Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Blog Entry


"because cities that work for bicyclists are more vital, prosperous, convenient and attractive places to live and work. "  

This article is extremely motivating in my opinion; as student interested in transportation planning, finding a way to make communities more vital, prosperous, convenient, and attractive are our main goals and this article was fueled by that same desire. 

In cities such as the Netherlands and Copenhagen, biking accounts for 35% of the way people choose to travel.  Because of this statistic, American organizations - such as Colorado-based non-profit PeopleForBikes - that are interested in incorporating these travel behaviors into domestic cities have begun to organize visits to Copenhagen and Denmark to inspire the development of future, more efficient, community-based transportation programs.  

Cities around the nation are being asked to participate with PeopleForBikes and their mission to cultivate social, economic, and cultural wealth through the implementation of strong bicycling systems that compliment the cities specific needs. Visits to the Netherlands and Copenhagen have taken place - with more planned for the future - and the inspiration that planners leave with has changed the level of mobility and accessibility in their cities, for the better.  

Cities such as Chicago, Denver, Madison, and Indianapolis are amongst many American cities that have participated in PeopleForBikes' global transportation tour.  Indianapolis, for example, has since become one of the nations leaders in protected bike lanes following Brian Payne's - the President of the Central Indiana Community Foundation's - study tour visit of Denmark and Sweden.  Following Brian Payne's visit, his foundation launched a campaign that is projected to add $863 million dollars and 11,000 jobs to the Indianapolis local economy by developing an eight mile bike and pedestrian route - that is separated from traffic - through the center of the city.  Not only does this provide an economic benefit for the city by stimulating job growth, but the level of accessibility and mobility will increase tremendously for the frequent commuters - mainly workers and residents - of Indianapolis.  

The level of social, economic and cultural impact that the PeopleForBikes global initiative has created is not only long-lasting, but a viable way to encourage future global collaboration amongst the diverse array of planning, health, and governmental organizations.  This notion of study tours has already begun to cultivate relationships among cross-state planners, health officials, engineers, council members, and neighborhood leaders - further encouraging a national movement to increase mobility and efficiency within American cities.  

Mimi Hefner
USC Sol Price School of Public Policy

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Autonomous Vehicles: The Future of Urban Transportation

Autonomous Vehicles: The Future of Urban Transportation
by Jeremy Smith 

After a class discussion with Robert Huddy back in October, I have been thinking a lot about driverless vehicles. We have all heard about Google's progress with its autonomous vehicles; experts are saying they will hit the streets before 2020! What will this mean for the future of urban structures? I think it's main impacts will happen in the physical structure of cities, social dynamics, and the "driver" industry. 
Automated vehicles are expected to eliminate the human error of driving, reducing traffic caused by accidents as well as being able to be integrated into an ITS, maximizing the efficiency of our automobile infrastructure. Autonomous vehicles will also greatly reduce the need for parking, as users will either be able to order vehicles from their phone, or have their vehicle drive back to their home after dropping them off. By increasing the efficiency and mobility of urban areas, cities will be able to allow for high densities of land uses, which would normally be limited by traffic. I also argue that automated vehicles will extend the 1st and last mile of existing transit, and will help expand the reach of urban transit systems. 
In terms of Social impacts, I see two main groups that could be affected: the elderly and the youth. Aging Baby Boomers will be able to stay in their homes longer by providing more mobility for those unable to drive. I also see driverless cars changing family dynamics, where parents can have their cars drop off and pick up their kids from school, increasing mobility for education and taking a burden off of parents allowing for varied work schedules and changing family dynamics. 
Lastly, the taxi and limo industry is worth $11 billion and the freight transportation industry, worth over $210 billion in the US. With the automation of these vehicles and services, what will happen to the millions of well-paid drivers who often have low levels of education and barriers of entry to other industries. How will the employment of robotics affect the US economy who, in many ways, relies on these jobs due to low levels of education? All of this while the cost of learning to be a robotics engineer is increasing (in terms of tuition) every year. 

