This Week in the News serves as The Quad’s space for reflection on current events at and around UCLA. Every week, Daily Bruin staffers will analyze some of the most significant stories to keep readers up to speed.
New quarter, new year, new decade. Rising ride-hail prices, health care issues, and climate change research are among the many UCLA developments you may have missed this week that are covered here in winter quarter’s first This Week in the News.
UCLA students and Californians alike may experience higher Uber and Lyft prices as a result of the passage of Assembly Bill 5. This new state law classifies ride-hail drivers as employees instead of independent contractors, entitling these drivers to additional benefits and a minimum wage.
While supporters of the bill, such as drivers and union leaders, believe the new classification protects drivers from low wages, riders fear that increased prices may add to an already high cost of living in Los Angeles.
Uber argues that higher ride costs as a result of the bill will likely hurt drivers as well as riders by reducing the number of rides. Additionally, although the bill is supposed to raise the wages of ride-hail drivers, researchers at UC Berkeley found that loopholes in the bill could still limit drivers’ pay to $5.64 per hour.
The University of California recently partnered with Dignity Health in hopes of providing University-level medical care to previously underserved communities in California. Both the UC and Dignity Health believe their partnership will bring better health care to low-income and rural communities.
Conversely, critics fear that Dignity Health’s association with the Catholic Church could result in discrimination against LGBTQ patients, as well as women seeking reproductive health care. The ACLU of California started a petition against the partnership, claiming that Dignity Health refuses to provide care to certain patients when it does not align with its Catholic beliefs.
Dignity Health denied these claims and cited its history of providing care to people of all backgrounds, including women and the LGBTQ community.
Researchers at UCLA are using trees native to California to discover how climate change affects tree and plant growth.
The study determined that trees, such as the valley oak, cannot grow to their full potential in the current climate, as these trees are better suited to the colder climates found 21,000 years ago.
This research will help reforestation efforts, since scientists can determine which trees will flourish in the current climate, as well as those that will survive the higher temperatures predicted for the future.
Disagreement over the creation of a bike lane on Westwood Boulevard has led to gridlock between Westwood’s two neighborhood councils.
The North Westwood Neighborhood Council, which includes UCLA’s campus, Westwood Village and the future site of a new Purple Line Metro station, believes that a bike lane would ease travel between Metro stations and reduce traffic on the road.
However, the Westwood Neighborhood Council, representing areas surrounding and south of Westwood Village, argues that a comprehensive study of the roadway must be conducted before the bike lane is approved to ensure rider safety.
The president of the NWWNC, Michael Skiles, claims that the WWNC’s response is unwarranted and unjustified. Skiles argues that the WWNC’s actions ultimately block the safety measures they desire and attempt to interfere with developments outside of their jurisdiction.
Juan Matute, the deputy director of the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies, believes that the creation of a bus-only lane may be the best option for Westwood Boulevard. Matute argues that a bus-only lane could be shared with bikes to reduce traffic on the normally congested street.