News

Palo Alto shuttle survey nearly passed by many seniors

English-, online-only survey was a disconnect for many who need transportation services

An online survey to revamp the Palo Alto Shuttle program left many of the most vulnerable seniors who need the service the most at the curb until some members of the Human Relations Commission and city staff jumped in.

The survey, which was launched on Survey Monkey, will be used to develop a five-year Shuttle Needs Assessment and Service Plan to make the underutilized system more effective for school children, employees and residents.

The city opted to make the survey only available online to reach a wider breadth of people than with mail surveys, said Jessica Sullivan, transportation planning manager in charge of the survey. The city was mostly interested in hearing from people who didn't ride the shuttle, Sullivan added.

But with the survey only being in English and the lack of a hard-copy ballot for seniors and people without computer know-how seemed like a glaring gap to some human relations commissioners. So they and city staff put shoe leather to the pavement and gathered nearly 200 surveys from local seniors on paper ballots, commission Chairwoman Jill O'Nan said.

The human-driven effort had a significant impact on senior participation. The paper-survey takers alone represent about 10 percent of the survey's 1,982 respondents. That number doesn't include the unknown number of seniors who filled out the online ballot, either on their own or after the commissioners and city staff held four outreach sessions.

Avenidas senior center also sent out an email blast, which had an 80 percent click-through rate. The number of people who completed the survey out of that group is unknown, said Human Services Manager Minka van der Zwaag, who participated in the outreach efforts.

The city did make a significant effort to get the word out. When the survey was released, city transportation staff delivered a shuttle-survey poster to every senior facility in the downtown area and also emailed a link to the survey to contact persons in each facility. Staff also ran a newspaper ad for nearly two months and sent the survey link through the utility-bill insert to all residents and businesses in November 2015, Van der Zwaag said.

But the lack of more specialized efforts that take into account language barriers and disabilities perhaps illustrate how one size does not fit all. For O'Nan, the online- and English-only survey were red flags, she said.

"We often meet seniors who kind of missed the tech revolution. I couldn't see a lot of these folks filling out the survey online," she said. "My concern was borne out when many of the seniors asked us to sit with them, and read to them and help them answer the questions. It needed to be more of a conversation." Some seniors had vision and hearing difficulties, she added.

The commission was already keenly aware of seniors' needs for better shuttle service. During a January 2015 senior summit hosted by the commission, participants identified transportation as one of the biggest issues they face, O'Nan said.

When the commissioners learned of the online-only survey in November shortly before the survey was to close, they decided to investigate if seniors were properly represented. They found a significant gap in senior access to the survey and to transportation services, she told committee members last month.

During one meeting with seniors, O'Nan recalled a elderly woman in a tattered sweater. The woman lamented that she had nothing else to wear because she had no easy way to get out to shop for clothing.

"People are really struggling with transportation. She really wants the opportunity to be independent," O'Nan said of the elderly woman. "It's a very timely issue and it's growing. If we don't put services in place, we're really going to have some issues," when the city's expected "silver tsunami" hits.

The seniors were, however, "extremely diverse," she noted. "Some were right on it. Again, we just wanted to be a bridge," O'Nan added.

She praised the city transportation staff for extending the deadline to the end of December, and Shuttle Program Manager Ruchika Aggarwal for attending four focus groups with O'Nan and Commissioner Theresa Chen. Chen also translated the survey into Mandarin, O'Nan said.

"We covered as many bases as we could cover and with the holidays," O'Nan said, noting that they passed out the paper ballots at La Comida luncheon at Avenidas and held focus groups at Ventura Community Center, The Sheridan Apartments, Senior Friendship Day at Cubberley Community Center and La Comida.

Van der Zwaag did outreach at Webster House, and the paper surveys were later put into the online system by city staff, she said.

"The main focus was to piggyback on existing activities. We went to places where seniors congregate, to brown-bag lunches and when they come to pick up groceries from Second Harvest Food Bank," O'Nan said.

The effort also captured strong and diverse opinions, she added.

At The Sheridan, some home-bound seniors want more focus from the city on seniors with limited mobility. At Senior Friendship Day, where many participants are primarily Chinese speakers, Chen's Mandarin translation and the presence of a Mandarin translator helped the seniors take part in the survey, O'Nan said.

