(Unedited) Podcast Transcript 356: Partisanship and Transportation

October 21, 2021

This week we’re joined by Kelcie Ralph, Nick Klein, and Calvin Thigpen to talk about their recent paper ‘Political Partisanship and Transportation Reform’ written with Anne Brown in the Journal of The American Planning Association.  We chat about why they wrote the paper, what they found out about partisanship and transportation policy, and why all sides of the political spectrum have little understanding of induced demand.

Below is a full unedited transcript of the show. Listen to the episode at Streetsblog USA or our hosting page on Libsyn.

Jeff Wood (43s):
Kelsey, Ralph, Calvin Thigpen, Nick Klein. Welcome to the talking head ways podcast. Thanks

Kelcie Ralph (1m 21s):
For having us

Jeff Wood (1m 23s):
Well before we get started, can you all tell us a little bit about yourself? I’m going to go with Kelcie then Calvin then Nick.

Kelcie Ralph (1m 28s):
Sure. I am an associate professor at Rutgers where I study travel behavior and Transportation politics

Calvin Thigpen (1m 35s):
And Calvin Thigpen. I’m the director of policy research, Pat lime, where I could conduct our internal research, trying to better understand who our writers are, why they use lime and then what that means for cities. And then also collaborating. I head up our external collaborations with folks like Nick and Kelcie and Anne, who unfortunately is not with us today and many others to, again, try to understand the scooter rider behavior and what that means for scooter regulations.

Nick Klein (2m 5s):
Klein. I’m an assistant professor at Cornell and the department of city planning. And I do a lot of research on the role of transportation on people’s lives for many years, and increasingly doing research on public perceptions, especially about topics like this or about parking scooter parking in the morning.

Jeff Wood (2m 21s):
Cool. So I also want to know what got you all into Transportation. This is the question I asked most of my guests, and I think it’s illuminating to see how people kind of, whether it was when you were a little kid or whether it was when you’re older and you figured, you know, something, you know, the light bulb went off. What got you into this?

Kelcie Ralph (2m 37s):
I’ll go first. I am from Anchorage, Alaska, and I was watching climate change happened in my own backyard. And at the same time, the fastest growing city in the country was Wartsila home of Sarah Pailin. And it is basically a highway with homes sort of off the road, right homes and Lowe’s and home Depot and Walmarts, all sort of along this strip of development. And I thought to myself, if this is the future of America, we’re not going to solve our climate change issues. And I knew that I needed to get involved.

Calvin Thigpen (3m 10s):
Mine’s a little more just happenstance and not necessarily. I think I was also motivated like Kelcie was by issues like climate change. But I think really the formative experience for me was I ended up attending UC Davis for my undergraduate, ended up sticking around for my master’s degree and my PhD. So really love Davis. I didn’t choose UC Davis necessarily because it’s like the bicycling capital of the United States. I chose it mostly because I want it to run on the division one cross country and track teams. And then I just ended up falling in love with the town falling in love with bicycling and, you know, sort of along the lines of what Kelcie said, sort of discovered how important Transportation was for a whole host of topics.

Calvin Thigpen (3m 56s):
And so that’s, you know, UC Davis just happens to have a premier transportation research group. And so it just sort of everything fell into place there. So that’s where I got my start.

Kelcie Ralph (4m 8s):
I’m doing this because I didn’t know that that’s delightful. And also like how important is it the biking as sort of radicalization, because I also grew up biking and then now that’s what I do. It didn’t realize that.

Nick Klein (4m 21s):
I mean, also Calvin, this thing gives me a whole new lens to your research or other research on sort of like the experience of being in places like Dave S but as a high biking culture,

Calvin Thigpen (4m 30s):
Get it now. It all makes sense. Now

Jeff Wood (4m 32s):
We’ll have to share PRS. I ran at Texas. Oh boy, we’ve got a shared

Calvin Thigpen (4m 38s):
Cross country. Oh, okay. Cross country. Gotcha.

Jeff Wood (4m 41s):
Yeah. Well, I ran the mile in track and then the five and 10 as well.

