What We Observed and Learned
Our objective over the last week was to standardize a methodology for the mapping analysis of one transit system in one county: SamTrans in San Mateo County. We were able to use GIS to isolate the Communities of Concern (CoC) within the 3-mile buffer of the Caltrain, defined as having access in the context of our project. We observed hotspots in the incidence of CoC with access to Caltrain located near San Jose (in the south bay), around East Palo Alto, and Eastern San Francisco. It is also of note that multiple communities in Gilroy and Morgan Hill appeared in our analysis -- their geographic isolation could factor into a future analysis. However because they fall outside of the service area of Samtrans, Muni, and VTA, we are unlikely to engage with them during this initial pass.
We’ve also identified that many of the topics from readings and lectures are extremely relevant to our work with Friends of Caltrain and Seamless Bay Area. In Dr. Tien’s lecture, we discussed the ethical concerns surrounding some types of research and the beneficiaries of official research. Along these lines, we also analyzed some case studies which seemed to operate under good will but actually had some aspects that were morally questionable under the guise of research. This lens carries over into our work with the Caltrain scheduling. More specifically, we are reminded of the Moving Silicon Valley Forwards reading from Week 1, which highlight relevant questions about ridership, showing that “the VTA bus system has nearly 75 percent of its ridership from communities of color but receives only $8.16 of public subsidy per passenger. In contrast, Caltrain has only 40 percent riders of color and receives nearly twice the subsidies ($15.49 per passenger trip)” (9). Coupled with some initial mapping that shows that the majority of CoC’s are clustered in the East Bay where Caltrain doesn’t reach, this project doesn’t seem to allocate research about public transit ridership in the right places in the Bay Area. However, we also recognize that one of our community partners, Friends of Caltrain, focuses just on Caltrain and the surrounding public transit options, but this question of where our research efforts are going is worth exploring in further detail as we progress with this project.
With regard to research ethics, we also acknowledge that we are undertaking in a kind of analysis that does not engage directly with the people we are studying. However, the recommendations that result from our analysis will likely need to be substantiated through field research down-the-line. Those researchers must be accountable to the current and future transit riders they will work with, guiding their research as well by the desires of those subjects; our final report will reiterate this.
Last week Adina had mentioned that SamTrans and Caltrain issued a response to the Grand Jury report about the action they are going to take toward synchronization of transit schedules. We received these documents from Adina and read them to get a better idea about what these plans look like.
Our current understanding of the project is as follows: once we create the new GIS layers of CoC with access to Caltrain, we need to see how these areas overlap with factors that impact access (e.g. protected bike lanes, street lights, disability access, etc). Based on our phone call on Friday with Adina and Ian, we have a good understanding of what types of recommendations we should be making. By looking at this overlap, we will be able to understand where barriers to Caltrain access are most prevalent and what geographies the recommendations are for.
Update on Project Activities
Following our meeting with Adina and Ian last week, we received more information about which areas to pursue with analysis on arcGIS. In this discussion, Adina narrowed down the scale of our project. Since then, we’ve compiled a series of layers on GIS that would align with Adina’s goals: neighborhoods, parks, cities, counties, SamTrans stops located in communities of concern, and all Caltrain stations. We have also brought in other layers that we hope will help us draw out potential barriers to Caltrain access: availability and quality of bike routes, street lighting, and altitude changes. Ian referenced “isochrone” mapping (how far can someone get in x minutes via a certain mode of transport), and we have found tools that will help us use this technique to assess access in other terms than simple Euclidean distance. Finding data layers is harder than anticipated, because transit operators/city governments/advocacy organizations between the three counties we are working in differ greatly in the format, quantity, and quality of data they provide. Nevertheless, we can start our analysis with partial data (we do not need to know about streetlights to analyze bikeability).
