UCLA School of Law Report Identifies Ways to Improve Public Transit Planning and Construction in California

Lauri Gavel
Director of Communications
UCLA School of Law
(310) 206-2611

LOS ANGELES, CA, August 5, 2014 – Inefficient regulatory policies and poor construction management have caused the overall expenses and the duration of major public transit projects in California to climb at an alarming rate. A new report from UCLA School of Law’s Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment provides a set of recommendations to promote proper development and implementation of public transit in heavily populated metropolitan areas.

Back in the Fast Lane: How to Speed Public Transit Planning and Construction in California,” the Emmett Institute’s newest Pritzker Environmental Law and Policy Brief, examines some of the causes of planning and construction delays, identifies flaws in current construction policy and offers steps to be taken in order to prioritize public health and safety.

“There is no single culprit responsible for the poor state of affairs in the construction management and planning of public transit projects,” said report author Ethan Elkind, associate director of the Climate Change and Business Program, a joint project of UCLA Law and UC Berkeley Law. “Contributing factors include counter-productive regulatory processes, lack of coordination among overlapping agencies and the disproportionate influence of well-resourced opposition groups.”

To ensure that public funds are put to appropriate use and negligent planning is avoided, “Back in the Fast Lane” makes multiple recommendations to overcome the barriers to faster and cheaper construction, including: reforming regulations to promote transit over automobile traffic and ensuring that transit serves areas with the densest population and job concentrations; providing stricter oversight of construction management and awards; prioritizing the use of buses on existing roads; and enacting new federal, state and local policies to boost transit funding. 

The report also highlights the public health benefits of public transit, as well as the reduction in the automobile sector’s significant contributions to the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

“Public transit offers important benefits to society as a whole—more so than most other public investments. In order to help meet California’s broader economic and environmental goals, policymakers must prioritize reforms that put transit planning and construction back in the fast lane,” Elkind said.

The Pritzker Environmental Law and Policy Briefs are published by UCLA School of Law and the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment in conjunction with researchers from a wide range of academic disciplines and the broader environmental law community. They are made possible through a generous donation by Anthony “Tony” Pritzker, managing partner and co-founder of The Pritzker Group. The briefs provide expert analysis to further public dialogue on issues impacting the environment. All papers in the series are available here

UCLA School of Law, founded in 1949, is the youngest major law school in the nation and has established a tradition of innovation in its approach to teaching, research and scholarship. With approximately 100 faculty and 1,100 students, the school pioneered clinical teaching, is a leader in interdisciplinary research and training, and is at the forefront of efforts to link research to its effects on society and the legal profession.