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Open Access Publications from the University of California

UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies

There are 278 publications in this collection, published between 2009 and 2022.
Capstone Projects (105)

A Scoot, Skip, and a JUMP Away: Learning from Shared Micromobility Systems in San Francisco

In 2018 electric powered shared scooters and stationless electric bikeshare proliferated throughout the United States. Many cities have begun to experiment with new permitting systems and regulations for these vehicles. To date, there is scant academic literature on how well scooter and stationless bikeshare permits have helped cities achieve their transit, sustainability, and equity goals. San Francisco was one of the first cities in the United States to create permit systems for stationless bikeshare and scooter companies. This research evaluates scooters and stationless bikeshare use as a first/last mile transit option, reductions in vehicle miles traveled (VMT), and equity of utilization. The author evaluates these systems using a mixed methods approach and primary data collected by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) as part of its pilot permit programs. Results indicate that the two travel modes substantially support transit usage, both by connecting riders to transit and by replacing automobile trips. Shared e-bikes reduce VMT significantly more than scooters by replacing more and longer auto trips. Scooters are more likely to reduce VMT by connecting riders to transit. Rider demographics for both travel modes do not demonstrate improved equitable utilization as compared to traditional, personally owned bikes at this time.

One Light, Two Light, Red Light, Green Light: An Analysis of Signal Priority on the Metro G Line

Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro) planning staff, working alongside engineers from the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) seek to make improvements to the Metro G Line (Orange) busway to address a number of operational problems with the popular line. The Metro G Line is the backbone of transit in the San Fernando Valley, serving more than 22,000 pre-COVID-19 pandemic weekday boardings. Part of the problem for public transit in a chronically traffic congested place like Los Angeles is that buses typically have to compete for road space with private automobiles. As a result, buses get stuck in traffic. Light rail vehicles, when travelling on surface streets with cars, get stuck in traffic as well. The G line busway thus has a significant advantage, as it runs on its own dedicated route. Efforts to further separate the G line from nearby traffic, such as grade separated over- and under-passes or railroad-style gate arms at street crossings, will require complex planning and take considerable time and resources to implement. However, speeding up the G line with current infrastructure is possible by improving transit signal priority (TSP). TSP prioritizes a direction along a roadway by extending green time at signals so priority vehicles (in this case buses) can pass through an intersection without stopping.This report explores the current signal regime along the G line alignment, some of the history of the TSP system, and draws on case studies to develop applicable lessons to the Metro G line.

School Transportation Equity for Vulnerable Student Populations through Ridehailing: An Analysis of HopSkipDrive and Other Trips to School in Los Angeles County

The Every Student Succeeds Act (2015) gave foster youth additional legal protections in school, including the right to transportation and the right to remain at their school despite any moves, similar to protections already in place for students experiencing homelessness and students with disabilities. Californiaís compliance with this mandate was relatively more difficult than other statesí, as less than ten percent of students in California travel by school bus, compared with 35 percent nationally. Thus, California schools could not simply tap into their existing services to provide transportation for foster youth. Ridehailing offers a solution to this gap. HopSkipDrive, a ridehailing company designed to transport children, engages in contracts with school districts and county governments to provide school transportation for these vulnerable student populations. In 2018ñ2019, HopSkipDrive provided 32,796 trips to school in Los Angeles County, with massive time savings over the logical alterative: transit. Using Googleís Directions API, I determine that HopSkipDrive offers time savings of nearly 70 percent compared with the same trips simulated on transit. HopSkipDriveís trips average 28 minutes in duration, yet on transit only 30 percent would have taken less than 45 minutes. This is despite 90 percent of all origins and destinations being located within a half-mile of a transit stop. This service has important social equity implications beyond just time savings offered to vulnerable student populations, as HopSkipDrive contract trips tend to originate in neighborhoods with high percentages of low-income households and people of color.

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Policy Briefs (129)
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Reports (40)

Falling Transit Ridership: California and Southern California

In the last ten years transit use in Southern California has fallen significantly. This report investigates that falling transit use. We define Southern California as the six counties that participate in the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) – Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura and Imperial. We examine patterns of transit service and patronage over time and across the region, and consider an array of explanations for falling transit use: declining transit service levels, eroding transit service quality, rising fares, falling fuel prices, the growth of Lyft and Uber, the migration of frequent transit users to outlying neighborhoods with less transit service, and rising vehicle ownership. While all of these factors probably play some role, we conclude that the most significant factor is increased motor vehicle access, particularly among low-income households that have traditionally supplied the region with its most frequent and reliable transit users.

