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Transit Is an Essential Public Service, Wasserman Says

Jacob Wasserman, research project manager at the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies, spoke to Yahoo News about the state of public transit. Transit ridership was in decline even before the pandemic, due in part to expanded access to cars and the growth of ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft. During the pandemic, public transit plummeted overall but still served as an essential service for those without car access who didn’t have the luxury of working from home. “The pandemic showed that public transit is an essential public good, even if it’s not always profitable,” Wasserman said. Now, many once-frequent commuters are hesitant to return to public transit due to concerns about violence and crime. Even with decreased ridership, public transit remains essential to millions of Americans who lack access to other modes of transportation or for whom owning a car doesn’t make financial sense, Wasserman said.


Inhabiting the Night: An Informative Walk Through MacArthur Park

UCLA students and researchers recently organized an exploration of MacArthur Park after dark led by light and nighttime design expert Leni Schwendinger. More than 35 participants traversed a route through the park, listening to her commentary and observing nighttime conditions such as lighting design, infrastructure and social activity. Schwendinger’s NightSeeing programs encourage academics, community members, artists and other interested parties to join in enriching their understanding of light and dark, sparking conversations about sustaining the nighttime conditions within and around Los Angeles. The event was the second in a series presented by the (Un)Common Public Space Group, a collective of UCLA doctoral students that activates public space with and for underrepresented and underserved communities in pursuit of spatial justice. It helped connect public space research at UCLA to the knowledge and perspectives of community-based organizations near MacArthur Park. A pre-walk gathering was hosted by Art Division, a nearby neighborhood organization for young adults in the visual arts. Representatives from the Levitt Pavilion, an outdoor venue in the park that presents accessible live music programming, also joined the walk and provided commentary, as did local resident, arts organizer and historian Carmelo Alvarez. The series is supported by the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies and the UCLA Urban Humanities Initiative as multidisciplinary, interactive conversations taking place in the public spaces of the city.

View additional photos in an album on Flickr

MacArthur Park walk


 

Goh on Decolonization of Public Parks

Assistant Professor of Urban Planning Kian Goh was featured in a New Yorker article about the legacy of landscape architect Frederick Olmsted and the future of public parks in the United States. Olmsted, who was born 200 years ago, is regarded as the father of landscape architecture but has also been criticized for his work that displaced Black and Native communities. Goh explained that she uses Olmsted as an example of the lineage of urban parks — but one for which students swiftly see the limits. “Green space has a history of exclusion, even though the original ideals might have been different,” she said, adding that her students “don’t think that the ideas of folks like Olmsted stand the test of racial and social-justice critique now.” Moving forward, her teaching is guided by the question: “How do we decolonize ideas for public parks?”


Car Access Increases Job Opportunities, Blumenberg Finds

Urban Planning Professor Evelyn Blumenberg was mentioned in a Chicago Magazine article about new approaches to commuting as the suburbs expand and jobs are decentralized. Especially in areas where mass transit is lacking or unreliable and driving is expensive, many commuters are getting creative with bike-share programs and other alternatives to driving. However, many of these alternative transportation programs largely cater to the upper-middle class and leave out low-income residents who need them most. The decentralization of jobs has led to many economic opportunities being located in the suburbs, which are often poorly served by mass transit. This makes job opportunities further out of reach for central-city residents with limited transportation options. Blumenberg found that car-driving residents of the Watts section of Los Angeles have access to an astounding 59 times as many jobs as their neighbors dependent on public transit. 


Blumenberg, King Win Award for Best Planning Article

A paper by Evelyn Blumenberg, director of the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies, and urban planning doctoral student Hannah King recently received the 2022 Article of the Year Award by the Journal of the American Planning Association (JAPA). In “Jobs-Housing Balance Re-Re-Visited,” Blumenberg and King examined the functional balance between housing and employment opportunities in nearly 400 California municipalities. In a reversal of a trend seen in the late 20th century, the state’s workers are now becoming less likely to both live and work in the same city, they found. “These findings affirm trends observed by many Californians in recent years around growing commutes and rising home prices, and will provide insight for those looking to better understand how the job-housing balance within the state has shifted in recent decades,” according to the the journal’s blog. Awarded by the American Planning Association and JAPA, the Article of the Year distinction recognizes work that makes a significant contribution to the literature of the planning profession, has the potential to change the nature of discourse on the given topic, and provides useful insights or implications for planning practice or public policy. Blumenberg, a professor of urban planning, studies transportation and economic outcomes for low-wage workers and the role of planning and policy in addressing transportation disparities. King studies transportation finance, travel behavior and transportation equity.