A majority of this week’s time was spent installing ArcGIS on each team members’ computers and beginning to familiarize ourselves with how to use it. This step, which should have been relatively simple, resulted in lots of frustration - we’ve run into license authentication errors and had trouble installing Windows on MacBooks (Windows is the only supported operating system for ArcGIS), among other small logistical conflicts. We hope to make up time this week after re-orienting ourselves with the project through a call with our community partners, Ian and Adina.
We have also been working on our Project Scope of Work, which will primarily draw upon the first timeline we included in Reflection #1 and the project outline provided by the course. We hope to finish the first draft by Monday so we can ask our community partners for feedback before the deadline.
As with any collaborative project, scheduling has been a challenge for our team meetings. With our busy schedules, there are few times when we are all available to meet, which has resulted in some members missing the meetings altogether. Of course, we keep each other up to date on any project developments and important information from our community partners, but it would be best if all members could be present to add to the discussions. For this week, in particular, there was also the occurrence of a religious holiday, which meant one member was unavailable to work on the project that day. This was not detrimental, but with limited time for the project, timeliness is key.
Another challenge we have been facing is that we are still unclear about the types of recommendations we should be making with regards to transportation, infrastructure, and other related subjects. Although we have begun to narrow down the GIS layers we should be compiling, we still have to think about which direction we want to follow when we analyze the data. There are many factors involved in transportation access and in determining communities of concern, so we need to further narrow down our scope of work to ensure our project is manageable. This also brings up the question of whether or not we are doing some type of scheduling analysis with SamTrans, Caltrain, and the other transportation networks. An in-depth analysis of how these schedules line up or don’t line up with the needs of the Communities of Concern would be very time consuming and push beyond the scope of the project’s purpose, but some scheduling analysis could be beneficial for informing our recommendations.
There is also the problem with making assumptions about the factors involved in our analyses. For example, what can we safely assume about the population data without creating a false image of the communities of concern? What can we safely extrapolate or deduce from the data that is representative of the communities we are examining?
One interesting observation we also made in the past week was that there seemed to be a significant number of communities of concern in the East Bay between Richmond and Hayward - areas served more directly by BART than by Caltrain. This would be interesting to investigate as time permits, but it may be work for future groups since our project is mainly focused on Caltrain and the local bus systems working around it.
Update on Project Activities
We started editing the transcriptions of our interviews on Trint and have not encountered technical issues so far. However, one of our group members encountered a difficult interview where the interviewee frequently stuttered and we had a discussion on how to best approach editing such audio. After finding additional resources we decided the best course of action was to have the transcription maintain the authenticity and reflect the interviewee’s speech pattern as closely as close.
In addition, after talking with several members of our team, we now understand the commitment necessary to properly completing the transcriptions. As a general rule we believe it rounds out to a 5:1 ratio between time necessary to to transcribe for every minute of the interviews. This rule of thumb helped us understand the time commitment for the project and plan out our deliverables.
In terms of finalizing our project scope of work, two of us have shown interest in joining AEMP for an interview in San Francisco later in the quarter, but the exact date and time has yet to be determined.
What We Observed and Learned
Our key learning this week was around the transcription process and how to edit interviews with an emphasis on maintaining the original voice of the person being interviewed. It has become evident to all of us that transcribing is a time-consuming process that demands a lot of focus and attention to detail. The literature and frameworks that we used as guidance for our transcriptions all emphasize the importance of maintaining the original voice of the interviewee, which means that for many of us we must go over some sections of the interview multiple times to ensure we’ve been transcribing it correctly. We decided as a team to make sure we maintain the unique vernacular of the interviews by not “editing out” certain portions that some may consider unimportant, things like pauses, filler words, and rephrasings. It is important for the project that we include all the nuanced and unique speech patterns that each interviewee brings as a way of honoring their individuality and voice.
We have also gained insight from the content of the interviews. Many of us haven’t finished our transcriptions yet, so there is still much to learn, but there is definitely something poignant and beautiful about listening to an unedited, raw interview. We have begun highlighting sections in Trint that stick out to us as especially pertinent to the interviewee’s story, and could potentially be parts that we use in our final clip that we’ll incorporate in the website. There was very little description about each interview before we selected them, so the process of listening openly and with care as their story unfolds has been eye-opening.
