Project Three

“A New Bend in A Long Road:  Fighting Traffic Congestion in Los Angeles”

This team will prepare a white paper that explicitly links historical efforts to “fight traffic” in Los Angeles with current traffic patterns, needs, and changing attitudes toward the essence of the challenge today. The investigation will interpret the history of the region’s efforts to alleviate congestion by incorporating technical proposals and analyses along with political positions and analyses. The study will yield at least one scholarly paper in a refereed planning and policy journal.

Already familiar with many of the most important documents and events in which earlier solutions were proposed and with the literature analyzing their results, this team propose to spend one year analyzing and interpreting the history of Los Angeles’ growth and the travel and traffic congestion that have accompanied it.  The focus will be on responding to traffic by expanding capacity over time as addressed in the political and policy arenas, which often were influenced by technical analysis and engineering concepts and also responsive to state and federal funding opportunities. The white paper will document that the traffic problem in LA is anything but new, but that ways of thinking about “solving” the problem have evolved over time, most recently changing quite dramatically.

Project Participant Bios

Martin Wachs is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Civil & Environmental Engineering and of City & Regional Planning at the University of California, Berkeley, where he directed the Institute of Transportation Studies and the University of California Transportation Center. He earlier spent 25 years at UCLA, where he was Chairman of the Department of Urban Planning for eleven years. After retiring from the University, Wachs became the Director of Transportation, Space, and Technology Program at the RAND Corporation. He is now teaching courses and conducting research at UCLA in transportation policy and working on transportation policy projects at RAND.

Wachs is the author of 200 articles and book chapters and wrote or edited five books on subjects related to transportation finance and economics, relationships between transportation, land use, and air quality, transportation needs of the elderly, techniques for the evaluation of transportation systems, and the use of performance measurement in transportation planning. His research also addresses, equity in transportation policy, crime in public transit systems, and the response of transportation systems to natural disasters including earthquakes.

Dr. Wachs served on the Executive Committee of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) for nine years and was the TRB Chairman during the year 2000. He served as chairman of the Travel Model Improvement Program(TMIP) for several years.  He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, two Rockefeller Foundation Humanities Fellowships, a UCLA Alumni Association Distinguished Teaching Award, the Pyke Johnson Award for the best paper presented at an annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board, and the Carey Award for service to the TRB. In January of 2010 he delivered the Thomas Deen Distinguished Lecture at the annual meeting of the TRB. In 2011 he received the Distinguished Transportation Researcher award from the Transportation Research Forum. He was also awarded the Distinguished Planning Educator award from the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning.  He was honored by the RAND Corporation with a President’s Award for Research Leadership.  He received the Edward A. Dickson Award of the UCLA Emeriti Association in 2017 for outstanding research accomplishments after achieving emeritus status at the university. In June of 2017 he was the first recipient of the Transportation Thought Leader Award of the Eno Center for Transportation in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Wachs was Transportation Policy Advisor to Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, and was appointed by California Governor Pete Wilson to a “Blue Ribbon Commission on California Infrastructure.” He currently serves on a statewide committee created by the legislature to design a new system of road user charges for California to succeed the motor fuels tax and is an appointee of Controller Betty Yee to the Peer Review Group of the California High Speed Rail program. Professor Wachs recently served as Chairman of a jury appointed by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to review fifteen entries into the international design and deliverability competition for a new Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan. He was also a member of the jury that selected the winner of an international design competition for a new Gangnam Intermodal Transportation Terminal in Seoul, Korea.

Peter Sebastian Chesney is working on a dissertation entitled: “To Live and Drive in L.A.: Race and Sensations of the Postwar City.”   He is using cultural sources, maps and movies and fine art and talk radio, plus a number of archival sources, to propose a relationship between rich sensory experiences within the car and the reconstruction of whiteness for the Civil Rights era.  He also has been a participant in the Mellon’s Urban Humanities Institute with Dana Cuff, a policy analyst at the Luskin Center for History and Policy with David Myers, Alissa Belinkoff-Katz, and Zev Yarovslavsky, a research assistant for City on the Edge of Forever with Peter Lunenfeld; and a consultant at Netflix for television drama entitled “The Warmth of Other Suns” with Anna Deavere Smith.  He wrote a history of the 1984 Olympic Games in L.A. that included details about business leaders adapting the workday and the workweek to eliminate rush hour.

Hannah King is a doctoral student in Urban Planning whose research focuses on policy implications of travel behavior, transportation finance, and economic factors influencing travel.  Her prior research addressing transportation history included coauthoring a research report funded by the Haynes Foundation with Professor Wachs entitled: “A Taxing Proposition:  A Century of Ballot Box Transportation Planning in Los Angeles.”