 

Callahan on Expanding Access to Clean Vehicles

Colleen Callahan, co-executive director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation,  spoke to ABC7 News about expanding access to clean vehicles in rural communities in California. Electric vehicles are an important strategy to reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change, but zero-emission car sales have largely been clustered in wealthier, urban areas. Many rural communities that would benefit from increased investment of clean energy lack the necessary infrastructure for electric vehicles, such as charging stations. “The same Californians who tend to live in communities most affected by air pollution — including pollution from trucks and cars and other kinds of on-road sources — they’re the same ones that you’d think should be getting the access to the clean vehicles, but that’s not always the case,” Callahan said. She also highlighted the importance of lowering the cost of clean vehicles through rebates and raising community awareness about the benefits of zero-emission vehicles.


Shoup Weighs In on NYC Parking Angst

Donald Shoup, distinguished research professor of urban planning, spoke to the New York Times about the recent decision to return to twice-a-week street sweeping in New York City. During the pandemic, street sweeping was reduced to once per week as city services were scaled back. Many New Yorkers welcomed the change, which required them to move their cars just once a week, but others complained that the cleanliness of streets across the city declined. Mayor Eric Adams recently announced that twice-weekly street sweeping would resume, and drivers will once again have to move their cars two times a week to avoid a fine. According to Shoup, car owners in the city are still getting a good deal. “Drivers are complaining that they have to move their car, and they’re parking for free on some of the most valuable land on Earth,” Shoup said.


L.A. Metro’s Struggle with Homelessness Is ‘Big Dilemma,’ Loukaitou-Sideris Says

Urban Planning Professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris was featured in a Los Angeles Times article about Metro’s attempts to grapple with homelessness. Unhoused residents have long found shelter in the transit agency’s stations, trains and buses, but their numbers have grown as the L.A. homelessness crisis has deepened. Metro counted 5,700 homeless riders on its system last August. A study by the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies found an increase in the number of homeless people on the Metro during the pandemic as shelters closed and commuters stayed home. “It’s a big dilemma,” explained Loukaitou-Sideris, lead author of the study. As Metro aims to revive transit ridership, many commuters are concerned about the issues of homelessness and rising crime. “The agencies to a certain extent, and rightly so, feel that they are in a transportation business, and they have to deal with a challenge that is not of their own making,” Loukaitou-Sideris said.


Taylor Reimagines California Dream With Fewer Cars

Brian Taylor, director of the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies, authored an opinion piece for the Southern California News Group about the urban landscape of California. “California’s reliance on low-density, sprawling development, with its wide streets and freeways and ubiquitous free parking, requires most Californians to travel by car for almost all of their trips, whether or not they own a car or want to drive that much,” wrote Taylor, a professor of urban planning and public policy. This emphasis on driving is expensive, takes up a lot of land and is harmful to the environment. Residents without access to personal cars, who are disproportionately Black and Latino, are increasingly left behind. Taylor proposed making metropolitan and transportation planning more urban-focused. Increasing housing density, eliminating parking mandates and improving public transit would help improve housing affordability and meet climate goals, he argued. “De-centering cars in central cities can make cities more sustainable, accessible and lively places,” Taylor wrote.


Luskin Housing Scholars Weigh In on California’s Crisis

A UCLA Newsroom article on how to tackle California’s affordable housing crisis cited several scholars from UCLA Luskin. Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy Paavo Monkkonen sees the housing crisis as a combination of “unaffordability, instability and inability to house” and has urged the state to “use many levers to push cities to allow more new housing.” Los Angeles Initiative Director Zev Yaroslavsky has cautioned against changes that fundamentally undermine the character of neighborhoods. He suggested increasing zoning capacity but allowing the city to decide where it should take place. “You don’t need to destroy communities,” Yaroslavsky said. Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy Michael Lens highlighted the urgent need for more money for permanent supportive housing. The article was written by Jim Newton, editor of UCLA’s Blueprint magazine, who concluded that the competing arguments “reflect and shape California’s ongoing and urgent search for ways to adequately house every resident of the state.”