Critical Analysis/Moving Forward
We are in the process of reviewing the “Interview Transcription Guide” in order to evaluate the guide for what we believe would be beneficial in our process. We plan on adding to the document incorporating our own methodology and systematic set of punctuation.
We have set on a meeting date with Alexi in order to check-in in two weeks regarding our progress with transcriptions. We have also now shared with Alexi and are adding to the Google Doc, which contains our questions regarding transcriptions or any concerns we run into. This way Alexi can have a direct route of communication with us as we go through our transcription process. We have advanced the date to have completed our transcriptions to November 1 after discussing our schedule with Alexi. She recommended moving the date up in order to have more time to edit the transcriptions and transform into audio clips and video to be integrated into the website. We also plan to continue exploring the AEMP website.
Update on Project Activities
Visiting The Tech Interactive this week, we got a much stronger sense of the space that the exhibit will eventually occupy. Danny (our liaison with the Tech Interactive Museum) was able to show us around the space and also show us the prototype of the Community Voices exhibit we will be contributing to. We also got access to the past the interviews that had been conducted by the summer interns/students from last year. These past interviews will be useful as we look towards our own project and try to determine what areas/voices that we hope to focus on as a project team.
What We Observed and Learned
In our visit to the Tech Interactive this week, we gathered valuable insight into the process of creating an exhibition and the intricacies of museum curation. We met with Danny as he showed us the space that the eventual exhibit will occupy. Observing this space, we saw how hands-on the experience at Tech Interactive is; indeed, it is an active walk through the large space. Envisioning our exhibit in the space, we felt humbled and honored to be contributing to such an impactful learning environment.
Also, we were able to visit during the hours when the Tech Interactive museum was open to the public. Therefore, we were there at the same time as public visitors who most likely are similar to the audience which will be viewing the exhibit we are helping to create. It was inspiring to see that this audience consists of a wide variety of people from adults to even children as young as 5-6 years old. Being able to get context for the location of this project will be helpful when trying to determine what specific stories and interviews we hope to garner because we now know that we should try to get things from a variety of different perspectives so that it can appeal to the wide range of perspectives that will be present in the audience for our exhibit. At the same time, recognizing our contribution to the project as one step out of many before it means that our approach to gathering and cultivating interviews to showcase has to be focused and specific, so as to avoid repetition and add to past work.
Critical Analysis/Moving Forward
After visiting The Tech Interactive this week, we identified our action items for the next week. We want to try to meet with the former summer interns to get a better gauge on which leads we should pursue. Then we need to pursue those warm leads, as well as find any of our own. As of now, some group members have sent emails to potential leads, and some are setting up interview times with leads already discovered in the area, including a Stanford student who is from Fremont, an area that Danny encouraged us to cover stories from because of the unequal distribution of story coverage. Listening to the interviews that have already been conducted has made us try to determine which types of people/voices are underrepresented and therefore who we should focus on for interviewing. It seems as though a lot of us are very passionate about trying to capture the voices and/or stories of people who have traditionally been excluded and marginalized from these types of conversations. Specifically, we have talked about the need for the inclusion of voices from the Bay Area’s indigenous communities, and other communities of color. Therefore, we are hoping to sometime soon attend a farmer’s market or some similar type of community event, and to pull on our contacts and connections on and around campus, in order to be able to get interviews. The information we get from these marginalized community members might have a slightly more unconventional take on these issues relating to climate change which we think will be very useful in achieving the goal of trying to make this museum exhibit relatable to a wide variety of people.
It is critical to present a representative sample of stories and experiences for the Community Voices exhibit, as representative participation is a crucial facet of advocacy and empowerment, a component we discussed in class relating to Arnstein's Citizen Ladder of Participation (1969) and the levels of participation and representation necessary for true participation.
