This week was a busy week for Sam and Ma’ayan. A GIS heavy week, the two spent solid hours in the GIS lab finishing up the 1990, 2000, and 2008 maps for commuters residing near Caltrain stations. Although we still need to verify the results to make sure they make sense, we tackled two main obstacles this week: accounting for water within buffer radii, and normalizing their mode shares. The first obstacle, water, had been skewing the total amount of land within each buffer area, causing incorrect calculations for the mode shares. By subtracting the amount of water area from each buffer, the team was able to solve this issue. The second and more difficult obstacle was normalizing the mode shares. After an agonizing hour with Patricia of going over the data and trying to find what was throwing off the mode share percentages, we realized some block groups had zero Commuting Workers, which previously we had changed to one since we divided some values by this Commuting_Workers variable. Now, this change was taking its revenge as it mistakenly increased the weight of each block. In order to counter this, we normalized all of the various mode share percents, and thus made their sum equal to one. With these two issues tackled, the team sat down with Adina and found some anomalies in the data that now we must fix. As we finish our maps this weekend, we will pour over excel tables to see where we have some issues that need to be addressed.
In addition, this week we also started collecting the data for workers employed around the Caltrain station. Using the Census Transportation Planning Tool, we have navigated through the website and collected the tables we need. This tool is incredibly powerful and has a whole trove of data we are excited to get our hands dirty with.
Beyond just GIS things, this Monday we also attended the Palo Alto City Council meeting which voted on a potential TMA program and certain TDM measures. The Council unanimously approved to request proposals to explore a downtown Transportation Management Association; providing Caltrain Go Passes to City Hall workers willing to give up their parking permits; soliciting bids to dramatically expand the city's shuttle program, and piloting SAP’s “TwoGo” rideshare program, and also partnering with carsharing companies to increase their presence in the downtown area. This was Sam and Ma’ayan’s first City Council hearing, and the two were impressed with the turnout, and positive responses of the public commentary. Expecting more negativity and bashing, all of the individuals who spoke up during the commentary period were excited or happy about the TDM program, and had their suggestions or questions in regards to it. Ma’ayan asked some questions about the expanded shuttle service, and choice of ride-sharing company (TwoGo), which were politely answered by the City of Palo Alto staff. Overall, the Council meeting gave Sam and Ma’ayan a better idea of how their TDM study can fit into Palo Alto’s current needs to find out more about TDM programs. Specifically, the pair hopes to now focus on speaking more with city-wide TDM programs the are similar to the size and needs of Palo Alto’s. The City Council heard presentations about TDM from Google, Stanford, and the Contra Costa Centre, and some of the public commentary surrounded the fact the Palo Alto is not like any of these organizations in neither size nor funding mechanism. With that in mind, Ma’ayan and Sam are sending out their follow-up requests for interviews to TDM programs that are similar to Palo Alto’s circumstances.
What We Observed and Learned
This week was a very good week in terms of learning for Sam and Ma’ayan. Starting off with the Transform Summit, the team divided and conquered for various panels that would be relevant to the group. Ma’ayan attended the morning panel on TDM programs, which Adina was moderating. Matt Bronson from the City of San Mateo spoke about specific TDM measures that were developed in 2005, which requires all new developments in the city to enact some traffic mitigation and TDM measures in order to get approval to build. In addition, San Mateo is currently also rolling out a series of TDM measures for their downtown area, which were developed in 2009. After him, Jessica Sullivan of the City of Palo Alto gave a short presentation on the TDM Palo Alto is considering, which Sam and Ma’ayan both later heard the full version at the City Council meeting on Monday. Ann Cheng, from Transform, discussed the GreenTrip Planner program which helps cities, citizens, and develops see how much or how little parking their require in their building based on a number of different factors. In addition, GreenTrip encourages a series of various TDM measures to discourage driving and increase the mode share of alternate forms of transportation. Finally, Steve Rainey of Cities 21 spoke on some common TDM measures and potential future technologies. The session was particularly helpful to get a better understanding of some programs that are already in place, or in development around the Bay Area that tackle traffic demand.
Sam attended a morning session titled “The Future of Silicon Valley Is Riding on Transit.” The presentation featured a panel of the heads of major transit providers, including the General Managers of BART and the VTA. Each panelist spoke briefly on the successes and challenges facing their respective agencies before opening to questions and discussion from the audience. These transit agencies--including Caltrain--are struggling with the ability to accommodate increased demand while providing access to the greatest percentage of the population.
The class sessions this week were incredibly linked to Sam and Ma’ayan’s project-- Sustainable Transportation. First, Chris Lepe talked about future and planned projects around the Bay Area, which led to a short discussion between Sam and Ma’ayan about some of the challenges and opportunities for the City of San Jose in regards to their traffic demand management. Deland’s reflection session on Wednesday addressed some of the more philosophical questions regarding the role of TDMs and sustainable transportation, and the kinds of services they provide. This discussion between serving transit dependent people and serving the greatest amount of people is incredibly relevant for TDMs-- which are usually aimed at incentivizing alternate forms of transportation for people who otherwise would be driving. Rarely to TDMs aim to make commutes for transit-dependant people cheaper, although often inadvertently they achieve just that.
After Deland’s wrap up session, Brodie Hamilton discussed Stanford’s TDM programs, which was insightful for Ma’ayan and Sam to see a “best case scenario”, of a major employer with lots of financing, freedom, and room to experiment/ try new things in regards to their programs. Stanford’s CAPRI program, for example, was particularly interesting as it is quite effective, fun, and innovative. Although hard to implement for larger areas with potential security pushback from residents and more exits/ entrances, the program is nonetheless impressive.
Moving forward, this weekend Ma’ayan and Sam have divvied up their work to make a final big push on their project. We plan to gather 2013 data, and also map that for people who live around the Caltrain stations. We also plan to finish the map for individuals who work around the Caltrain station. The team will transcribe their two TDM interviews, and send more follow-up emails/ confirm interview times. Although these are big goals, since we now have a good methodology with all of the kinks sorted out for creating the different maps, we believe we can accomplish all of these last goals this weekend so to work on our website next week and start summarizing our findings!