Sometimes in Palo Alto people mistakenly think that everyone is very smart, well educated and wealthy, O'Nan said. But there are many seniors with challenges, and the numbers are growing.

"Seniors are the second largest segment in Santa Clara County at more than 17 percent and they are fast approaching 20 percent. We have to make sure that we don't marginalize people," O'Nan said.

Comments

30 people like this
Posted by Midtown guy
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 20, 2016 at 11:25 am

This is the first I heard of this survey! How did I miss it? I am a senior (70 plus), member of Avenidas, frequent visitor to Town Square, computer literate, etc. Doesn't a list of Palo Alto seniors exist at City Hall, and either email or postal contact possible, to reach all seniors to poll in a survey of city sponsored transportation? Doesn't feel good to me to be left out.


29 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2016 at 11:34 am

I would suggest that a Palo Alto senior who needs to get out to buy something to wear does not want to stay in Palo Alto, but needs to get to say Kohls, Target, Walmart, etc. Does anyone really think that a Palo Alto shuttle that does not cross into Mountain View will really help?

Yes, we need better transportation, shuttles, or whatever. We need to seriously look at how students get to school particular Paly from south Palo Alto. We also need to merge our shuttles with Mountain View, with Google, etc. and get them to where we need to go.

An airport shuttle to both airports up and down the Peninsula is also long overdue.


29 people like this
Posted by Jane
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 20, 2016 at 12:03 pm

I'm a senior, fairly computer literate, and regularly read Palo Alto online as well as the local newspapers. Yet this is the first I heard about this survey.

Who and how did the city staff reach out to let all residents know about the survey and where to go to participate?


14 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2016 at 12:08 pm

This is all I could find searching Palo Alto online about a shuttle survey Web Link. This is dated 2012. Is this the latest survey or is there another? Are they working on information from 2012?


22 people like this
Posted by Mary
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 20, 2016 at 12:31 pm

This is the first time I ever heard of a survey, and I'm in my 80's. Is there a 'preferred list'? Belong to Avenidas. Never been surveyed for ANYthing. And getting downtown to Avenidas is a chore. IMHO Avenidas should be rebuilt in the center of town. if land were available....and a donor. I won't come downtown alone anymore. It's just not safe for anyone, let alone seniors.


8 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 20, 2016 at 12:38 pm

"I would suggest that a Palo Alto senior who needs to get out to buy something to wear does not want to stay in Palo Alto, but needs to get to say Kohls, Target, Walmart, etc. Does anyone really think that a Palo Alto shuttle that does not cross into Mountain View will really help?"

There is a solution available today - shuttle to Cal Ave or Uni train station, take the train and then use the MV shuttle system. Not direct, not time efficient, but doable.

Of course Uber is also available - but is a budget sensitive option.


18 people like this
Posted by Midtown
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 20, 2016 at 1:01 pm

According to the VTA, the one-way trip from Palo Verde to the San Antonio shopping center takes an hour and 14 minutes. It requires changing buses at the Palo Alto Transit Center (University and El Camino). In other words, I have to go north to go south.


21 people like this
Posted by nat
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 20, 2016 at 1:49 pm

We definitely need a shuttle that will go to the San Antonio Shopping Center. That is the closest to find clothing and other necessities that can't be found at CVS,

Since Bergmann's closed, there is no place to buy socks, underwear, let alone outer clothing. Stanford Shopping Center is too expensive.


27 people like this
Posted by George Browning
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 20, 2016 at 1:59 pm

George Browning is a registered user.

I always think it is very odd that the shuttle bus ends at Middlefield and turns up East Charleston. Many of the elderly get off the bus and must walk to the Cubberley Community Center for a class or lunch.

Please extend the shuttle service to the Cubberley parking lot and turn round there so the many elderly who get off the bus at Middlefield and East Charleston can have a ride all the way to Cubberley, it would really help.


10 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 20, 2016 at 2:20 pm

Survey? Maybe I took it and don't remember. The VTA 35 goes from Midtown to Walmart in 20 minutes, or from Midtown to the University Caltrain in 20 minutes, Stanford Shopping Center 10 minutes further. The schedule is sparse but it works; I rode it yesterday. Getting to and from Middlefield Road might add something untenable however. I use the C shuttle going downtown occasionally. Very few riders except the school rush hours. Unsure whether I'm a "senior" but AARP has been sending me junk mail for 20 years. (I remember being a senior in high school, and again in college. Context is everything.)


