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Open Access Publications from the University of California
Cover page of The Spatial Dilemma of Sustainable Transportation and Just Affordable Housing: Part I, Housing Choice Vouchers

The Spatial Dilemma of Sustainable Transportation and Just Affordable Housing: Part I, Housing Choice Vouchers

(2022)

This study examines the spatial distribution of tenant-based Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) units to understand whether geographic patterns and trends are consistent with climate change and equity goals. The analysis compares the location of HCV units in 2012 and net changes from 2012 to 2019 with a number of transportation, environmental, and racial and economic equity metrics. While the change in units from 2012 to 2019 shows promising trends for reducing vehicle miles traveled and increasing walkability and transit accessibility, there is a cost: higher exposure to pollution and a higher rate of vehicle collisions. HCV units are further concentrated in disproportionately low income neighborhoods and neighborhoods of color, with worsened access to economic opportunity. The findings reveal an inherent structural dilemma in whether the HCV program is able to simultaneously achieve climate and equity goals.

Cover page of The Spatial Dilemma of Sustainable Transportation and Just Affordable Housing: Part II, Low-income Housing Tax Credits

The Spatial Dilemma of Sustainable Transportation and Just Affordable Housing: Part II, Low-income Housing Tax Credits

(2022)

This study examines the spatial distribution of Low-income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) units to understand whether geographic patterns and trends are consistent with climate change and equity goals. The analysis compares the location of LIHTC units in 2012 and net changes from 2012 to 2019 with a number of transportation, environmental, and racial and economic equity metrics. Unit locations are, at best, somewhat more sustainable than the state overall, with slightly lower-skewing vehicle miles traveled and better walkability, though low transit accessibility. What environmental gains there were, though, come at the cost of higher exposure to pollution. LIHTC units are also concentrated in disproportionately low-income neighborhoods and neighborhoods of color, with worse access to economic opportunity. The findings reveal an inherent structural dilemma in whether the LIHTC program is able to simultaneously achieve climate and equity goals.

Cover page of Steering California’s Transportation Future: A Report on Possible Scenarios and Recommendations

Steering California’s Transportation Future: A Report on Possible Scenarios and Recommendations

(2022)

To investigate possible future transportation and land use scenarios for California as well as their likely precipitating policies and potential consequences, we convened a panel of 18 experts and used a novel variation of the Delphi method to systematically explore four specific scenarios and probe the desirability and likelihood of each. The scenario that panel members collectively thought most desirable for California (one with diverse transportation options and higher-density development) was also the one they thought least likely to materialize by 2050. This report describes the findings of the three surveys and two meetings that our method entailed and summarizes some of the discussion among panelists. We include reflections on the salient but unexpected finding that panelists viewed trust in government as both critical to effecting the scenario they considered most desirable and also lacking to such an extent that pursuing that desirable outcome could cause unintended consequences or outright failure. Accordingly, we discuss possible implications and outline policy recommendations for improving both processes and conditions that can instill in California’s government more trust, without which a future of multimodal transportation and higher-density, mixed land uses is unlikely to succeed.

Cover page of Employing a Modified Delphi Approach to Explore Scenarios for California’s Transportation and Land Use Future

Employing a Modified Delphi Approach to Explore Scenarios for California’s Transportation and Land Use Future

(2022)

There are many methods for engaging experts in interactive groups to explore, clarify, and/or decide on various issues. In an investigation of possible future transportation and land use scenarios for California, we used techniques common to several methods and developed our own variation, a “hybrid policy Delphi,” for use with a panel of 18 experts. We applied it to explore the policies that would lead to these scenarios and the consequences that would result from them. Through our process, panel members discussed and reported on the future scenarios they considered most desirable and also the scenarios they considered most likely to materialize by 2050. Panelists reported that the scenario they considered the most desirable was also least likely to occur, and that the likely trajectory of California transportation and land use policies and practices will lead to the scenario panelists considered less desirable.This report reflects on the processes behind reaching these panel conclusions, a five-stage sequence of two meetings and three online questionnaires. Our mix of discussion and questionnaires traded the benefit of anonymity (common in Delphi methods) for the benefit of exploratory discussion (used in workshops, focus groups, and the nominal group technique). In addition, our use of surveys before and after meetings allowed tracking changes in panel opinion on a central question (scenario likelihood) and discussing survey results at meetings, at the cost of greater administrative effort. We discuss the results of this effort, reflect on how well our combination of methods worked, and conclude with a discussion of limitations and future directions.

Cover page of Surveying the Financial Conditions of California’s Public Transit Operators: An Early to Mid-Pandemic Comparison

Surveying the Financial Conditions of California’s Public Transit Operators: An Early to Mid-Pandemic Comparison

(2022)

Initially, the COVID-19 pandemic threatened to inflict severe and lasting damage to public. transit in California. However, thanks to federal financial relief from three stimulus bills and stronger-than-expected bounce-back of tax revenues from state and local sources, transit agencies in 2022 have avoided that abyss—bu still face an uncertain financial future. To explore the financial effects of the pandemic on California transit and agencies’ responses to it, we conducted a survey of transit agency staff in late fall 2021 and early winter 2022.

