Slowing Down Saves Money and Lives, Manville Says

Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville was featured in an Atlantic article about the benefits of driving slower. Fast speeds use more energy to cover the same distance, making driving fast more dangerous, more harmful to the environment and more expensive, especially with the recent increase in gas prices. According to Manville, the first step to altering the culture of fast driving is simply to enforce existing speed limits more consistently. “If a camera catches everyone who speeds on a road segment, every time they speed, then you can actually get meaningful deterrence,” he said. Furthermore, speeding fines would be less expensive if they caught every instance of speeding. “The logic behind the high fines for speeding right now is that you don’t catch most people who speed,” Manville explained. However, if drivers knew they would be consistently penalized for speeding, they may slow down, a decision that could save money and lives.

Vestal on Barriers to Addressing Homelessness

Assistant Professor of Urban Planning Mark Vestal spoke to LAist about Section 8, a federal program that subsidizes housing for low-income individuals and families, the elderly and disabled. This program allows individuals experiencing homelessness to secure housing through vouchers. However, Vestal noted that about 50% of the people who get vouchers still can’t find housing. Landlords are incentivized to accept housing vouchers when they are in communities in decline and they are unable to get market-rate rent, but the incentive disappears when neighborhoods start to gentrify. “Landlords can discriminate against voucher holders and they have complete discretion,” Vestal explained. Furthermore, once an individual finds an apartment, it can still take a long time for the housing voucher to be approved. Vestal concluded that unhoused people have ideas about how they want to live with belongings and social space, and we should have a housing system that respects their needs and wants.

Shoup Recommends Recalibrating Parking Rates Often

Donald Shoup, distinguished research professor of urban planning, was mentioned in a TAPinto article about the debate surrounding parking permits in Princeton, New Jersey. Princeton created a task force to invite public comment on allocation and pricing of parking permits. The task force is considering an increase in the price of parking and the establishment of a timeline to review parking demand and prices. Shoup has long argued that the price of parking should be adjusted until you have the right balance of occupied and vacant spaces. The article cited Columbus, Ohio, which adopted a parking permit plan based on Shoup’s recommendations. The Columbus system recalibrates parking rates every three months to balance supply and demand. It also uses a license plate recognition system to enforce paid parking and identify open parking spaces in real time.

Luskin Summit Draws Inspiration from Europe to Combat Homelessness

A panel of experts from around the world joined the Feb. 23 Luskin Summit webinar “International Models of Social Housing: Lessons for California” to brainstorm strategies to address housing affordability and homelessness. California Assembly member Alex Lee welcomed attendees and kicked off the event by noting that nearly half of California residents qualify as rent-burdened as a result of the affordable housing crisis. Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy Paavo Monkkonen led the conversation about the successes of social housing and urban planning in Europe that could be adopted in California. Researcher Kath Scanlon from the London School of Economics noted that the goal of social housing is to solve housing affordability, but a successful social housing program will start by alleviating some of the pressure in the housing market. “For a variety of reasons, not everyone is going to be able to house themselves in the way we think they should be housed,” Scanlon said. “If California wants to step up, it will not be straightforward, but you have to start somewhere.” Helsinki’s housing program manager, Hanna Dhalmann, discussed Finland’s largest and most successful municipal housing company. “The first step is to give people real homes,” Dhalmann said. She recommended starting by investing in building affordable housing and turning housing shelters into apartments. Finally, former Deputy Mayor Jean-Louis Missika described how Paris was able to significantly expand housing production. Vivian Rescalvo, a member of the Board of Advisors of the Luskin School of Public Affairs, offered a closing statement for the event.

Stiffer Housing Requirement Will Benefit Angelenos, Monkkonen Says

Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy Paavo Monkkonen spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the state’s ruling that Los Angeles must add more than 250,000 homes to its zoning plan. State housing regulators rejected the city’s proposed long-term plan for growth and will require the city to rezone to accommodate the additional quarter-million new homes. City leaders must fix the housing plan by October in order to access billions of dollars in affordable housing grants, which will be necessary to support the growing number of low-income and homeless residents. Monkkonen agreed that the state’s ruling was justifiable given the city’s rejection of more assertive state-led rezoning proposals in favor of greater local control over where growth should go. “Allowing more housing more quickly will benefit Angelenos,” he said. “City officials shouldn’t drag their feet on taking the necessary actions to allow more housing, and should act at the pace that a crisis demands.”