Jeremy Smith
USC Sol Price School of Public Policy '17

Friday, November 14, 2014

Comment on: Bob Hope Article Post

Looks like LA Times picked up the story as well. Our class discussion was ahead of the game!


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Bob Hope Article

Good timing: here's a brief blog post about Bob Hope airport (via CurbedLA). Interesting to note that the airport is "try[ing] to build a stronger association between the airport and nearby media companies, entertainment venues and tourist attractions." Sounds like linking Bob Hope with transit (Red Line subway, HSR, Amtrak/Metrolink) could be a priority for the airport (versus the sluggish addition of transit to other LA airports).

- Tay Vaughn

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Definition of Success - Looking At Congestion

We treat traffic congestion as a stand-alone problem.  Too many cars and drivers. Not enough roadway
to accomodate the demand for transportation and mobility.  Yet overlooked in this seemingly endless
discussion of traffic congestion is how we use land.  How do we define home ownership and upward
mobility--as well as physical mobility?  The greater Los Angeles metropolitan area has some 11 million
residents, and if only a subset used a vehicle, it's not hard to see why we have traffic congestion.
People need to get to work, school, health care, appointments, care for a relative, shop or seek
public services. 

Los Angeles needs in-fill development and much more high density housing.  Just pause and think for a moment.
Whenever a developer proposes a high density housing unit within the borders of Los Angeles, one of the first
things that happens is the objections of neighbors.   "We don't want that condo unit in our area.  We have
a nice residential neighborhood and that condo unit might attract too many people.  A condo might upset
the topography and look of the neighborhood."

Unspoken is the fear that high density housing might be used for low or moderate income families.  People
talk about finding affordable housing or helping those with moderate incomes, but they also don't want them
in their neighborhood.  This is hard to admit and this is why developers tend to push the boundaries and add
to more urban sprawl.  Is it a smart move for a land developer to move his construction crews and materials some
50 miles outward from a city center just to build a housing development?  What are the developer's hurdles
and costs?

If in-fill development and high density housing were made a higher priority and given the tag of success in 
home ownership and upward mobility, would we see so many families having to commute 30 to 75 miles
each day from home to work?  Could transit be dovetailed to more centralized development so families 
would not need to buy a car--and just maybe go into car-sharing programs instead?  We have defined success
and home ownership as being that detached, ranch-style home in the suburbs.  We have made the
traffic patterns and land use patterns reflect our perception of success.  It starts with basics.  How do we educate
our young about success and upward mobility?  What is their picture of success--to struggle like
their parents at trying to own a costly and remotely located detached dwelling?

We all complain about the lack of affordable housing in Los Angeles and the need to commute further and
further into the hinterlands for an affordable home.  Yet how did we get here?  Did we help shape this
pattern of land use and perception of success and upward mobility?  Europeans have for generations used
bicycles and public transit, such as trolleys and buses, to get to their destination.  They have done this because
the price of fuel is much higher in Europe than in the U.S.  We have kept the price of petroleum-based fuel artificially low
to spur the car market and exhibit another indicator of success--owning a car.  We complain about congestion and
try various gimmicks to spur ride-sharing, tele-commuting and build some expensive subway systems.  These
efforts are add-ons, and they only mitigate just some of the congestion.

What we suggest and need is a wholesale re-making of what home ownership should be.  We should drop the
fears about high density housing and learn to be neighbors again vs. living in our stereo-bedecked vehicle
zooming the 75 miles from home to work and fighting the long delays returning home.  It would make sense
economically, socially and in terms of energy consumption, lower vehicle miles traveled and lowered
emissions and warming.  The solution is within us and how we perceive what home ownership can be. 
We can change that perception and habit.  It will take patience and public education, but it can be done.  The
alternative is more blogs and academic discussions about how we can tame traffic congestion and nibble around
the edges of the problem again.

Norman Dong
Senior Transportation Planner/Caltrans (Retired)

Resources-for the Transportation Planning Students



The class was great,  you have some really smart young people this year.


Here are a few additional resources for articles and events to post to the Blog which your students may find useful.