While there seemed to be a broad range of groups represented in the visitors of the museum, visiting The Tech also brought up questions of access, as admission is not free and can be burdensome especially for family groups. In addressing this question Danny told us of a ‘pay what you can’ system the museum implements, but that the vast majority of visitors pay the full fee. This was a signal to us that there are levels of/barriers to access other than the price at the front door - broadly, there is work that must be done to make it known that museum spaces like The Tech are open to everyone, and this work must be in active opposition to conceptions of museum spaces, which are indeed traditionally quite exclusive. Bringing this to the scope of our project, our work in hopefully searching for stories among indigenous communities and other communities of color also has the potential to call those communities into a museum space and facilitate local recognition of the ways this exhibit aims to serve everyone.
Update on Project Activities
This week, we continued digitizing the remaining paper surveys, began and finished cleaning up the data, and checked in with Violet. The digitizing process wasn’t as straightforward as we initially thought it would be for there were some problems with the surveys themselves as well as with the language some of the surveys were filled out in. The cleaning up of data has removed what isn’t essential and will make future analysis easier. The meeting with Violet was a digital one where the project and its aspects were discussed.
What We Observed and Learned
As the paper surveys were being digitized, we found that some weren’t completed correctly, typically this was because a survey wasn’t completely filled out or directions weren’t properly followed. This led to us not being able to digitize these surveys though KoBoToolbox, the online platform that we are using to collect survey responses for KoBoToolbox will only process a survey if it is filled out correctly. However, since the data from KoBoToolbox is being exported to a Google Sheet for data analysis purposes, the information that we were unable to upload through KoBToolbox was directly written onto the Google Sheet for it might prove to be valuable in the future. There were some forms that were filled out in Tongan and Samoan, languages that nobody on the team knows how to read, however we will seek out someone who does so that we can properly digitize them.
While going through the data on the Google sheet, some survey entries had to be deleted because they were either a test response (a response to evaluate whether or not the survey was working properly) or were a duplicate. Information was standardized so that if certain aspects of the data, such as addresses later needed to be plugged into a GIS mapping tool, there wouldn’t be any problems regarding formatting. Besides this, irrelevant information that was imported onto the Google Sheet due to the way KoBoToolbox encodes its exported data was removed so that the data is easier to understand.
In our digital meeting with Violet, she went into more depth explaining the survey’s purpose and the team’s role. She explained that the survey was created in order to understand the level of community awareness regarding climate change. By knowing current awareness and levels of concern, action planners will be able to determine what courses of action to take for they will know what needs to be prioritized. The team’s role is to help action planners reach the state where they can effectively begin to make informed decisions. In order for this final state to be reached, the team will present the current awareness and levels of concern as well as other findings from the survey, such as concentrations of concern, specific racial breakdowns, and how language plays a role in the larger picture.
Critical Analysis/Moving Forward
Although specific examples of what can be presented to the action planners was included in the final paragraph of the last section, those were only some possibilities that were discussed and it is unclear as to whether or not such information will help the action planners. For this reason, a list of of potential pathways (listed below) for the data was given to Violet so that she can discuss the possibilities with the action planners on a meeting that is happening on the 14th of this month, doing so will allow for the team to take a more guided approach to the data. This meeting will be attended by the team in order to listen to what is being discussed as well as to get to meet the action planners.
-Relationship between climate change awareness/community concern and age
-Relationship between climate change awareness/community concern and gender
-Relationship between climate change awareness/community concern and race/ethnicity
-Relationship between climate change awareness/community concern and location
-Relationship between climate change awareness/community concern and response language
-Relationship between response to “What comes to mind when you hear the term ‘climate change?’” and response to “How much do you think climate change will harm the East Palo Alto community?” (gauge relationship between knowledge and concern)
Besides this meeting, there are two EPA Adaptation Planning Meetings, one on the 25th and the other on the 26th of this month that will also be attended by the team in order to further discuss the project and how work has progressed. Survey collections will continue until the end of this month. Collections will mainly be done by other organizations but there are existing opportunities for the team to help in the collection process. One of these opportunities in on the 12th of this month and the other is on the 17th. Who will be able to go from the team is currently being figured out.