Turner on Cooling Effects of New Urbanist Design

Assistant Professor of Urban Planning V. Kelly Turner spoke to Congress for the New Urbanism about passive cooling and other green design characteristics in Civano, a New Urbanist neighborhood in Tucson, Arizona. White roofs contribute to lower land surface temperature, but reducing mean radiant temperature (MRT) is also important for alleviating the heat that people feel. Shade provided by buildings and trees reduces both land surface temperature and mean radiant temperature. “Features of design that produce shade through orientation of built structures and smart use of vegetation like the alleys, plazas and washes … have a definite co-benefit of reducing MRT,” said Turner, who serves as co-director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation. She explained that New Urbanist design creates more shade than spread-out, single-story sprawl. “We find that three-dimensional attributes of design are more important for cooling pedestrians because shade blocks sunlight from surfaces — and people — in the first place,” she said.

Doctoral Student Honored for Transportation Research

Julene Paul, a Ph.D. student in urban planning, was named the 2021 student of the year by the Pacific Southwest Region University Transportation Center, a federally funded network of eight partner campuses in Arizona, California and Hawaii. Paul works closely with the Institute of Transportation Studies and the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies at UCLA Luskin. Her research includes a study of the effects of COVID-19 on transportation behavior, an investigation into trends in automobile ownership, and a deep dive into BlueLA, an electric-car-sharing program that provides services to low-income areas of Los Angeles. She has presented some of her work at national conferences and has been published along with her co-authors, including her advisors, Evelyn Blumenberg and Brian Taylor. Paul’s interest in transportation was stoked while studying urban policy and working as a research assistant for the Education Innovation Laboratory as an undergraduate at Harvard University. Later, while pursuing her master’s degree in city and regional planning at Rutgers University, Paul worked for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. After graduating from Rutgers, she went on to work as a program manager at the Federal Transit Administration. When asked for advice for the current generation of urban planning students, Paul recommended taking advantage of internship opportunities and seeking out mentors from these experiences. She also encouraged students to venture out beyond their required classes when possible. Paul said a UCLA Law course in employment law challenged her to think critically about transportation policies and their effects on workers.


On the Decline and Fall of Parking Requirements

A StreetsBlog article about the evolution of mandatory parking requirements noted that recommendations put forward long ago by Distinguished Research Professor of Urban Planning Donald Shoup are now gaining wide acceptance. Shoup recommended removing off-street parking requirements, allowing developers and businesses to decide how many parking spaces to provide for their customers. He also recommended pricing on-street parking so that one or two spaces will always be left open in order to avoid parking shortages. Finally, he suggested spending parking revenue on public service projects on the metered streets, which would help increase the popularity of demand-based pricing. Many local governments are taking these recommendations seriously and implementing changes. The article cited Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville‘s research on San Diego’s 2019 decision to stop requiring parking for housing near transit, which helped make affordable housing projects more economically viable. As Shoup predicted, parking requirements are quickly being eliminated across the United States.

Goh on Eco-Friendly Ambitions for Indonesia’s New Capital

Assistant Professor of Urban Planning Kian Goh was mentioned in a Science article about the anticipated environmental burden of Nusantara, the planned new capital of Indonesia. Nusantara will replace the overcrowded and increasingly flood-prone Jakarta, and planners are envisioning an environmental utopia, including green recreational spaces, eco-friendly construction and energy efficiency. “The big question, of course, is how and if they’ll achieve these ambitions,” Goh said. “Planning scholars are by and large skeptical of plans for smart or sustainable cities ‘from scratch.’” The construction of Nusantara could also have a significant impact on the ecology of Borneo, and the residents of the old capital Jakarta will continue to suffer from rising sea levels and flooding due to climate change. “Jakarta will still be the economic center of Indonesia … and still have to take on its social issues and environmental issues,” Goh said.

Manville on How Toll Roads Change Driver Behavior

Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville spoke to Community Impact Newspaper about ways to reduce traffic congestion on roads and freeways. The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority has broken ground on its $612 million expansion of US 183 North in Austin, Texas. The project will add four express toll lanes and two general-purpose lanes, making it 18 lanes wide in some areas. While Manville said he sees advantages in express lanes, he is skeptical the project will actually reduce congestion because adding non-toll lanes will induce demand and cause more people to use them. Manville explained that he prefers toll roads because they force drivers to consider the time involved and how they make trips. “If you just changed the behavior of a small number of people who might get on that road, the road works a lot better, carries more people, there’s less congestion, and you actually have a high-quality service,” Manville said.