While nearly all of the systems surveyed reported moderate to substantial increases in federal funding during the pandemic, nearly three-quarters said that they expect some financial shortfalls once federal pandemic relief funding expires. Despite the loss of fare revenues, most respondents told us that fiscal shortfalls were not affecting their service presently, though neither are most systems contemplating moving to blanket fare-free transit over the longer run. While finances generally are not hampering service, labor issues are: most surveyed agencies reported difficulty filling open positions, which, on some systems, is limiting service delivery.

Cover page of Guardrails on Priced Lanes: Protecting Equity While Promoting Efficiency

Guardrails on Priced Lanes: Protecting Equity While Promoting Efficiency

(2022)

Can congestion pricing be implemented in a way that protects vulnerable residents of California? This report examines that question from two perspectives. First, we empirically estimate the size of the vulnerable population likely to be impacted if congestion pricing were introduced on California’s urban freeways. Our estimates suggest that 13% of households, as a result of their low incomes and current travel habits, might be unduly burdened by a freeway tolling program in California. Second, we consider ways to mitigate these burdens. In particular, we compare freeway use to use of other metered network infrastructure, like electricity grids or water systems. We suggest that assistance programs from these utilities provide a useful model for protecting low-income drivers from road prices, and further note that policymakers would be less constrained in progressively redistributing congestion toll revenue than they would be in redistributing utility revenue.

Cover page of What’s Driving California?: The Past, Present, and Future(s) of Transportation in The Golden State

What’s Driving California?: The Past, Present, and Future(s) of Transportation in The Golden State

(2022)

This report examines transportation in California: where we are today, how we got here, and where we might be headed. We begin with facts on travel and transportation systems in California today. The vast majority of personal travel is by car across all socio-economic groups, and commercial travel is by truck. Public transit plays an important role in the biggest cities but a small one elsewhere; walking is the most popular way to get around outside of a car or truck. Californians are taking fewer trips overall, though reduced vehicle travel for personal trips is more than offset by increases in commercial travel and deliveries. We next explore the decades of public and private land development and transportation systems that have shaped the current state of play. We explore the state’s massive investments in freeways—both between and within cities—and its land use policies complementary to driving. Low-density land uses, exemplified by dispersed single-family housing, have encouraged automobile ownership and use, resulting in suburban living and universal automobile access for most of the population, at the cost of increasing travel distances, increasing isolation for those unable to drive, chronic traffic congestion, health- and environment-threatening vehicle emissions, and a housing affordability crisis. Today’s transportation problems stem, in significant part, from yesterday’s land use decisions. We then consider factors that have either recently come to the fore or are likely to emerge in the near future: the growing reliance on automobile and truck travel and declining in transit use (both before and during the pandemic), shifting patterns of public spending on transportation, changing patterns of jobs and housing locations, the travel habits of younger generations, advancements in goods movement, and the challenges of resilience in disasters. Technology, too, is reshaping Californians’ mobility, with electrification of the vehicle fleet, technology-enabled mobility services, telecommuting, and the gradual automation of driving. We conclude by reviewing possible context-specific reforms to reshape transportation in the state, in order to better manage vehicle travel and reduce chronic congestion, shift patterns of development to make them less car-dependent, and increase access

Cover page of The Future of Transportation and Urban Planning

The Future of Transportation and Urban Planning

(2022)

This report for the California 100 initiative examines transportation in California: where we are today, how we got here, and where we might be headed. We begin with facts on travel and transportation systems in California today. We next explore the decades of public and private land development and transportation systems that have shaped the current state of play: today’s transportation problems stem, in significant part, from yesterday’s land use decisions. We then consider factors that have either recently come to the fore or are likely to emerge in the near future. We review possible context-specific reforms to reshape transportation in the state, in order to better manage vehicle travel and reduce chronic congestion, shift patterns of development to make them less car-dependent, and increase access for all. Finally, we summarize the findings from a diverse panel of transportation experts convened to explore the possibilities, pitfalls, and implications of four possible future transportation and land use scenarios for California.

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

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

(2022)

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.

Cover page of Professional Drivers: Automobile Debt and Financial Support During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Professional Drivers: Automobile Debt and Financial Support During the COVID-19 Pandemic

(2022)

This report synthesizes three primary data sources—credit data, unemployment claims data, and small business loan and grant data—to explore the financial conditions of those who drive for a living before and during the COVID-19 pandemic in California. Automobile debt was high among groups likely to contain professional drivers. The occupational categories in which many drivers fall had high absolute and relative levels of automobile debt compared to other workers. After the onset of the pandemic, unemployment rose dramatically in the transportation industry and in transportation occupations, peaking at rates higher than the national average. However, state unemployment claims data, among transportation employee claimants only, show less of a spike. Contractor drivers lived in areas with more Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims, a special program for self-employed workers like gig drivers. Finally, contractor drivers received unprecedented but uneven federal small business loans and grants. Drivers in many areas, however, did not receive much or any of these funds, though those areas that did tended to have more residents of color. Assessing the full effect of the pandemic on professional drivers’ debt and finances will require additional and better data, particularly workforce data from gig economy firms that contract with drivers.