This is a compendium of daily railroad articles US and international, from local press and trade publications.




This is the announcement and reservation information for the Rand event Marty Wachs is holding on Self Driving Vehicles on October 28, 2014.




This is the Victoria Transportation Policy Institute (VTPI) Website and TDM Encyclopedia link.




Here is the website for Bob Poole and the Reason Foundation transportation policy materials.




Here is the Eno Foundation website, which has some great resources on all manner of transportation subjects.




Bob Huddy

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Parking & Parks - Pershing Square Renovation

Big news in Downtown LA (weeks old via CurbedLA): Pershing Square is finally getting a much-needed renovation. Pershing Square has undergone numerous changes that resulted in drastically different parks; of note, in the 60's the park was completely razed and excavated to provide underground parking. The current iteration, a concrete-heavy vision of the 90's, fails to attract many pedestrians due to the pedestrian-unfriendly parking ramps that inhibit access to the park.

With a potential redesign of Pershing Square now being considered, I am curious about sub-park parking structures in today's day-and-age. Although parking in Downtown continues to be a lucrative business for operators of structures and lots, as well as for the city of Los Angeles, many urbanists now advocate for a reduction in parking: surface lots are being developed into multi-use developments, road diets (including the rehearsal road diet on Broadway) are reducing the supply of street parking, and the development of parking structures is much less savory to the community than most other developments. However, parking structures underneath Grand Parks still operate and many new developments are shy to omit parking podiums from the bases of residential towers. 

My question is: are parking structures located underneath LA's parks still relevant? Perhaps the design of public spaces should return emphasis to pedestrians, instead of inhibiting access to parks with bulky parking ramps to subterranean parking structures.

- Tay Vaughn

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Blog entry: buzz feed

Buzz Feed compiled an impressive assortment of wild images  captured on public transportation.  I personally have witnessed some strange encounters on the bus; one of which was an angry riders tirade about the bus operators driving speed. The other was an elderly man that had fallen asleep and wet his pants.  It certainly made me think about where I sat and who I sat next to. Luckily Buzz Feed has some images that surpass my personal experiences check them out and think policy's or physical design of transportation system that can prevent acts like this from happening.  Whether that means bathrooms on the train, more policing or better avenues for riders to report strange incidences.    In my next entry I will be making a buzz feed like post about the joys of public transportation. 

Abe Markowitz 
USC '12 
Former PPD 360 student. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Confronting Congestion in Southern California

Traffic congestion isn't a new problem.  It's been around for a long time but we have treated it as a
stand-alone problem of too many cars and not enough transit and ride-sharing options.  The problem
is much more complex and inter-connected than just too many cars.  The problem goes to the heart
of how we plan and develop urban areas in general.

Land use drives traffic patterns.  When we centralize jobs, schools and health care into a relatively
confined area, we create the dense traffic patterns.  When we take the time to plan and plot where
job growth will happen and furnish new transit, pedestrian and bicycle options around the development
we build into the planning measures of mitigation.  Too often in the past (and it continues as we think about
it) we allow land use and development remain as autonomous business decisions.

It also doesn't help that local municipalities have added to the congestion because new development, whether
in urban sprawl, new strip malls, or shopping complexes, because new development was the "work around" to
Proposition 13 passed around 1979 to cap property taxes.  New development was the loophole that would
enable local governments to get uncapped property taxes, sales taxes and generate growth at the same time.
What does this mean to planning?  It means that taken as a whole all the stakeholders--from investors, businesses,
employers, schools and home builders--have to communicate and make compromises to prevent the ad nauseum
congestion we currently see.

The latter is hard to do.  Who is going to get businesses and local government to work together?  What incentive or
driving force exists to get all the stakeholders to think more system-wide and more holistically about planning
and land use? Tough assignment, when you think about it.  Yet the current patterns of land use, congestion, commute
times, air pollution and energy consumption are not sustainable.  When we talk of sustainable we are talking about
the long-term and our real future.  We are talking about doing things that we won't have to regret later.  Our past
policies (or lack of policies) have helped create the immense traffic delays and bone-tiring traffic we now see.

