Location: UC Davis - 1605 Tilia, Room 1103, West Village

Friday, May 10th - 1:40 PM to 3:00 PM

Measure M and the (Potential) Transformation of Mobility in Los Angeles

Mike Manville

Associate Professor of Urban Planning
UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs

Location: UC Davis - 1605 Tilia, Room 1103, West Village

For more information, visit the ITS-Davis Website


In the last ten years hundreds of local governments across the United States have used direct democracy to increase funding for public transportation. Transit ridership, however, continues to fall, even in places where voters have explicitly approved new taxes to fund it. Why do voters support transit taxes if they do not want to ride transit? This paper uses evidence from Measure M in Los Angeles, a large transportation ballot measure approved in 2016, to examine this question. Using both original survey data and archival qualitative data provided by LA Metro, I suggest that voters supported Measure M because they believed public transportation would benefit them in their role as drivers, by reducing traffic congestion. Voters believed this, moreover, because transit advocates saw a congestion-reduction message as most likely to be successful at the ballot box. Transit, however, is most successful in places where driving is harder, not easier, so a vote for transit based on the idea that it will make driving easier suggests opposition to many of the complementary policies, higher density, less parking, congestion charges that actually make transit work. Survey data confirms that most LA residents do not support transit-complementary policies, and further suggests that many current LA transit riders would prefer to travel by car. I conclude that transit ballots in auto-oriented cities succeed in part because they suppress latent conflicts over space, but that transit itself will only succeed when those conflicts are settled in favor of non-auto modes.

Biographical Sketch

Michael Manville is Associate Professor of Urban Planning at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. Both his research and teaching focus on the relationships between transportation and land use, and on local public finance. Much of his research concerns the tendency of local governments to hide the costs of driving in the property market, through land use restrictions intended to fight traffic congestion. These land use laws only sometimes reduce congestion, and can profoundly influence the supply and price of housing.

Dr. Manville’s research has been published in journals of planning, economics, urban studies, and sociology. He has received research funding from University Transportation Centers, from the John Randolph Haynes Foundation, and the TransitCenter, among others. He has consulted for developers, environmental groups, local governments, and the United Nations.

Dr. Manville has an MA and PhD in Urban Planning, both from UCLA Luskin. Prior to joining Luskin as a faculty member, he was Assistant Professor of City and Regional Planning at Cornell University.