Over the course of this past week, we obtained a significant number of survey responses, primarily due to increased surveying efforts around downtown Redwood City as well as advertisement from Commute.Org. We now have roughly 50 responses (+ some additional transportation feedback from transit industry professionals), although our community partners have expressed some concern over the majority of respondents not being from a low-income background. That said, due to the lack of time, there are no more plans for our to group to do field surveying. Instead, we are now focusing on analyzing the data already in our possession as well as completing a number of deliverables.
This past Thursday, a member attended an off-campus meeting with Adina and Chris. There, we went through a number of final check-ins for wrapping up the quarter’s work. Overall, Adina and Chris place high priority on the delivery of the following three items: 1) a thorough analysis of survey responses, 2) an updated survey template, and 3) other resources to help field volunteers collect survey responses. The primary goal of these deliverables is to better inform Friends of Caltrain and Transform of best methods to facilitate a mass survey as well as provide more background research into public opinion around the construction of express lanes.
What We Observed and Learned
First, we realized the effectiveness of partnering with local business and community organizations. Though it certainly took a long time to get those connections set up, once we did have solid ties with CMTA and Commute.org, we were able to vastly expand the reach of our survey and gain a ton of responses in a very short period of time. Using local community organizations has the advantage of engaging people who are already involved, so they are more likely to fill out a lengthier survey. However, it is important for us to keep in mind who exactly is a part of these organizations and understand the limitations of this approach. It is important to get the opinions of all members of a community, even if it takes extra effort. Thus, even if in-person surveys are time consuming and not particularly efficient, they are crucial in ensuring that our sample mimics the diversity of the Bay Area.
Second, throughout our surveying, we have noticed that people in the Bay Area are actually already very familiar with the concept of Express Lanes. We had initially assumed that a knowledge barrier would be the biggest problem with the survey effort, but that was not at all the case. This is because Express Lanes are already being implemented, with many others planned, in many of the other counties in the Bay Area. Highway 237 is the closest Express Lane to 101, so many of the people we surveyed already knew what they were and how they worked. This background knowledge gave us the idea to use the other Express Lanes in the Bay Area as data points for our literature review, on top of perfectly analogous cases built in other place (aka Los Angeles). While projects like the one on 237 don’t use their funds to provide alternative transportation, as the proposed 101 project does, public opinion and research on 237 could prove valuable in assessing and comparing public opinion about Highway 101.
Critical Analysis/Moving Forward
Our focus for the next two weeks will be to process our data and piece together trends. We’ve heard anecdotes detailing personal frustrations with Highway 101 and are curious to see how survey results help explain support/opposition to HOT lanes. While we have some expectations based on public opinion research behind other express lane projects across the U.S. we aren’t certain to what extent they will share similarities or differences. We are interested in support overall as well as rationale but particularly hope to uncover insights with regard to income level. In sifting through our data and creating deliverables we will identify holes in the current survey and further refine it. In turn we will likely remove certain questions, reword them, or add questions to help clarify linkages.
While working through our survey responses we expect our discoveries to drive the direction of our literature searches. Some respondents referenced the highway 237 express lane in Milpitas or the Los Angeles HOT project. It will be important to incorporate the factors that contributed to their effectiveness as a way to align solutions to respondent concerns with proven benefits or disadvantages. While impact reports from other express lane projects will likely be easy to find, understanding what to look for will be the key to efficient analysis. Our work serves as a heuristic towards matching commuter needs and innovative solutions and we predict that our final report will expedite iterations in the coming months.