7 people like this
Posted by Paly Mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 20, 2016 at 2:52 pm

The survey link was posted in every Sunday email that we receive as Paly parents. However, there is a lot of information, so it's questionable how many people actually took the time to complete it.

I did complete the survey, as the Embarcadero Road shuttle is used by many students. The shuttle should start earlier than 3:30. There are days where students are released from school at 1:50, 2:25, and 2:55.


4 people like this
Posted by Monkey's neighbor
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 20, 2016 at 3:04 pm

Survey Monkey because of its cute name misleads people into thinking doing a real survey is easy. Finding the audience or sample, wording the questions, analyzing the results, etc etc etc. takes expertise. It is misleading to use its results if you are looking for real data.
They are moving out of Palo Alto. Now they will be able to mislead other neighbors, not to mention the wider world.


15 people like this
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 20, 2016 at 3:10 pm

I agree with the others. This is the first I have heard about the survey and I am very computer literate. I am also a senior that would use the shuttle.


23 people like this
Posted by student mom
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 20, 2016 at 5:23 pm

I've heard many Gunn students and parents wish the shuttle could take kids
to Gunn high school. It seems unfair if it takes students to Paly but not Gunn. Getting students out of cars and in the shuttle would help our almost gridlocked traffic to the variouos schools on Arastadero including Terman, Bowman, and Gunn. It could be even more of a help getting students home after various after-school activities when other buses aren't as available.


1 person likes this
Posted by student mom
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 20, 2016 at 5:23 pm

I've heard many Gunn students and parents wish the shuttle could take kids
to Gunn high school. It seems unfair if it takes students to Paly but not Gunn. Getting students out of cars and in the shuttle would help our almost gridlocked traffic to the variouos schools on Arastadero including Terman, Bowman, and Gunn. It could be even more of a help getting students home after various after-school activities when other buses aren't as available.


16 people like this
Posted by Disabled in South PA
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 20, 2016 at 6:07 pm

People with disabilities also rely on buses! Please try to get the survey out to people with disabilities and caregivers.

We need the shuttle to include Cubberley, the Arastradero corridor and San Antonio shopping center.


6 people like this
Posted by JoAnn
a resident of Ventura
on Jan 21, 2016 at 5:54 pm

I have ridden the shuttle in my wheelchair. The lift worked well enough but they do not tie down the chair, so the chair's brakes take a beating as the bus starts and stop and turns. I hope they will consider fixing this.

The busses also have tight seating with narrow aisles. But I've never seen more than 4-5 people from downtown to Middlefield and Charleston. Do they get crowded at commute times?


8 people like this
Posted by kay palo verde
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 22, 2016 at 6:11 pm

Many older riders of public transport have physical problems of one sort or another or use canes, limited eyesight issues, shortness of breath, legs that don't work like they once did. A ride that requires 2 or 3 or 4 changes with waits in between and a bench without arms to help get up is not much use. Some riders need toilets available after 2 hours...And not a toilet across the street and up the block.
My husband and I have computers, ipads, smart phones, we belong to Aviendas, we have social contacts. I read all the local papers. No one asked us about the survey.
Communication is lacking in Palo Alto.
WE all need to make this work.


3 people like this
Posted by A Voice in the Wilderness
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2016 at 9:15 pm

Have you noticed that PA's municipal movers and shakers believe that PA's transportation issues should be designed around north/south needs, largely south to north. Whoever living in northern Palo Alto would want to travel to southern Palo Alto? Really. After all, the north is most important part of the city, right? Must be that our lives could not exist without reliance upon the downtown/the Shopping Center, etc. (PAMF is the exception.) I also leave out "Avenidas North" which should have an active, satellite south of Oregon Expressway, targeted at a broad base of the senior population.

I've got news for you. Get some regularly (that's the operative word) scheduled shuttles to San Antonio Shopping Center. Across town as well as up and down the N/S thoroughfares. To Safeway/Kohls/Walmart/Target/Trader Joes, etc. Even to Los Altos. Take me where I want to shop, and I'll get out of my BMW. Many Palo Altans' lives do not revolve around your universe! Oh, be sure to tell me how to get my three heavy, reusable bags of groceries in and out of the bus. Then, two blocks to my house.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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