California’s 2016 budget may include additional funding for sustainable transportation research, education, and outreach. The California Assembly’s proposed budget includes a $3 million increase for the University of California Institute of Transportation Studies. The funding increase was shepherded through the budget subcommittee by Assemblymember Richard Bloom, a SBCA Streetsie award winner. The budget item will now be considered by a conference committee.
Over the years, University of California Institute of Transportation Studies research has substantially helped California’s ongoing transition to livable streets and sustainable transportation. The Institute supports research centers at several U.C. campuses - Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, and Los Angeles - each engaged in exploring and important topics and producing useful data for policy makers, planners, and advocates throughout the state.
There are numerous ways that the UC ITS research has played important roles in advancing livability throughout the state, and indeed the world:
Susan Shaheen, a researcher at UC Berkeley’s Transportation Sustainability Research Center, is the leading expert on issues related to bike-share, carshare, and rideshare strategies. Her work also explores how expanding transportation options affects low and no-car households.
UCLA’s Complete Streets Initiative studies CicLAvia and advances new methods for measuring user experience for people who walk and ride bikes. The initiative has studied several CicLAvia events as part of an ongoing effort to put rigorous research behind the perceived community and health benefits of such events. L.A. Metro cited this research in their decision to fund more open streets events.
UCLA also publishes ACCESS Magazine, home to over 250 articles that translate transportation research for policymakers and the general public. It is edited by international parking rockstar Donald Shoup, who has studied parking policy at UCLA for over forty years, and covers topics from parking policy to commuting trends.
Streetsblog L.A. attended UCLA’s Complete Streets conferences in 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, and the 2015 Transportation Camp, which have tracked L.A. active transportation efforts from concept to implementation.
Through its engineering and planning programs, UC ITS produces more transportation professionals each year than any other US institution. Graduates of the UC program work in city and county planning departments, transit agencies, nonprofits, and planning and design firms. Streetsblog California Editor Melanie Curry is a graduate of UC Berkeley’s Transportation/City Planning program.
California currently faces a transportation funding shortfall as the gasoline tax loses purchasing power, and some decision-makers are concerned that a $3 million increase for the UC ITS would mean less money for bridges and highways.
Changing the way California uses its streets is hard. Overcoming the status quo requires political will. Changing political will requires research and education, which is what UC ITS specializes in. “We think research needs to be part of the solution to overcome funding challenges. California needs to find ways to more cost-effectively build and maintain the infrastructure needed to move people. UC ITS research has helped this effort in the past and will continue to do so in the future while also finding ways to make the transportation system more sustainable and safer for all users,” said UCLA ITS Director Brian Taylor.