Update on Project Activities
This week our team filled out a Doodle form to find a free 4 hour window of time that we all share at some time this quarter in order to go to San Mateo County and setup the camera trappings. Through this process we resolved that February 14th from 10:30am to 4:30pm would be our date and time for setting up the camera trappings. After we resolved this, we informed our client David of this information which he confirmed.
Additionally during our weekly team meeting we discussed possibilities for further expanding the scope of our project. One idea David discussed interest in, was the possibility of talking to local officials in order to understand cataloging smaller animal species (birds, insects, etc.). Another idea that we discussed was Dani’s idea to perhaps find or create image visualization software. This could help our client (and others in the Wildlife Picture Project) in cataloging data much more efficiently and easily, since the cataloging of the photographs is currently done manually.
Finally we sent out a When2Meet so that we can best find a time for our recurring project check-ins with David. Our Team will be filling this in and is communicating with David on best times that are convenient on his end.
What We Observed and Learned
To be honest, this week we haven’t moved forward with observations. We’re sending out initial requests to our extended partner contacts to collect the data we need, so...we’re mostly just waiting / going to be in communication with the extended partners for the foreseeable future.
This week, we learned ways that we could present the data that we find - specifically, how to visualize data with GIS tools. Seeing tools like ArcGIS, ArcGIS online (& story maps), and Carto made us realize that we have a lot more options in the way that we show our data to our partners, and the way SMC could show the data to the greater community. Carto and Story Maps serve extremely well as storytelling methods, with Carto being highly interactive and animated and Story Maps allowing for the combination of multiple maps and paragraphs of text juxtaposed in a way that tells a narrative. As a whole, we’re not yet sure how to fully utilize these tools, but as we move forward with the project we believe that we’ll find ways that GIS tools could be very helpful. As far as learning the specific tools, we have a member with some ArcGIS experience (Emmanuel has taken a separate workshop on ArcGIS mapping), and we’re confident that if need be, the whole team can learn enough to complete a decent visualization of the SMC area and the camera trap locations.
Critical Analysis/Moving Forward
As we are still in the planning phase of our project, no dramatic changes have been made in our overall goal. However, our plan itself has continued to focus and we are preparing to begin work on our deliverable.
We are in the process of coordinating a meeting with our partner, David, so that he can give us further direction into how we can begin synthesizing his data. We aim to meet with him in one week’s time in order to clarify the process and ensure that our methods are aligned with what he wants for his project. Gathering and organising the camera trappings data will then begin.
After the GIS workshop last class, we are also thinking of ways to best present our deliverable. We saw potential in the software’s ability to present and visualize the data in enticing, user-friendly ways - in particular, the Carto software. This has implications for our project in that our end product must be usable by anyone; scientists have already collected the data, and so the data’s power to enact change will be within its ability to communicate itself - to other scientists, the public, and policymakers alike.
Finally, our group discussed what we want for this project. The scope of our goal is highly focused: to collect already-found dara and to present in a way that is comprehensible to David and his team and those that to whom we will present. However, our group is brainstorming for ways to expand that scope to add to our pre-set deliverable. Because the current data focuses itself on the parks’ large mammals, we are also interested in looking into starting points to get a similar metric on the biodiversity of smaller fauna that have found their homes in strictly urban environments. To that end, we will be looking into contacting local ornithologists and entomologists to see if there is any data on local distributions of species, and if not, how it can be acquired for future projects. Our thinking is that while focusing on the species in higher trophic levels is measurable and undoubtedly important, it will also be important for the management of the region as a whole to access data from across the entire ecological spectrum. Therefore, we would like to leave that side project with David as a possible future endeavour, complete enough that it will perhaps have use as an independent material. We are continuing to brainstorm for other possible options as add-ons.
Update on project activities:
This Friday, we drove to Salinas and met with Jonathan and Lisa from the City of Salinas at their office. After Jonathan gave us an introduction to layout of the city, we went to the Housing Development Consulting Corporation of Monterey County. The President and CEO Starla Warren took us through the metrics of blight and substandard housing and gave us a structural/site conditions survey form that can guide our own survey methodology. From there, we took a driving tour with Fred, from the housing authority, taking us to a site tour of some demolished and rehabilitated housing units. We were lucky enough to be able to enter a unit that was still under rehabilitation. Lisa then joined us with Joel, the Housing Division Supervisor from the City department, an Alisal native whose home we drove past. He gave us an extensive tour of neighborhoods within the ANSRA. After our tour, we debriefed with Lisa about the project description and final deliverables, ensuring we are all on the same page.
What we observed and learned:
On this tour of the Alisal, we encountered a wide range of housing: homeless encampments, trailer parks, pre-manufactured homes, manufactured trailers, multifamily dwellings, single-family dwellings. While driving through, we realized that there was a lack of parking space for the quantity of vehicles visible in the streets, indicating overcrowding was occurring in these neighborhoods. This was also obvious in the tight-knit spacing within the trailer parks. Housing could vary drastically from street to street, ranging from solar-paneled homes with large lawns to cramped duplexes with no front lawn. The public housing projects by both the housing authorities and the non-profits were scattered throughout the city, further highlighting the lack of space to build continuous housing. We noticed that the majority of the housing was underneath 3 stories. Most were only one story because of restrictive zoning laws, contributing to the ever-increasing demand for housing. In fact, almost no new private housing development has occurred in the last 10 years – only 34 units and all were at market prices. In the last 3 years, housing prices have increased 20% as there is no rent control.
It is important to note that the city and housing authorities did not appear to work in tandem on the projects, which we would not have noticed had we not gotten the perspective on both sides in the field. We then realized the survey inventory our project team will create can help the city identify areas of public housing in need of rehabilitation that would qualify them to receive the HUD Choice Implementation Grant.
Critical Analysis and Moving Forward:
Our next focus is converting the structural/sites conditions survey form into a simplified, user-friendly housing inventory survey for the City to distribute to its community volunteer force. In our survey, we need to take into account the differences in housing types and congestion. We also acknowledge that not all evaluations can be made from solely an external viewpoint. For example, Joel pointed out that pre-manufactured homes have a characteristic of unsteady flooring, though they appear sound from the outside. We next want to connect with code enforcement to identify more inconspicuous factors like overcrowding. We are arranging a phone meeting with both the Building Healthy Communities Office and the Salinas GIS experts to ensure that the survey methodology is viable for the community and potentially add to their pre-existing database. We will also have to form a training module as our survey may not be as easy to understand as expected. We are satisfied with where our project is headed and feel that we have clarified a lot of ambiguities and expectations for the continuation of our project. As a side note, we are grateful for the great friendships that we formed today over guac at Mama Lupitas.
Update on Project Activities
This week our team met to discuss our individual research findings. The information we found ranged from in-depth details about the bikeability metric that San Francisco uses called Level of Traffic Stress (LTS), other bikeability metrics from around the world, and the methods and tools we can utilize to map bikeability. We did not meet with our community partner representative, Janice Li, this past week, however, we have been in contact with her to check in with her and to finalize our scheduled plans for our upcoming meet-up on Friday, February 3. As previously planned, we will be taking our bikes on the CalTrain and we hope to take the 11:30 AM train so that we can arrive in time to get a tour of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition office and have the amazing opportunity to meet two community organizers--Julia and Charles. As soon as we are done exploring the office and receiving the vital information we need for this field day, we will head over to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency office and have an important meeting with urban planner Jamie Parks. Once we are done with our meeting, we will carry on with our team project activities and bike across San Francisco with Janice to get our own first-hand experience of what it is like to cycle in this particular major city. Because we our meeting in San Francisco in a matter of days, we have been reading the pamphlets and information Janice gave us last week, all of which will prepare us for biking in the city as well as inform us about any recent bicycling advocacy and efforts such as “SF Transformation.” We are currently confirming check-in dates for the upcoming weeks of February 13 and February 27 and look forward to contributing our own efforts into the work of the SF Bicycle Coalition.
What We Observed and Learned
As of now, we have read through The Official San Francisco Bike Guide 2nd Edition, SFBC Bicycle Rules of the Road, and the 2017 winter issue of SFBC Tube Times that Janice provided to us last week. Our project tasks include conducting a literature review of the history and methodology of LTS as a bikeability metric and exploring bikeability metrics that have been implemented in other cities so that we may be able to recommend and ultimately devise a new bikeability metric along with a map that we will present to our community partner. As a result, we divided up the necessary research and discovered new information regarding bikeability in urban centers that will certainly aid us in producing the most effective bikeability metric relevant to San Francisco. In terms of the Level of Traffic Stress that San Francisco has been using to assess comfort and connectivity analysis, we realize this system is far too qualitative to be used to implement new plans, routes, or even policies. The LTS maps we found were very helpful, however, because they highlighted the locations and areas where the four different levels of traffic stress were prevalent. We learned that the streets along Fisherman’s Wharf were characterized by the highest level of traffic stress, so we intend to focus on that area as a place for improvement in our future sample map. As for other bikeability metrics, we concentrated on Long Beach and Copenhagen--two cities that vary in terms of being bicycle-friendly. We discovered that Long Beach has implemented a system where bicycle riders can upload their own preferred routes online to be made readily available to the public and that Copenhagen uses telephone surveys as well as text-based SMS feedback from its very own citizens about the city’s bikeability, which we thought were aspects of the formation of their bikeability metrics that seemed very accessible to the public. We aim to further investigate this notion of accessibility and implement it within our own proposed plan.
Critical Analysis/Moving Forward
After having researched how cities around the world have constructed their own bike lane and metric systems, we have a better grip on our topic and hope to tackle it effectively as our first on-site trip will take place very soon. When we meet with the SFMTA city planners as well as the community organizers from the SF Bicycle Coalition that Janice will introduce us to, we want to clarify any questions we have regarding our tasks and duties, for we hope to be an invaluable contribution to their bikeability efforts. We believe we can make an impact on the future and advocacy efforts led by the SFBC, so we aim to be at their service by truly listening to the needs of our community partners so that we may deliver what they are looking for. In the meantime, besides informing ourselves on the basic structure of the San Francisco Bicycle Strategy, we hope to move forward by using the knowledge a couple of our team members gained in a mapping and GIS workshop in order to create proposed maps that demonstrate bikeability improvements that will make cycling a feasible and intriguing mode of transportation, for ultimately we intend to “promote the bicycle for everyday transportation” as the SFBC aims to do. How do we make sure our map conveys a clear message while also inviting further exploration? Do our community partners want something for the public, or a map that helps them locate new infrastructure? These are just a few of the questions we have as we try to critique the current LTS system and find ways that other metrics will be applicable to our area of interest, San Francisco.
Update on Project Activities
Continuing on with our research from last week, one of our main focuses this week was to further solidify our base knowledge on the mitigation of traffic congestion. The readings Adina and Chris, our community partners with Friends of CalTrain and TransForm respectively, have sent us to give context on our project included a mix of qualitative and quantitative studies on the socioeconomic character of managed lanes. For example, we read and summarized a guide to the Bay Area Express Lanes projects as well as a guide to the Bay Area Express Lanes projects, a California Department of Transportation’s report on induced demand. Our literature review will be increasingly useful as we begin work on the centerpiece of our project, a survey on the conditions of Highway 101 that will be targeted at low-income commuters.
Regarding the survey, this week we were able to meet with both Chris and Adina. There, we learned of the motivation behind the survey, which is to influence the direction of Highway 101 traffic congestion mitigation efforts to address the needs of low income communities; the survey is meant to illuminate just what those needs are. During the meeting, we discussed several topics with the main takeaways being the regressive nature of HOTs, the current strategy that the County of San Mateo is considering— a HOT3+—, and Friends of Caltrain’s preferred method of implementation— using the money from the toll to finance alternative and accessible transit.
After learning and determining the motivation for Friends of CalTrain and TransForm’s survey, we honed in on what our team will be contributing towards its completion during these next 7 weeks. Our team eventually came to mutual agreement with Adina and Chris that our final deliverable will be a pilot study that will investigate the best methods for understanding the views of low-income Highway 101 commuters.
Through the pilot study, we, alongside our community partners, will work collaboratively to give our community partners an expedited survey process as well as a scaleable survey; we hope that our work will be useful in setting the framework for the deployment of a wide-scale survey project which Friends of CalTrain and TransForm hope to initiate some time this spring.
In terms of deciding which demographic will be surveyed, after posing the question of whether we should do a comparative study of perspectives between higher income and lower income folks, as Adina and Chris’ request, we will do a deep dive on outreaching to lower income folks to work out any survey kinks before Friends of Caltrain and TransForm scale up the survey after our pilot. We then discussed some of the logistics of surveying, including which locations to survey to ensure that we’re getting a representative sample of working class people, finding incentives for people to take the survey, and where to initially pilot the survey (here at Stanford).
What was a priority and what continues to be high priority is formulating a clear, concise, and empathetic survey to administer to folks. This week, we made initial comments on the survey draft and information handout that Friends of Caltrain and TransForm are developing and presented some of those concerns and comments to Chris during our first meeting. We also went over the accompanying survey handout, and offered some suggestions for improvements there as well.
What We Observed and Learned
During the meeting, an enlightening insight that Adina brought up during our first meeting was that higher income folks are more likely to benefit from transit benefits from their employer. Through discussion, we came to a consensus that one motivator of doing this survey is to promote equity in these types of projects, but this pillar of sustainability also informs the environmental sustainability pillar. Some past studies indicate support across income levels for express lanes (pay to drive). This is a counterintuitive finding as we expected equity to be a high concern for lower-income individuals.
Another surprising finding was the lack of concern regarding equity on the part of CCAG. Adina told us about how previous equity assessments from CCAG, especially the assessment created for their long term transportation plan, were superficial at best, featuring very little meaningful analysis on how projects would actually impact low income communities. In CCAG’s equity assessments, if a project occurred in a low income community, it was assumed to benefit that community, even for works like widening highways. This lack of attention given to low income communities by government agencies was honestly staggering, and points to a dire need in society for more thoughtful analysis.
Critical Analysis/Moving Forward
After understanding where Friends of Caltrain and TransForm are heading with this specific project, it will be of utmost importance to situate ourselves appropriately within their vision and within their process of trying to influence express lanes program developers to include “equity” as a metric they are measuring their programs around. To recommend alternatives to program development that do not have a lens on equity, we will be doing a research sprint on LA ExpressLanes project development. Therefore when Friends of Caltrain and TransForm take the survey results and analysis later in the year to program developers, they will be able to draw on previous program experiences and effectively recommend equitable pathways to the express lanes program.
Our conversation also underscored how underserved low income communities have been in the past, especially with regards to transportation. CCAG’s “equity assessment” shows us that government agencies do not always have the will or capacity to conduct meaningful analysis about equity concerns— it is our job to fill that gap. The project we help create for Friends of Caltrain and TransForm should be empathetic and relevant to the lived experience of the low income commuters of San Mateo County. Without a genuine desire to engage with and understand the experiences of those we are surveying, our assessment will be as surface level as CCAG’s.
This week we will be beginning the next stage of the pilot survey process. We have started editing the survey draft, therefore it is time to begin connecting with workers in the study area: businesses in San Mateo County. In implementing the pilot, our team was thinking about initially prototyping the survey to workers here at Stanford for two reasons: they are the demographic that we are aiming to hear from, and it is much easier for us students to get in contact with the worker network here at Stanford than with the networks off-campus. However, because Stanford may give transit benefits already, this sample may be slightly skewed and not representative of the larger population in San Mateo County. In thinking about survey processes and survey takers, we will test a variety of approaches to maximize survey responses. Some strategies will be more successful than others, but as starting points we’ll be visiting restaurants and other likely commuter-dependent workplaces in downtown areas like Redwood City and testing survey questions on people on campus.
Update on Project Activities:
This week our team got to know each other and meet out community partner, Janice Li, a member of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. After meeting with Janice Li on Wednesday, the group established that we are going to make a trip to San Francisco on February 3rd. On this trip we are planning to take the Caltrain and bring our bikes to be able to understand the biking situation in San Francisco. We are still working out what we will be doing in the city, but to maximize our time we will be meeting with SFMTA city planners, visiting the SFBC office, doing bike ride around the city, and possibly meeting other organizations within the community. After interacting with Janice the five of us decided that we will meet on Fridays to work together on the project. In addition, we split up the work into researching several different aspects Janice listed for us to do research on from LTS methodology to mapping out a possible bikeability metric for San Francisco’s street network. Our group brings a variety of unique talents to the table as we are in a variety of different grades, have different major interests, and different strengths.
What We Learned and Observed:
This week Janice informed us about what the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition is all about. This information ranged from her telling us about how many members there are (from the board to the staff and the community partners) more specifically she explained what she does for the non-profit organization. Janice Li is an advocacy director and focuses on grassroots leadership and the issue of affordable housing within community development. She mentioned that this organization was founded in 1971 and began with a small group of neighborhood bikers. Today, it is now one of the strongest bicycle advocacy organizations in the country. Although we were just assigned this project, our group is learning a lot about what defines sustainable biking situations ad how we can make biking a leading mode of transportation in all cities, but specifically San Francisco. Janice gave us several pieces of information to read up on including; The Official San Francisco Bike Guide 2nd Edition, SFBC Bicycle Rules of the Road, and a 2017 winter issue of SFBC Tube Times. From this information that was provided we learned the proper rules of riding a bicycle, the key to having a helmet and other necessary biking accessories, and other interesting topics such as what is coming soon to parts of San Francisco and how to bike with your dog. What we found interesting was that you do not have to be a expert biker to bike the streets of San Francisco and that they are trying to convey that biking can be for everyone and their different life styles. To promote this we learned that the SFBC puts on events where they close down a street and teach little kids how to bike, show parents that they can bike with multiple kids on their bike, learn the safety of biking, and more!
Critical Analysis and Moving Forward:
Our group could not be more excited about the project we have been given. We are looking forward to our trip into the city to meet the rest of Janice’s staff as well as SFMTA city planners and possible other community base organizations that SFBC works with. This week we are focusing our time on analyzing the information that we have been given and learning about how other cities around the world have constructed successful or possibly unsuccessful bike lanes. After learning about this we are going to study San Francisco’s LTS (levels of traffic stress) and compare it to other cities around the world to identify if San Francisco is getting its optimal usage out of its bicycle system or if other cities are doing things that San Francisco can incorporate into their methodology to improve it for those biking in the city. Furthermore, we are going to learn how to create a map of our findings to demonstrate the possibilities to improve on the bicycle methodology to potentially convince those in the city to use biking as their main transportation. Overall, our end goal is to identify the efficacy of LTS and see if other metrics that have been developed compare to the one implemented in San Francisco. Hopefully by the end of this project we can recommend other options to improve on the San Francisco LTS.
Attached below is a current map of the San Francisco Biking network: