This week our work on the Friends of Caltrain project was focused on preparing for our first formal meeting with our community leaders. We met at Coupa Cafe with Adina Levin, Executive Director of Friends of Caltrain and Charisse Lebron, Director of Health Policy and Community Development for Working Partnerships USA. The primary purpose for our first meeting was for us to better understand the exact question and problems we would be tackling together over the course of the project. However, before jumping straight into this, Adina gave us some necessary background information on the current state of commuting and transit in the South Bay.
The county of Santa Clara has just recently approved a project that would bring Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) to San Jose leading to an anticipated increase of transfers between transit operators in the area. However, Adina relayed her experiences talking with transit professionals, explaining that they often view commuters of different modes as different audiences, leading to a somewhat "separate but equal" mindset between transit options such as heavy rail and bus service. When linking this to available data on transit riders and their income levels, we began to focus our research question around the subject of equity issues in transit options across socioeconomic brackets. Are lower-income service workers being priced out of certain transit options? Do current scheduling practices present a barrier to transit for those who may hold multiple jobs? Questions such as these informed our discussion and brought us to our main focus.
In 2016, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group will be presenting a ballot measure to the Santa Clara County which would propose a pilot program for fare integration across transit operators in the area. Our goal as a project team is to provide data and ultimately a hypothesis for recommendations as to how this fare integration pilot system might work. Adina and Charisse then broke this goal down into three different deliverables. First, they would like us to produce a literature review of existing fare integration schemes so we can see how other groups and governments tackled the same issues we are currently facing in the South Bay. Second, we will be responsible for creating and administering interviews and surveys of several commuter populations in Santa Clara County so that we can better understand the problems they face when choosing how to commute every day. With these two materials they then want us to provide possible recommendations to alleviate the difficulties faced by local commuters outlined in our research.
Ultimately, what was most helpful for us was that Adina and Charisse really focused on how our project was a type of advocacy. In some cases, transit operators may put their own needs and priorities above the transit rider. Fears of revenue shortfalls and complicated cooperation have greatly slowed efforts to develop an integrated fare system, which has lead to many commuters' problems going unanswered. Our main purpose in this project is to find out what exactly these problems are, back them up with reputable data, and bring these to transit operators to show how they are failing to meet their goals in providing adequate transit service to all residents. This is an essential goal of our project that we must always keep in mind throughout the quarter to keep us on track.
Looking forward, we've planned our next group meeting for Tuesday February 3rd where we will present a draft for the survey and interview questions. We ended our meeting with a brainstorming session to begin thinking about what subjects we want to address through these questions. We also identified our language strengths throughout the group as our data collection will most likely be from multilingual populations. (Marty and Connie noted their proficiencies in Spanish and Adina mentioned the possibility of us having a volunteer interpreter if needed.) Our next week will be spent putting together this information as well as compiling our Scope of Work.