There are many ways to tackle this.  Start on a small scale.  Talk about transit-oriented development.  Talk about
in-fill development where we work with smaller clusters of stakeholders and parcels of property to try and test
the methods by which we communicate, analyze, compromise and empower local communities to come to the
table.   We should also look at poor and under-served communities who are too often left out of the discussions 
and made the victims of big-city planning--some used to call this Environmental Justice.  Not a theory.  But a practical
reality which directly addresses public participation and equity in urban planning.  

The "system" is taken as an unconquerable whole and allowed to be autonomous.  We can't change things, or can we?
It takes commitment and it takes some persuasion and patience.  But the sooner urban planners, businesses, home
builders and community based organizations work closely together to create a better future--the sooner our urban areas
will look and feel like livable communities where the roads and concrete in toto will not overwhelm us.

A side note...i hope I contributed this blog correctly.  If not, somebody speak up and get these thoughts into
the right hands.  With pleasure and personal hopes...N. Dong (Retired Senior Transportation Planner--Caltrans).

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Taking public transit to work may keep you fitter: study

London researchers found that men taking public transportation were about seven pounds lighter than those who drove to work. Women were about six pounds lighter. They also had reductions in body fat percentage.

Thursday, August 21, 2014, 9:37 AM
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Research suggests taking public transportation to work could be almost or as effective as other active means like walking or cycling at keeping you in shape.MICHAELJUNG/SHUTTERSTOCK.COMResearch suggests taking public transportation to work could be almost or as effective as other active means like walking or cycling at keeping you in shape.

A British study finds that walking, cycling and yes, even taking public transportation to work are associated with lower body weight and lower body fat composition when compared against those who drive.

A team of researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and University College London collected and assessed 7,534 BMI (body mass index) measurements and 7,424 body fat percentage measurements from participants in "Understanding Society, the United Kingdom Household Longitudinal Study," a cross-sectional dataset representative of the British population.

Ten percent of men and 11 percent of women reported using public transport. Both their body fat percentage and their BMI scores, like those of others who walked or cycled, were lower than those who commuted by means of a personally owned car.

Men who used public or active (either walking or cycling) transport modes had an average BMI score of one percent lower than those who commuted via car, which indicates roughly a difference of about 6.5 pounds in overall body weight.

For women, BMI scores were an average of 0.7 points lower than their car commuting counterparts, equating to an average reduction in overall body weight of 5.5 pounds.

As far as body fat percentage was concerned, the reduction was similar in size and significance, even after researchers controlled for age-related differences, socio-economic discrepancy, diet and level of physical activity in the workplace.

While the large-scale study did not zero in on public transport users, and they represented a small group, results indicate nonetheless that the stresses and unpleasantness associated with trains and buses could be outweighed by the health benefits.

Of the thousands of participants screened, 76 percent of men and 72 percent of women commuted by means of private motorized vehicles, while 14 percent of men and 17 percent of women walked or cycled to the office.

Average BMI scores came in at 28 for men and 27 for women, indicating that most participants were overweight, teetering on the lines of obesity, which is marked by a BMI score of 30. The ideal BMI score is between 18.5 and 24.9.

The study was published online in the British Medical Journal.

Link to story: http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/public-transit-work-fitter-study-article-1.1911585


Obiageli (Oby) Owu
Rising 3L Student (c/o 2015)
Howard University School of Law
B.S., University of Southern California 
M: (909) 964-6528 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Blog Post

Washington State mudslides are examples of our necessity for comprehensive planning: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/24/us/washington-mudslide.html?_r=0

I wrote a paper about Washington state's landslides December 2013 in Professor Kodama's class in relation to the railways just north of Seattle - looks like WA needs a bit more help and interdisciplinary action.

Catherine Shieh
University of Southern California '14
Dornsife College I Political Science B.A.
Sol Price School of Public Policy | Urban Planning Minor
College Democrats of America | AAPI Caucus Chair