacific Southwest Region UTC will be directed by USC professor Genevieve Giuliano, who in winter and spring of 2016 was the Harvey Perloff Distinguished Visiting Professor of Urban Planning in the UCLA Luskin School. The other participating institutions in the consortium are Cal State Long Beach, UC Davis, UC Irvine, the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Northern Arizona University and Pima Community College.
The article “Do Cities Have Too Much Parking?” explores the distribution of parking in Los Angeles County.
By John A. Mathews
The UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs brings you a special edition of ACCESS dedicated to the most controversial topic in transportation: parking. Parking invokes immediate emotional responses. We experience joy when a stranger gives us his or her parking spot and rage when someone steals a space we waited 20 minutes for. And what better thrill is there than running to your car to feed the meter just in time to avoid a ticket?
The issues surrounding parking, however, go beyond our immediate reactions. Parking takes up valuable space that could go to better use. It can cause congestion and inflict additional costs on people who can’t even afford to own cars. But parking can also bring social benefits to a community. In this issue, ACCESS explores the good, the bad and the ugly of parking.
Parking as far as the eye can see
Whether you’re building a bar, a hair salon, or a zoo, you will have to build parking spaces to go with it. Now, after decades of development under excessive minimum parking requirements, parking dominates our cities. But how much parking is there really?
In their article, “Do Cities Have Too Much Parking?” Andrew Fraser, Mikhail Chester, Juan Matute and Ram Pendyala explore the distribution of parking in Los Angeles County and how the county’s parking infrastructure evolved over time. The authors found that, as of 2010, Los Angeles County had 18.6 million parking spaces. This amounts to more than 200 square miles of parking, or 14 percent of the county’s incorporated land area. So now the question is: Do we really need all of this parking?
Fraser is a postdoctoral researcher in Civil, Environmental and Sustainable Engineering at Arizona State University. Chester is associate professor in Civil, Environmental and Sustainable Engineering at Arizona State University. Matute is associate director of the Lewis Center and the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs. Pendyala is a professor of Civil, Environmental and Sustainable Engineering at Arizona State University.
Keeping people from cruising
One possible solution to cruising for parking comes in the form of performance-based pricing, where the rate at the parking meter changes based on demand. The theory is that, with the right price, there will always be one or two empty spaces for drivers to park. Drivers can then park sooner instead of cruising for parking over longer distances, causing additional congestion. But do performance-based pricing programs actually help reduce cruising?
In “Cruising for Parking: Lessons from San Francisco,” Adam Millard-Ball, Rachel Weinberger and Robert Hampshire evaluate whether SFpark, San Francisco’s performance-based pricing initiative, actually reduced cruising. By simulating parking occupancy using parking sensor data, block length, and the probability that a block is full, the authors were able to conclude that SFpark did indeed work. The average cruising distance fell by 50 percent, but people don’t cruise as far as they think.
Millard-Ball is assistant professor in the Environmental Studies Department at UC Santa Cruz. Weinberger is a transportation consultant based in New York City. Hampshire is assistant research professor in the Transportation Research Group at the University of Michigan.
Parking theories versus parking practice
The idea is simple: Charge more for parking and you should get more open parking spaces. Charge less for parking and parking spaces should fill up. But does this theory play out in the real world?
In their article, “Market-Priced Parking in Theory and Practice,” Michael Manville and Daniel Chatman evaluate how San Francisco’s market-priced parking program affected parking occupancy and cruising. They found that, when parking prices rose on a block, the block’s “average occupancy rate” for parking fell. The problem, however, is that drivers look for vacant parking spaces, not average occupancy rates. The longer the time included in average parking occupancy rates, the more misleading they can be.
Manville is assistant professor in the Department of Urban Planning at UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs. Chatman is associate professor in the Department of City and Regional Planning at the UC Berkeley.
Making do with less
When you’re in a crowded parking lot trying to get in some holiday shopping, you might think there’s not enough parking. But if you drive around that same parking lot after hours, you can see the vast waste of space that occurs daily.
In his latest article, “Parking Management for Smart Growth,” Rick Willson asks how we can transition from too much parking to a more efficient use of a smaller parking supply. He argues that transportation demand management can reduce parking demand by encouraging drivers to carpool, walk, bike, or take public transit. Parking management strategies can further reduce the number of parking spaces needed through increased space efficiency. The use of sensors and sophisticated pricing meters can ensure open parking spots and help drivers find them.
Willson is professor of Urban and Regional Planning at Cal Poly Pomona, and a Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners.
London changes its parking requirements
Do we build so much parking because it’s needed or because it’s required? Parking theorists say that the market would provide fewer parking spaces if parking requirements did not exist. The evidence of this has been inconclusive, however, until now.
In his article, “From Parking Minimums to Parking Maximums in London,” Zhan Guo evaluates what happened after London reversed its parking requirements in 2004. The city removed the previous minimum parking requirements and instead adopted new maximum requirements for all metropolitan developments. What’s interesting is that the new maximum parking limits were often lower than the previous minimum requirements. What’s even more interesting is that most developments provided far less than the maximum limit allowed. This means that, with the previous minimum parking requirements, London was requiring far more parking than the market demanded.
Guo is associate professor of Urban Planning and Transportation Policy at the Wagner School of Public Service, New York University.
Parking: the new beachfront property
Many commercial areas have implemented Parking Benefit Districts that spend meter revenue for public services in the metered areas. But can Parking Benefit Districts work in purely residential neighborhoods as well?
In his article, “Parking Benefit Districts,” Donald Shoup argues that a residential Parking Benefit District can manage on-street parking and provide a neighborhood with revenue to clean and repair sidewalks, plant trees, and remove grime from subway stations. He also argues that residential Parking Benefit Districts can help unbundle the cost of parking from the cost of housing to create more affordable housing. If cities manage their curb parking as valuable real estate, they can stop subsidizing cars, congestion, pollution, and carbon emissions, and instead provide better public services and more affordable housing.
Shoup is editor of ACCESS and Distinguished Professor of Urban Planning in UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs.