This week, we welcomed Ramses and Ariadne from Stanford Parking & Transportation to our class. After a brief introduction to PT&S and their pioneering efforts to implement transportation demand management (TDM), we went on a bike ride around campus to examine recent and planned improvements ranging from infrastructure (e.g., roundabouts and bike lanes) to facilities (e.g., covered bike parking and showers). Thank you both for this informative and fun tour!
Update on Project Activities
This week we focused our efforts on the database portion of our final deliverable. This includes a list of upcoming retail developments in the Tenderloin area which will impact the community. We arrived at the Tenderloin area with a list of 12 known projects and we spent a couple hours walking around the area observing the sites. We took notes on the surrounding businesses and area also to see what needs and services are already offered and what this retail development might contribute to the community.
What We Observed and Learned
While walking to and surveying all 12 of the developments in our database, we took pictures and notes on their surroundings. Some of our notes confirmed what we already knew - for instance, that there are many deli’s/corner stores with a limited selection of food within the Tenderloin. One surprising finding, however, was the vast number of private hotels in the neighborhood. We did find that most spots for proposed developments had at least 1 or 2 restaurants within a one block radius or less. Going into our fieldwork, we expected most of the developments to be either empty lots or in early stages of construction. We were surprised to find that many of the sites had existing ground floor retail - some restaurants and some small shops. We are unsure whether these businesses will remain or be completely displaced when it comes time to build the new developments. Whether retail spaces were already occupied or not, in general it was important to get a sense of which developments in our database are planned to be housing (apartments) above potential retail space or retail space in itself and whether the existing businesses can remain / should be preserved.
In general, it was interesting to find a variety of retail businesses (excluding any kind of large grocery store) and it was inspiring to see the work of TNDC in action (e.g. fruits & vegetables occupying shelves in corner stores). It seems, however that there needs to be more because although there’s a salon or laundry mat, community center or deli here and there there is certainly a lack in numbers throughout the neighborhood (especially for those for whom it’s not as easy to walk a few blocks). It seems perhaps that in addition to looking to other models throughout different parts of the city and other cities it might just be important to expand the positive types of developments already existing in the TL and increase their numbers.
Critical Analysis / Moving Forward
We were unable to meet with our community partners during our visit to the Tenderloin today since it was not during the work week, but we have delivered the parking permit and will have a call with Lorenzo and Ryan early next week, once we’ve had more time to discuss our visit today amongst ourselves.
At this point, we have completed most, if not all, of our field research and will work to use the data we have collected and been provided with by our community partners or the developers to completeour project. The next step is to create a map with the information collected on the new developements in the Tenderloin. Once we have this, combined with our notes on existing retail from today’s visit, we will be able to identify which types of businesses are lacking new these new developments and with form our recommendations for specific spaces from there.
Updates on Project Activities
This week marks a major transition period in our project. We are now shifting from surveying to analyzing. Now that we have collected multiple employee surveys we can begin the process of seeking out latent patterns for PATMA. In terms of people surveyed, we have not had as much success finding additional employers to interview this week. So far we only have three employers (plus one pending). We met with our project partner, Adina Levin, this evening to discuss next steps in our project and how best to prepare for the March 3rd TMA meeting. We mentioned the number of surveys we had conducted. After emphasized our concern over the dismal number of employers, Adina told us to keep trying but that given the time we have, we may need to stick with whatever data we obtained. Our focus now is to start analyzing the data.
During the survey process we discovered some surprising trends. Almost all of the employees who drive to work don’t pay for parking and must move their cars every two hours. Part of our final deliverable is to propose ideas for marketing to employees and employers. The two-hour parking dance can definitely win over some drivers since re-parking can be such a hassle. We also noticed that small business employers were least receptive to our survey. The most cited anecdotal evidence was that they didn’t feel like the program could make a difference to their employees. This insight surprised us a bit since the subsidy program is designed for smaller business who may not have the resources to offer transit subsidies. We made sure to discuss this surprising trend with Adina this evening. These are two of the major trends we have seen so far. Next week, once we delve deeply, we are sure to uncover some more.
We are making progress in the analysis of the Redwood City data. We have compared all of the Redwood City surveys and reports to the Downtown Palo Alto Mode Split Survey (DPAMSS) and catalogued what questions each survey addresses. There are a good number of similarities, as would be expected; common questions address preferred transportation mode, willingness to try alternatives (and in some cases, which would be the most likely options), commute distance or time, county or city of residence, and reasons for not taking alternative transportation. There are also notable differences, both in the questions themselves and in the way they are asked. For example, both the DPAMSS and one of the Redwood City surveys ask for usual commute mode in the form of a past-week recall, i.e. “how did you get to work each day last week?” while the Commute.org survey simply asked for a usual commute mode without addressing a specific week or window of time. The Commute.org survey also asked far more questions than any other survey, assessing the popularity and reasons for using or not using several specific commute modes (carpool, bike or walk, and transit), and collecting detailed demographic information.
In terms of deeper analysis of the Redwood City data, we are limited to the surveys for which we have the raw data, rather than a synthesis report. Therefore the only deep analysis we are doing is on a survey of city employees, and another survey, conducted by the same organization, of employees who work (but who may not live) in Redwood City. For this analysis, we have begun conducting cross-tabulations similar to those presented in the DPAMSS synthesis report. Not all cross-tabs done in that synthesis can be replicated with the Redwood City data, because some variables were not addressed, e.g. age, business size, and parental status. We will also be selective in which cross-tabs to replicate, and focus only on the most informative ones.
We will look at:
We also plan to make recommendations for similar analysis done with the raw data for the Commute.org survey, since it was the most detailed and reached the greatest number of people (1029, compared to a total of 240 for the combined Redwood City city employee and community surveys).
What We Observed and Learned
Our biggest obstacle this week was trying to contact employers to survey. None of the employers to whom we distributed our contact information (on a cover letter describing our project) contacted us for surveys, though several of them responded positively when we spoke in person. Calls back to businesses proved fruitless as well, even when scheduled ahead of time. Managers either were not available to talk or did not pick up the phone. We have decided to go ahead with our analysis of the data we have, and in our report acknowledge that we were unable to effectively reach employers for surveys.
When we met with Adina this afternoon, she said she was still waiting on the San Mateo County Health Department for the information regarding Clipper’s ability to partner with the TMA, and what sort of services they would be able to provide. This information is essential to the TMA’s plan, so we are hoping we will have the information by the time we have to present to the TMA on March 3rd. If not, we will incorporate it into our final presentation and report, whenever the information becomes available.
We asked Adina for suggestions on how to best prepare for the March 3rd meeting. Her biggest tip was that a consultant should always be ready to present not matter what stage the project is in, i.e. begin outlining a presentation as soon as you start and drop data and findings in as you gather them. We have already finished our data collection (aside from a few potential follow ups that she suggested) but we definitely need to begin our presentation this weekend. We are hoping to go through the draft with Wendy and Adina on the 1st so we can incorporate feedback before we present to the whole TMA. If we ever do another consulting-type project like this, we will heed Adina’s advice to always keep an up-to-date outline so a presentation can be easily assembled on short notice.
Adina also stressed a few things that we should include in our report even though they may seem obvious. One is that we must note the potential audience in employee categories not captured by our survey, including East Bay commuters, restaurant employees, and “invisible” employees who are not up front interacting with customers. Another point Adina wants us to include is that there should be two different marketing schemes for the program, one targeted at employees and one at employers. Employees might be receptive to messaging saying that taking transit can ease the pain of gridlocked rush-hour commutes, for example, while employers might need reminding that even if their business is small, if a hundred like them take part in the program it could take hundreds of cars off the roads.
Critical Analysis / Moving Forward
Our main focus for now will be creating a report for the TMA meeting on Thursday. We plan on finishing data analysis over the weekend and draft a report by Tuesday, when we will meet with Adina and Wendy to review the report. It would be best for us to start early on the data analysis so if we stumble upon anything that needs guidance from Adina or Wendy, we can address it before we meet on Tuesday. John and Jesus will be presenting at the TMA meeting, since Sophie has class during that time.
Given that we only have a handful of surveys, our data is by no means quantitatively valid, since it was not a random sample either. So our surveys will need to be analyzed more qualitatively. We will use the Palo Alto Mode Split Survey that was given to us by Adina to better analyze and figure out who will benefit from the subsidy program. (We didn’t survey anybody from the East Bay, but we can use PAMSS to derive a number of commuters). This quantitatively rigorous data will supplement our more qualitative survey data.
What We Did
This week we worked to begin finalizing our project. For many weeks, we’d been working to add a social element to our project. To address this, we are connecting with the Los Altos Senior Commission, an organization we identified as having possible connections to underserved groups within Los Altos. After having talked with Deland at the end of class on Wednesday and with Jenn last week, it became clear that we could develop a narrative about these underserved groups and connect it back to the data that we have been working with. Additionally, we met with Jenn (our project partner) at her office in Los Altos. In the meeting, we discussed the second draft of our data visualizations, as well as possible alterations to the intended project deliverables. Jenn helped to clarify her requests on what we produce for the literature review and report. Many cities in the Silicon Valley are actually in the process of producing economic development plans, so Jenn was saying that the research we do on other cities’ plans will be useful for other cities as well. Therefore, for each plan we will identify the city’s goals for economic development and the strategies to obtain these goals. She also sent Carolyn and Economic Development Strategic Planning guide to help facilitate the types of drivers that are often useful when considering economic development. Additionally, the team discussed with Jenn that she would like all completed work to be included in a single document, so this is helpful as we begin to consider how we structure and develop our final deliverables.
Critical Analysis/Moving Forward
As mentioned above, this week we focused on finalizing the direction of our project. Moving forward, we intend to begin gathering our thoughts and information so that we can begin developing our final presentation. Specifically, we will incorporate our narrative about underserved groups within Los Altos (i.e. house-rich/cash-poor senior citizens) into our project. This was not part of the original intent of the project, but arose as we realized we needed/wanted to incorporate an element of social impact into our project. This will be in addition to our original working plan (data analysis/visualization for Economic Big Book), not in place of. We will still develop data visualization for Los Altos to the best of our abilities. Jenn and Evan walked through how she would like the data visualization using Excel, particularly paying attention to formatting and use of data. This is very helpful as we work to refine our existing graphs and produce any additional graphs necessary to fully tell the narrative of Los Altos.
Finishing the Project
Since the final deliverables are due in about 2 weeks we also spent time discussing how we should approach the completion of our project. We decided that it would be good to split up our tasks based on our different interests and skills. Since Evan is the most comfortable with Excel he will be tackling a lot of the graph and data visualization components. Whereas, Carolyn is leveraging her background with the Bay Area and economics to spearhead the literature review research and development of the narrative we want to portray in our final report and presentation. Finally, Sungmoon has taken a lot of initiative to begin drafting the final report and powerpoint because she has a strong writing background. Splitting up tasks this week has helped the group make a lot of tangible progress towards the final deliverables. After meeting with Jenn we met to discuss how to split up tasks next week, as next week will hopefully be used to wrap up a lot of the loose ends of the project. Sungmoon and Carolyn are going to try to finish the literature review on Sunday so that next week can be dedicated to incorporating the literature review into the final report.
Update on Project Activities
As per the needs of Faith In Action and Urban Habitat, our focus area has shifted from San Mateo’s B Street Corridor to North Fair Oaks, a small, unincorporated census-designated area sandwiched between Redwood City and Atherton along Middlefield Road. Small ethnic, family-owned businesses line the street, similar to San Mateo, and its population is primarily Hispanic/Latino. All three of us plan to return to North Fair Oaks next Tuesday morning to try to get written survey responses from the business owners we’d interviewed last week as well as interview and record responses from a few more businesses. Tony suggested that we take a more systematic approach and go through the surveys question by question rather than have conversational interviews. He said Faith in Action would be pleased if we could get at least 5 responses from North Fair Oaks to add to their database. Regarding the interactive map, Tony thought it might be more beneficial to local business owners if we figured out a way to make the website bilingual. That way they would be informed of fellow proprietors’ grievances and realize that they are not alone in the concern of small business displacement. We were able to translate and digitize the most recent round of surveys we got from Faith in Action and are working on adding them to the website. We also plan on making the website more user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing, which we hope to do in class on Wednesday when we are in Branner library and have access to the Geospatial Center.
What We Observed/Learned
An underlying cause of the affordable housing crisis is that politicians have too much authority over regional urban planners. This also makes it hard to plan much of anything more than 4 years in advance, as it may be vetoed by the politician’s successor. The power to control public land use and transportation rests with jurisdictions that don’t want the density increase associated with affordable housing. Metropolitan transportation agencies in both Europe and Latin America don’t have to overstep political boundaries in order to facilitate a transportation network spanning multiple municipalities.
Additionally, in talking to one of the small business owners, we found that a common problem is lack of communication with other neighboring owners. We hope that our map will be a tool that community organizations can continue to develop in order to connect small business owners with their neighbors. Our hope is that this additional networking will allow communication and enable collaboration that will ultimately strengthen the entire community.
Critical Analysis/Moving Forward
Having almost completed the Literature Review, we are proceeding to start work on the project’s final deliverable. We plan to do a lot of work on the website this weekend, both updating its content and design. We plan to change our website’s language to Spanish since most of our targeted businesses are Spanish Speaking, and we want our website to foster a cohesive community by creating neighborhood awareness. Moreover, we plan to implement these new features by Wednesday since we want to take advantage of the Geospatial Center on Wednesday. We will also be adding the new surveys to our website and learn different ways on how we can render the information so that we can meet our goal of creating a tool that will help small businesses learn about their neighbors.