Our major task this week was continuing our survey efforts. Over the weekend we surveyed businesses at Town and Country, and during the week we were finally able to make a few trips down to Redwood City. In both cases, surveying has still been slow— we collected about 5 responses in person and digital. Despite frequent survey trips by group members, we have been unable to collect more than 3 responses per trip. An approach we hope to try this weekend involves scheduling a different time for people to fill out the survey, if they are busy when we first approach them because folks seem to be more interested in filling out the survey other than work times.
One of the hopes we had was that we could distribute the survey electronically through organizations such as Commute.org and SFMTA. This week, we were able to get in contact with both groups. Unfortunately, it appears that they will not be able to publicize and share the survey broadly until after the quarter. We are incredibly grateful that the they have started distributing the survey and have gotten a few online responses because of their efforts, but not at a very high frequency. This, along with the fact that few people fill out the online survey if given the brochure, perhaps points to the difficulty of both accessing the online survey, and also the length of the survey in general.
Finally, we began planning out and outlining our final presentation and report, as well as compiling our project deliverables. The deliverables we have completed thus far are as follows: completed online and in-person survey, tested and revised survey methodology, informational survey brochure, project website. We still have to complete the expandable report, that will be adjusted to reflect results once we have more survey responses. For the now, the report will be based on our literature review and the survey responses we have received thus far.
What We Observed and Learned
As we increased our surveying efforts, we noticed several interesting trends among those we approached to take our survey. Overall, though people are quick to offer their insights and share their personal experiences commuting within the Bay Area, the motivation and capacity to complete the physical survey during work hours has proven to be indeed made it difficult for people to take the survey. We have noticed that the most likely places to gain responses are from places whose lines of business particularly emphasizes customer service tailored to individual patrons, such as retail stores. Conversely, the least likely places to gain responses are from places whose lines of business require simultaneous attention to a number of different tasks or limits the amount of direct service shown to the patron, such as in restaurants. Additionally, we have also noted that higher possibilities of gaining responses may be linked to poor weather conditions, slow business during the middle of the work day (even if business is slow, during the early morning, people seem to be more likely to pass on survey taking), and the presence of other coworkers that can cover them.
It is important to note that out of the total of 15 responses we have collected thus far, all were collected in person by a team member; in other words, despite our wide distribution of informational brochures and flyers, as is most people are not inclined to take the survey on their own. This trend is particularly problematic as the conduction of in-person surveys requires a great deal of time investment and number of volunteers. In our experience thus far, gaining one survey response via in-person surveying roughly requires one hour of surveying. Therefore, our current total of 15 responses required at least 15 hours of surveying a several different locations.
We’ve noted some patterns in our own survey methodology. For example, we usually do not read the first couple of information pages during field surveying. Instead, we give a concise expedited version of the explanation, because we are usually pressed for time. The time limitation is something that we have to take into consideration because we are trying to survey folks at their workplace during working hours. In terms of the last part of the survey considering the conversation/widening alternatives, we want to reconsider what we are trying to find out because that has been the part that takes the most effort. It has also prompted the most questions during surveying in-person.
Critical Analysis/Moving Forward
In moving forward, we will continue to brainstorm and test how we can increase efficiency while conducting field surveys and increase motivation to fill out the online form. Together, we have thought of two ways to do so: ask folks if there is a more convenient time to come back or to incentivize workers through an Amazon random drawing. We will begin testing the former option, and only if there is time and we deem it to be a viable option, we will try the incentivizing option. This is however not ideal because not only is it not as scalable, but also Chris pointed out that some folks may try to game the system through filling out more surveys. Therefore, we will test the re-scheduling option first.
Folks are passionate about the issue, but most are not filling out the online form. Questions that we have considered are: Is the form too long? Does it slip out of their mind when they get off of work? We have to put ourselves in these people’s shoes in order to understand what would motivate them to answer the survey. These folks have a lot on their minds, so we would rather increase efficiency during field survey days to record their insights while we are able to converse with them about these transportation issues and the upcoming Express Lanes project.
In our next meeting with Chris and Adina, we will bring up these low-efficiency concerns and discuss what their capacity is once we pass off this project to them to consider which option is the best for getting the most survey responses. Other than disseminating the online form through organizations and making efficient field surveying, one option is to conduct short interviews instead and to have them code the recordings. This would lessen field survey efforts but increase the burden on those analyzing the recordings.
Field survey efficiency, motivation to fill out the form, and analysis efforts are the factors that we are keeping into account as we move into considering the scalability of the project. We will continue to test various options to ensure that the transition from Stanford team to our community partners is smooth and that they are able to carry out the surveying methodology in the coming months in order to produce the final report later in the year.