This week, our team finalized the analysis concerning paper survey data and are proceeding to write a comprehensive paper. For instance, out of the 50 ranking responses, 86 percent of individuals prioritized housing cost as one of their top three consideration when owning a home. However, we received zero positive comments on the housing market in Palo Alto, and overall, housing quality was ranked at around 19/100. Out of the 24 written comments, 13 of them were about housing being too expensive, and the rest were concerning transportation. This is definitely the most significant aspect of our research project. We are hoping to frame our final paper more towards housing than transportation due to the significance of collected data. People seem to prefer closely knit, cheaper neighborhoods with access to public spaces and commercial entities. For example, 93% of people mentioned that grocery stores were absolutely essential near their place of residence. This was followed by 67% need for open spaces, and 60% for restaurants. This does not mean they would prefer smaller, apartment type homes compared to single family homes.
The citizens of Palo Alto want to vitalize more sustainable forms of transportation. This includes commuting via buses, trains, walking and biking rather than driving. Our survey found that 48% of employees drive to work whereas only 34% of them would prefer to drive (See figure 1). People would rather bike or walk to work. This preference is largely dependent on an individual’s proximity to work, and the walkability/bikeability of a city. Since locals and employees rated biking and walking in Palo Alto as 77/100 as compared to a 47/100 for driving, the distance is likely the limiting factor. Palo Alto is one of the most expensive cities in California to live in. More than two-thirds of Palo Alto’s employed individuals, which is twice the local population, live outside of the city limits.
Very few individuals take advantage of the local bus systems. Roughly 7% of employees take a bus to work, and only 1.5% of all employees claimed it was their prefered form of commuting. The quality of the bus transit system was ranked around 50/100 due to a variety of factors. Many people said the bus system is too infrequent and doesn’t make its routes and times as readily accessible as the Caltrain. With the uncertainty in the bus system, people can’t afford to use it as a reliable means of getting to work everyday. When asked what people valued in bus transit, frequency, network connectivity, and overall driving range were all between 70-82/100. A more reliable and connected bus transit system could shift commuters away from automobiles.
In preparation for our deliverables, our group began a side project entitled, Faces of Palo Alto. Based on the one on one interviews, we designed personal vignettes that are meant to represent the average citizen’s daily routines and concerns. Many of our stakeholders and speakers this quarter have addressed the need for a human element, or personal aspect in social justice projects. Asking why the average citizen would be interested in our work is essential. We believe that Face of Palo Alto will compliment the final research paper.
Our group completed the first draft of our final paper. Our stakeholders requested a blend of an op-ed piece and a research paper. As a result, we have developed a research story with an exposition, methods, results, and a discussion section. We are currently waiting on feedback to improve the draft and begin working on our final presentation. We have also created a Google Maps document that shows the initial and final points of respondents’ commutes.
As the online survey accumulates, our groups will being to finalize our figures and conclusions for our presentation. We just sent a rough draft paper to our stakeholders and are awaiting comments. We plan on meeting our stakeholders one last time after break to discuss our findings and paper before the presentation Lastly, our team is designing slides and meeting at least twice to rehearse our presentation for the December 6 conference.
Issues and Discussion:
We believe that the housing problem in Palo Alto has a simple solution: design cheaper, smaller, and denser housing units to reduce commute times and alleviate cost burdens. But like any social/economic planning project, and very much like the SF housing issue, initiating these housing projects will not be that simple. The citizens have expressed their interest in reducing costs, but also want larger, single family homes. The systemic issue is a belief that the ultimate residential goal in life is a large, single family home. This idea has to be shattered in the next few years for housing to thrive not only in Palo Alto, but the Bay Area as a whole. This is a classic tragedy of the commons mind set. People recognize their is a problem, but their own self interests outweigh the long term externalities. Based on our readings and interviews, we believe the elderly population will either suffer at the hands of increasing housing prices (being forced out in time), our continue to exacerbate the housing crisis by living the rest of their lives, in low taxed, protected housing.
As for transportation, some people expressed a need for more predictable, frequent transportation regarding both buses and Caltrains. They would be more willing to take public transportation rather than automobiles if they knew they could get from home to work in a predictable, short amount of time. However, the majority of drivers refuse to give up the reliability of a car. Just due to their mobile lifestyle and need to visit sites for leisure rather than necessity, they will rarely use public transportation. Hopefully, as public transportation networks unify in the Bay Area, people will be more willing to take the extra time to travel via sustainable outlets to their destinations. All improvements to public transportation should ultimately lower congestion rates and raise the driving scores in Palo Alto. The hardest part of any research project is making the leap from analysis to implementation. We can observe and point out the issues, but ultimately, the policy makers and hopefully the citizens, will begin to push for real housing and transportation reform.