Blogging Bayport Alameda

November 16, 2017

Raw data diet

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:06 am

It’s taken me a while to get through the whole City Council meeting from last week and I got distracted with the Planning Board meeting video, so now I’m in the middle of two meetings and starting to lose the thread a bit.

But I did manage to clip out this part of the meeting which was a bit on the insane side and this wasn’t even at the end of the meeting when people are, rightfully, a bit cranky.

This is an exchange between Jennifer Ott and Trish Spencer on the topic of the Transportation Demand Management plan.

First is Trish Spencer declaring definitively that she believes that the barrier to entry when it comes to riding the bus is cost and that if the cost were lower to ride the bus that everyone would ride the bus.

While cost can be an issue, what typically is the barrier to people riding the bus is the convenience factor of the bus. If the bus takes exponentially longer to get from point A to point B and you need to take multiple transfers to get from point A to point B people are not going to ride the bus. Even if it’s free. But if the bus is as convenient or more convenient than driving, people will take the bus.

Anyway because Trish Spencer has some how settled on this she asks Jennifer Ott if she believes this should she vote against the proposal because the proposal doesn’t include lowering bus fare. Although seriously who knows what positions Trish Spencer actually believes in other than voting “no”? Put it this way, even on a topic that she LOVES the subject of cannabis related businesses, she could’t help herself from at least voting no on one part of that topic. On the consultancy to figure out the fee schedule to pay for administration of the program she voted “no.” That’s how committed she is to voting “no” but I digress.

Jennifer Ott points out that expanding the EasyPass program would immediately do what Trish Spencer is asking for. For those that don’t know, EasyPass is a program from ACTransit which is typically offered to large businesses and allows discounted bus passes to be purchased. This is also what is being distributed to residents of new developments in Alameda as part of their TDM payments per unit.

Then Trish Spencer asks for the “raw data” for trips into Oakland even though what is presented in the report is sufficient to understand the scope of the problem (4 out of 5 people commuting into Oakland are in single occupant vehicles) she wants the “raw data.” I’m assuming that she wants this because she doesn’t trust the math of the consultant writing the report. She then says it’s because she wants to know the percentage increase and when the consultant points out the page it’s summarized on she goes back on a “raw data” rant.

But what’s great about this particular exchange is that Jennifer Ott actually pushes back. A lot of people don’t when Trish Spencer gets into these “but what’s that over there that you didn’t give me” tirades. She says, yeah we could have provides 100s of pages on just data, but this is what we thought would be informative. So Trish Spencer announces that it’s a “huge problem” that this raw data that she wants isn’t there, which by the way she could have asked for within the 12 days the information was given and posted to to the public.

Anyway, Jennifer Ott does what you kind of wish all staff people would do when confronted with clearly unreasonable requests like this, she asks Trish Spencer to explain what that data is going to help Trish Spencer determine. Naturally she doesn’t have an answer other than the “raw” numbers were provided for other cities so she wants them.

I can’t even imagine what it must feel like to have created an entire professional report distilling a ton of data into manageable and digestible pieces, provide information on how to solve the problem and then have someone question your professionalism. But that’s pretty much Trish Spencer’s MO for all complicated and complex issues such as these: question the professionalism of the professional.

Watch the video here:


  1. Newsflash-this would not happen in private industry. Sounds like someone doesn’t want to do more work. The raw data is readily available (or else it doesn’t exist). Push the “print” button on your city computer.

    Comment by Nowyouknow — November 16, 2017 @ 6:24 am

    • Actually,not does,its called poor management or having an ahole boss. Take your pick.

      Comment by michonnekatana — November 16, 2017 @ 6:19 pm

  2. I was glad to see the “Alameda Free Shuttle” move to the exploratory column after it received such great support from the community. I hope we can find a way to make this happen.

    However, the concern that a free shuttle could jeopardize our existing funding is a fair argument; we don’t want to jeopardize our existing funding. Thanks to the Northern Waterfront developments, we now have Bus Line 19, a new bus route operating between Fruitvale BART and Downtown Oakland via Alameda’s Buena Vista Avenue; additionally, it includes service to Marina Village.

    This is vital, because it not only supports the new housing developments in the pipeline along the Northern Waterfront – it supports the Marina Village Business Park. Here’s a press release the City published about Bus Line 19:

    The goal should be to have as many transportations options on the Island as possible to meet the diverse needs of our residents and commuters, and I was glad to see our community begin to focus on how we can make this happen. Hopefully, through our willingness to explore the Alameda Free Shuttle, we can explore and find ways to fund more transportation options on the Island.

    Comment by Karen Bey — November 16, 2017 @ 7:22 am

  3. One area of disagreement I had with the Mayor about the Alameda Free Shuttle, is that I think it will be more cost effective to focus on Island transportation – Bay Farm Island and Harbor Bay to the Main Island, etc. and the residents on the Main Island — making sure the shuttle hits all the retail and entertainment destinations.

    The increase in sales tax dollars could help offset the cost of shuttle operations.

    Comment by Karen Bey — November 16, 2017 @ 7:50 am

  4. The mayor should have made her point in a less confrontational manner. I took her point, however, to be that in trying to address the traffic issues the city faces – and specifically on/off island trips — a little more specificity and breakdown of the numbers for the by-far most frequent off island commuter destination for single car trips was called for, rather than simply lumping it all together as “inner East Bay”. Perhaps less specificity is called for re the San Francisco and Santa Clara / San Mateo options as the modes for those destinations are more limited and established. But it might make more sense to know how “inner East Bay” breaks down in terms of more specific destinations when trying to come up with solutions. That is why I thought Ms. Ott’s – who is a true professional — response to the mayor’s questions by saying, in essence, why do you want to know and pointing out that there was a lot of other data in the report, sounded a little defensive. But, on this 5 minute experience, the mayor started it.

    Comment by MP — November 16, 2017 @ 7:54 am

  5. Just a comment on the observation that “this doesn’t happen in the private sector”. Of course it does. And for almost exactly the same reasons. In my experience the demand for “raw data” invariably comes from a client/customer/stakeholder who has been confronted with analysis that doesn’t conform to the conclusions they reached PRIOR to examining the data. Again, in my experience in the private sector, we also try to talk the requester out of examining the data themselves because they usually fail, and then they want new analysis – and it costs them money and time (another kind of money). The big difference that I see about this latest scenario at City Hall is that in the private sector there can be consequences for individuals who don’t participate effectively in group process. In the public sector we pretty much have to wait for the election cycle.

    Comment by Jordan — November 27, 2017 @ 9:18 am

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