Update on Project Activities
Since we had our kickoff meeting with community partners last Friday, we were able to jump into our survey design this week. We met on Monday to split up work for survey questions, scope of work, and the reflection. We also talked about teaming norms and scheduling. We learned that our availabilities overlap best on Fridays and Tuesday afternoons (3-5pm), and after class is best for quick check-ins. We also created a calendar-format agenda to solidify our work for the next few weeks. We will be sharing this with our community partners so they can track our progress. Roughly, we will begin our canvassing/survey administration next week (end of week 4/beginning of week 5).
To design the survey, we began by looking at previous surveys done by TransFORM (Chris Leppe), which were much longer than our target survey. The TransFORM survey also targeted a broader audience than ours, but was still useful for designing questions about transportation in general. We also independently looked at other transportation surveys conducted by groups like CTAA, Virginia’s DOT, and MIT. We then independently created lists of questions, which we compiled in a document throughout the week. We aimed to create them without consulting each other, so we could see where there were duplicate questions and overlaps of interest.
On Friday, we met as a team without community partners to write a full first draft of our survey, plan our canvassing training with community partners, and further develop our scope of work.
For the survey, we started by highlighting questions that others had written that we found interesting. We compiled these into a separate document. Then, we reworded and reformatted the questions to be similar to the TransFORM survey. Finally, we added demographic questions and open-ended questions. The survey is quite long -- it has 17 questions not including the open-ended responses -- but we wanted to send a more comprehensive list to the community partners so they can edit it down. We have sent the first draft of the survey to our community partners. They will edit it virtually, then have an in-person session with us next week to finalize it.
We created separate surveys for employees and managers. Although employees are our main target audience, we want to see if employers or managers understand their employees’ transportation and housing issues, so we can better target our final messaging. The worker survey asks more about the individual’s transportation habits, while the employers’ survey asks more about their workers’ issues and the transportation incentives that they’d be willing to subsidize/support.
What We Observed and Learned
In class, we learned about the principles of effective and ethical service. This is important for us to keep in mind as we’re only contributing to a small part of the larger transportation and housing affordability problem. We’re entering as outsiders who have (for the most part) never canvassed before. Here are some concrete ways that we addressed this:
Another thing we are learning is that managing schedules with so many people is difficult. Our community partners, as they come from three different organizations, have very different availabilities. Originally, we aimed to hold our survey review and canvassing training all next Friday. However, Chris and Adina had conflicts come up. We realized that there were no time spans during the week that all of our team members could meet for long enough to run both the survey review and the training, so we decided to split up the two. Leora will run the canvassing training, and Chris/Adina will lead the survey review with us. We had to manage our wording to be clear and inclusive. We’re learning a lot about managing client relationships and conflicting schedules, and have been excited by how great our community partners have been in terms of flexibility and letting us set our own agenda.
Lastly, we learned about phrasing questions effectively. Generally, the goal provided by our community partners was to understand if workers who commute into Menlo Park would want to live closer to work, and what their barriers are if so. We aimed to make our questions unambiguous, quantifiable for the most part, and objective. As an example, we started with a question: “are you able to get to work using public transit with minimal walking?” We thought that “minimal walking” may be ambiguous, so we worked to better define it in terms of numbers -- minutes to walk. Our next iteration was “How long would you have to walk to get from your house to the nearest public transit station (bus, Caltrain, MUNI, etc.)?”
Another example is the question, “how do you get to work?” We thought this could be too open-ended and wanted to make it multiple choice, to ease analysis. Instead, we changed the question to: “What mode of transport do you use for your commute to work? (Circle multiple if they apply)” and made multiple choice responses such as “car (driving alone)”, “car (with at least one other person)”, “bus”, “rail service/caltrain”, etc.
