Updates on Project Activities
Earlier this week, we prepared to present to the Palo Alto TMA board on Thursday. We met on Tuesday with Wendy and Adina to ensure our execution of the board presentation goes without a hitch. Since Wendy was not available to meet in person, she joined Adina and the team virtually over the phone. The Tuesday meeting provided us with topics to emphasize, what to remove, and how to structure and phrase our presentation. We had a general idea of what the main takeaways of the presentation should be coming into this meeting, but Wendy’s and Adina’s feedback definitely helped us refine our presentation.
After incorporating feedback from Wendy and Adina into our presentation and rehearsing the presentation, we sent the presentation slides along with a video recording back to Wendy and Adina for further feedback. We then adjusted our presentation a few times more. Our presentation took place on Thursday at the Palo Alto City Hall. We were pleased with the great questions we got because that meant the board members were very interested in our findings. We now have some feedback from the TMA, and will incorporate it into our final class presentation this Wednesday. Some of the feedback is more pertinent to the final deliverable. Specifically, the board is asking for marketing materials for business managers and employees. We will include this in the final deliverable.
We have also continued to make cross-tabulations for the Redwood City data. The cross-tabs will provide synthesis of the data and reveal what they can tell us about how variables are related. We are specifically looking for correlations that may help in planning the most effective TDM and/or marketing it to those it is intended to help. For example, our cross-tab of preferred transit mode with favored incentives to stop driving revealed that for non-city employees, while a Caltrain Go Pass was ranked as the most popular incentive overall, residents of Santa Clara County would actually be better served by a financial incentive, and residents of San Mateo County would felt improved biking and walking paths were almost as valuable. Sophie is going to meet with Jessica on Monday to look over the cross-tabs and determine what the most interesting and useful findings are, so the final report can focus on those.
What We Observed and Learned
After our Tuesday meeting with Wendy and Adina, we realized we were very underprepared for this meeting. This is ironic given that in our check-in meeting with Adina last Friday, Adina advocated: “Always be ready to present.” We did not heed this tip for Tuesday’s meeting. We didn’t think it was applicable, since we thought we were only going to causally explain our slides to Wendy. Hence we did not prepare as much as we should have. Instead, we should have been ready to present the slides, then and there, on a sunny Tuesday afternoon as if we were in front of the TMA board. In retrospect, considering that she asked to speak with us on the phone rather than just review our slides on her own time and give us written feedback, we probably should have inferred that she wanted a presentation. This could have been avoided with better communication about the expectations for Tuesday’s meeting and would have been aided by more careful use of email communications. (Not everyone relevant was always included in every email reply). We definitely could have prepared more ahead of time regardless. In the end, we think that our Thursday TMA presentation was a far cry better.
Sophie gained an increased appreciation for a well-organized data spreadsheet this week. The non-city employee data from Redwood City needed to be refined and reformatted before Sophie was able to work with it easily in Excel, and the time that process took was unexpectedly significant. However, the work is done and after modeling the re-formatted spreadsheet on the city employee database, Sophie has made good headway on the cross-tabulations. She learned a few lessons to apply next time she undertakes a project that will involve a large dataset. The most important of these is to always use numbers wherever possible rather than words—assign a number to each answer for a multiple choice question, and catalogue the number of the chosen answer rather than writing in the string. For example, if the question is “How do you get to work” and the answers are “Driving,” “Biking,” or “Transit,” create a column in the sheet for each answer and record “2” in the “Biking” column for anyone who answered “Biking.” This makes it much easier to work with the data using formulas in Excel, which are the only way to do anything quickly when working with large datasets.
Critical Analysis / Moving Forward
The presentation we gave to the TMA on Thursday was 15 minutes long and did not include any of the Redwood City data, so this weekend we will have to cut down and restructure the slides to both incorporate that portion and reduce the time.
Moving forward with the Palo Alto TDM program, we shall incorporate the feedback from the Palo Alto TMA board meeting in both our class presentation and in our final deliverable. We will develop sample marketing materials that can be used to target employers and employees. Generally the TMA was satisfied with the pricing structure of the TDM program that we proposed but the numbers may be subsequently refined. Given that our fieldwork data stems from 23 employees and 4 employers, the data is not statistically significant, but it has given us enough qualitative data to structure the different budget allocations and direct the marketing messages to groups who are most likely to use transit. We will be creating designs for hard-copy flyers and postcards which can be hung up in businesses and distributed by mail. We will also have digital versions that can be distributed by email.