Dealing with Uncertainty

By Ryan Sclar, MURP ’16 & Fellow to Center for Environmental Planning & Technology University

The most important part of my internship this summer is organizing, supervising, and analyzing a survey.  As I mentioned before, we’re trying to figure out why ridership on the BRT dropped. To do this we’re asking people why they are or aren’t taking the BRT, and why. That why question is the most important and also the hardest to capture without bias. We have a team of surveyors scattered around the BRT stations, collecting data from Janmarg users as well as nearby bicyclists, drivers, motorcyclists, and people on local buses and rickshaws. Around 1500 surveys in total. Part of my job is to go around and visit them on site to make sure they are actually doing their job. Sometimes they are, sometimes I have my doubts… Keeping the undergraduate surveyors in line can sometimes tough work, especially when they don’t show up to meetings and stop answering your calls haha.

To make matters more complicated, Janmarg is not wild about us conducting this research. Although I work for the same university that designed the BRT system, I am in a somewhat rivalrous department. I think it is fair to say that the people who I am working with/for are much more critical of the BRT than the people who designed it. A few years back, my department released a report on Janmarg that noted several problems and social inequities within the system. Apparently Janmarg did not appreciate the findings of this report, and is now skeptical of collaborating with us on new research. Consequentially, they have not given us official permission to conduct our surveys on their property. They also have been dragging their heals in getting us technical specs and financial statements. Nevertheless, things are moving along.

Although I’m leaving Ahmedabad before the BRT research is finalized, we already have a lot of preliminary findings. When it comes down to it, the number one reason we found for people dropping off of the BRT, was increased private vehicle ownership, especially motorcycle ownership. Of course, we identified about a dozen other factors as well, most notably low service reliability, overcrowding, and slow travel speeds. The research, especially the survey, made for a fun and very worthwhile summer internship. There’s an incredibly good chance I will stay involved with the project, even after I head back to Los Angeles.

Photo caption: Scores of Motorcycles in a Parking Lot, an Illustration of the Rise in Private Vehicle Ownership

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