This is still a work in progress. We’re not sure if, as people who don’t commute regularly around the Bay Area, we might be missing some important questions. Maybe our perception of a typical commute and popular modes of transit is skewed. Maybe, when we ask about transportation subsidies they would be interested in, we’re missing discussion of other important initiatives. Maybe our wording on some of our “agree/disagree” questions is biased. We’ve heavily workshopped our questions already, but know it will still require further development. That is why we will work with our community partners, who have experience conducting surveys, to discuss multiple vantage points and include any missing, pivotal questions.
We also hope to combat this by launching a literature review. We want to review at least 5-10 sources about housing and transportation issues in the Bay Area, to ensure that we’re considering all perspectives and initiatives. We will provide update on this in the coming weeks as we wish to have input by the community partners on this idea. Again, we want to make sure we are adhering to the principles of ethical and effective service, outlined by the Haas center, by including our community partners in our decisions.
Critical Analysis/Moving Forward
Deland challenged us to think earlier this week about who are the members of the “community” that we are working for, what do we know about them, and what can we learn from them. It is critical to remain aware of the community we are working with so that we can ensure that our work is actually meaningful and has the potential to create wanted impact. Although “Menlo Park” is in the title of our community partner project, we recognize that there will be many people coming from different communities throughout the Bay Area. These communities will vary in demographics including race, ethnicity, median income, profession, distance away from Menlo Park, etc. Menlo Park is a very wealthy area, yet the people we will be interviewing will often have blue collar jobs and may not earn enough to afford living in such an expensive area. We believe our “community” will be comprised of people who travel far distances to get to work, and who may be allotting a sizeable percentage of their income to transportation, as the community partner reading on Palo Alto Transportation indicated. We believe that historically there has been a lack of access to public transportation for workers in areas such as Palo Alto and Menlo Park, but we acknowledge that these are expectations that should not be reflected in our survey questions. We posed questions on our survey that would allow us to get to know the “community” we are working for better by seeing how far they work from their homes, what methods of transportation they take, how much they spend on transportation, etc. We were careful in how we phrased questions, as aforementioned, to leave our expectations out and get honest, accurate answers. Again, we wish to access the level of need for more public transportation, not try to prove that it exists because then that would skew our data. Once we analyze our data, and find that there is a need (or not), hopefully even more data can be collected to form a case that can be presented to the Menlo Park City Council by our community partner.
Looking forward, we have a few meetings and deliverables for next week. First, we will have a group meeting on Tuesday afternoon to review the Scope of Work and prepare for our midterm presentation. We think that meeting regularly throughout the week like this will keep us on track (last week it was Monday, this week Tuesday works better because we have a longer chunk of time). Before that meeting, the team will finalize our portions of the written scope of work and slides, and work to get our sections down to 2 mins of speaking time.
Additionally, we will be scheduling two meetings with community partners. First, we want an in-person survey review with Adina and Chris, and Leora if she is available. We sent some proposed times to the partners and look forward to hearing their response. To prepare for this, we will review any digital feedback from the partners and make those changes before the meeting. A few questions we have on the survey are: what are transit incentives that we should consider? How can we ensure that our questions are unbiased? How can we make our survey as low-effort yet honest as possible? Is our survey for managers asking the right questions, or should it be more similar to the employee survey?
The second meeting will be canvassing training with Leora, where she will teach us how to conduct door-to-door surveys in Menlo Park. We look forward to learning from her, most likely on Friday. After this, we will pair up and create a canvassing plan to ensure we hit our 100-survey goal. Some of our concerns here include: how do we reach commuting workers door-to-door if they don’t live in Menlo Park? Should we contact employers before coming to their place of work? How long should our survey be to receive the best response? What format should we deliver the survey in (paper or iPad, maybe)? What are the best times to canvass? How do we introduce ourselves to appear approachable? What should the street boundaries we target be, if any? Should we be taking pictures or videos on the spot?
We will also, as mentioned above, start our literature review. Katie will be spearheading this, but we will all contribute, and try to draw resources from the class and community partners if possible.