Transit(ory) Finance: The Past, Present, and Future Fiscal Effects of COVID-19 on Public Transit in Southern California

This study reports on the recent past, present, and immediate future public transit finance in Southern California in light of the impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. To do this, we draw on transit agency budgets, interviews, preliminary survey results, and other datasets and reports. Initially, the financial situation of transit operators in the region appeared dire, with plummeting ridership and fares and rising subsidies and operating costs. However, the three enormous federal pandemic relief bills brought $4.4 billion to Southern California transit agencies and helped the region weather the fiscal storm, until many of the state and local tax revenue sources on which the region’s transit agencies rely bounced back—and more quickly than most forecasters initially predicted. This is, in other words, the story of successful public policy intervention to the benefit of both the region’s transit riders and workers, though most operators nonetheless cut service and their workforces to varying degrees during the pandemic. The principal dilemma facing the region’s transit operators in 2022 is not a depressed economy, but an overheated one plagued by labor shortages, supply-chain bottlenecks, and inflation—as agencies plan for the end of large-scale federal operating support and an uncertain ridership future.

An Assessment of Performance Measures in the Transportation Development Act

"This report examines the performance measures requirements in California’s Transportation Development Act (TDA) of 1971. The TDA is an important source of funding for the state’s public transit agencies, representing approximately 18 percent of their total (2018) revenue between the TDA’s two funds (LTF and STA). Since the TDA’s passage in 1971, the transit operating environment in California has changed, in some cases dramatically. The state has nearly doubled in population (20.4 million in 1971 to 39.8 million in 2019), traffic has worsened considerably, climate change is now a central public policy focus, and many places around the state are investing heavily in making public transit a viable alternative to driving. Our research examined the TDA’s performance requirements and their effects on the state’s transit operators. We also considered alternative approaches to both transit finance and performance requirements, by studying transit funding programs in 13 other states that invest significant amounts of funding in transit. In brief, we find that the TDA’s use of performance measurements to allocate funding is unusual. The states we studied do not for the most part make funding contingent on performance, thereby avoiding the unproductive and difficult-to-implement “death penalty” (Taylor, 1995) of withholding subsidies for a much-needed public service. In several of the cases analyzed, by contrast, states guarantee specific levels or amounts of funding for transit service.

To examine how the TDA’s performance measures are working, we conducted a survey of California transit professionals at agencies and at Regional Transportation Planning Agencies (RTPAs). That California’s aspirations for transit have evolved over the years is reflected in the frequent loopholes and exemptions the legislature has added to the TDA to give struggling operators more latitude to receive funding in order to meet multiple goals and objectives while staying in compliance with a single cost-effectiveness goal. The extent and frequency with which these exemptions have occurred suggests that the larger aims for public transit, and indeed the goals for the TDA program itself, have evolved, and need to be re-thought holistically, rather than incrementally.

Accordingly we offer six recommendations concerning transit performance assessment in the TDA."

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Other Work (4)

Examination of Key Transportation Funding Programs in California and Their Context

Examination of Key Transportation Funding Programs in California and Their Context assesses the congruence between funding programs and state goals for transportation. Particular attention is given to major funding sources, such the State Operation and Protection Program, and programs designed to promote key state goals, including the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program, the Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program, the Transformative Climate Communities program, and the Sustainable Transportation Planning Grant program.

How does traffic, or the fear of it, affect housing affordability? Examining the effect of Traffic Impact Analysis on Housing Production and Affordability

Traffic impact analysis (TIA), which estimates the traffic impacts of proposed land development, tends to bias against higher density developments in urban areas where traffic is often congested and travel alternatives plentiful. This has important implications for housing supply and affordability, suburban sprawl, and private vehicle dependence. We examine the understudied implication of TIA on housing by drawing on empirical evidence from distinct bodies of research in the transportation and land use planning literatures to describe the mechanisms through which TIA may affect housing market conditions. We conclude that TIAs likely have negative effects on urban housing production and affordability.

Connected automated vehicle impacts in Southern California part-II: VMT, emissions, and equity

Connected and automated vehicle (CAV) technologies are likely to have significant impacts on people's travel behaviors and the performance of transportation systems. This study investigates the impacts of CAVs from various aspects, including vehicle miles traveled (VMT), emissions, and transportation equity in Southern California. A comprehensive model is developed by incorporating the supply-side improvement of CAVs, a modified activity-based demand model supported by survey data, and a multi-class highway assignment model. The simulation results showed that VMT and emissions would increase by 10%, and CAVs could worsen travel equity across income groups. To reduce the negative impacts caused by CAVs, we proposed and evaluated a series of travel demand management policies. The results indicated that all policies help to reduce the VMT and emission growth, while their performances in enhancing travel equity vary across metrics including accessibility, travel frequency, and travel distance.

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