Update on Project Activities
Last week, we completed our Scope of Work and set our timeline and goals for the rest of the quarter.
As Week 5 comes to a close, we are continuing to evaluate our progress and assessing the feasibility of the work we set out for ourselves. We have observed ourselves, for example, spending more time creating a workflow to analyze transit data for all transit systems rather than working specifically with SamTrans, VTA, or MUNI data. We are realizing that a presentable final product is only partially the methodology, and that to remain on schedule for producing results, we will have to spend more time in the next few weeks than planned. However, we have developed a solid intuition of how to actually apply techniques like “isochrone analysis” (service area) to our transit and bike datasets using the tools we have access to. We will focus in the coming weeks on leveraging these new skills to multiply the number of our conclusions we have made thus far.
After receiving comments from Deland, Adina, and Ian on the Scope of Work, we have spent some time discussing how to implement the feedback. Specifically, we need to think more deliberately about our Project Definition and Seeing the Big Picture sections. Deland raised many important questions that are challenging us to think critically about the choices we are making in our project, which will guide us in our further analysis and what data we choose to include in our mapping analysis.
On Monday we spoke with Adina and Ian about our progress and next steps. They were pleased with our Scope of Work and timeline for the rest of the quarter. We updated them about our GIS mapping analysis and provided our first recommendation: there is one community of concern, located in San Bruno, that is completely unserved (in any part) by SamTrans Caltrain connection bus routes, posing an accessibility concern. Our next step is to put this recommendation on Story Maps (to avoid leaving Story Maps until week 8, as Deland brought up in her comments for our Scope of Work). Together, we established that by our next meeting on Thursday October 31 we will have completed analysis to present 2-3 recommendations for policy to improve Caltrain access. We believe this is a manageable goal to complete over the next week, especially with the learning curve to use Story Maps and how to present our recommendations.
We have also continued collecting GIS layers for bike lanes (all three classes) and streets in San Mateo county. After meeting this week to work on GIS together, we were also able to complete a network analysis of the collected bike data to see what areas are bikeable via a max 3-mile trip from a Caltrain station, looking next to integrate our elevation data. We still have a lot to learn about network analysis and other commute data that Deland directed us to. In the meantime, however, we have made use of ESRI’s plentiful tutorials on their software, and have reached out to staff at the Spatial Analysis Center for further resources.
The Transportation Commission activity in class was actually seen as an insightful exercise on where our recommendations might end up: being presented to the City of San Mateo to improve equitable Caltrain access. It is thus important that we are able to present them in a coherent and visual way, backed by our data analysis of who will be benefiting and highlighting very specific changes we are advocating for.
What We Observed and Learned
As we progress in our analysis, our community partners continually provide us with more useful resources which help us with our conceptualization of this project. One project currently ongoing in the Bay Area is extremely pertinent to our project: Caltrain is conducting an equity analysis as part of its Business Plan as part of its mission to make its services more accessible and attractive to the general community. Additionally, SamTrans is conducting a Comprehensive Operations Analysis to review and improve its routes. As part of a mandate from the Grand Jury report, this initiative is attempting to improve its connections with Caltrain. These two transit organization-led initiatives are directly relevant with our mapping analysis. Our group cannot help but notice the similarities between our work with the Friends of Caltrain and what these transit agencies are currently aligning themselves with doing. Hopefully, these aligned missions mean that our recommendations are received with a real hope for productive modifications to public transit routes.
Critical Analysis/Moving Forward
As we look ahead to week 6, our primary goal is to continue implementing layers as defined by our Scope of Work. The layers and their details are as follows:
As we discussed with Adina and Ian, we need to spend this week curating a batch of recommendations that they will review and give us feedback on by Thursday. We agree that it is best to first receive feedback before moving forward with more analysis to make sure that we are on the same page with our analysis methodology and the quality of the recommendations. Strong and clear data visualization will be essential toward making our case. Ian is an expert at visualization, so we are eager to hear his thoughts on how we can best achieve our goals of communicating our recommendations successfully. We also hope to start working on our final report over the next week. While we currently have not finalized any recommendations with our community partners in order to include them, we can still begin assembling our introduction, literature review, and summary of ongoing initiatives to educate and influence the community about public transportation.