Calvin Thigpen (4m 45s):
Yeah. I started with the steeple chase and then I was too injury prone. And so I switched to the five and the 10,

Jeff Wood (4m 51s):
I ran the steeple once and my coach said, you’re not going to do that

Calvin Thigpen (4m 54s):
Ever again. It’s so much fun, but it’s brutal

Jeff Wood (4m 59s):

Nick Klein (4m 60s):
But yeah, so I did my undergrad actually at Cornell where I am now, but I was an engineering school and was studying operations research. And I was learning all these technical skills and modeling tools and techniques. And I was sort of looking for an application that had some sort of social purpose for these skills, not just financial modeling or consulting and other conducts consulting and so forth for logistics. And so I sort of stumbled into taking Transportation classes with undergrad and the engineering school. And I had some really inspirational professors there who were in the engineering school, but had a very social bent to look at Transportation. And after undergrad I worked in consulting for a year, then stumbled into travel, demand modeling.

Nick Klein (5m 44s):
I don’t know why they hired me. I ended up doing that for five years and still very, you know, focused on these technical aspects and increasingly became interested in sort of the social and political side of Transportation. Right. So we can model all sorts of, but you know, if the governor says, we’re going to build this, you know, the model will conform and bend to the shape of, of protocol. Well, and so I went back to grad school, just sort of learn more about some of the technical side, but also the sort of social and political side of Transportation,

Jeff Wood (6m 13s):
Diverse ways to get to where you are today. That’s good. Well, I wanted to chat with you all about your article in the journal of the American planning association with coauthor and Brown. What did you all first start thinking? When did you all first start thinking about this topic specifically?

Nick Klein (6m 25s):
This is a great story. Cause we’ve talked about the thought that life, and I think we have different views about this or does it, the story I know Kelcie and I have different ideas and Rhonda and Calvin and I had worked on research on scooter parking. And one of the things that we were really interested in Hey, was working together and bringing Kelcie on board to do work with us, right? So this is personality driven. We were like, how can we make our dream team even dreamier? And the other thing we were interested in was also this idea of perception. So in scooter parking, I don’t think it’s going to become a surprise to you or any of the listeners that the public and policymakers have a perception of the problem of spirit parking that we think is very different from what is actually happening on the ground.

Nick Klein (7m 13s):
And so we’re wanting to do work in general about perceptions around policies. We spend a while and Calvin Kelsey and I meeting regularly and talking about where would it be a good fit or where could we take these questions around policies and what direction, where could we take them? And it took, there was a lot of us meeting and talking and coming up with ideas and reading and stuff, coming back and reading it coming back. I mean, there were a couple of sort of influential insights. We took angles, we took it, I think Kelcie had one book that was really influential for her thinking about this concept. And she sort of brought that into the work we looked at, right? I’ll have the doctor, your Cal state,

Kelcie Ralph (7m 53s):
You started from the very beginning because you can tell by the way that we labeled our folders for our research team, that this was going to be a story of misperceptions and building on the misperception about parking, scooter parking. And so in preparing, we were, did lots of reading like Nick mentioned, and I read this book uninformed by Arthur Luchia. And basically his premise is we tend to think that people who disagree with us do so because they’re ignorant. And instead he suggests that we really need to focus on their foundational values. And in what ways do they disagree with us about sort of meaning, not about facts. And so we really were intentional about pulling that into our survey design, but then at the same time COVID was happening and we could see so clearly a different set of facts being the sort of ground rules for what was happening in discussions about COVID.

Kelcie Ralph (8m 47s):
So we knew we needed factual information is in our survey as well. And that really, I think, shaped where we went simply,

Nick Klein (8m 55s):
I think we were really influenced by work by political scientists quite now, right work by Yonah Freemark and work from a data for progress and transit center. All three of whom had key down to these differences across partisan

Calvin Thigpen (9m 10s):
Political participation, Political Partisanship, but it comes to the use about transport policy. And so I think these sort of questions about perceptions, this idea about the book that Kelcie mentioned and these other transportation and political science. Yeah. And I think the only thing I’d add on to that summary is I think Kelcie and I both were also inspired by the survey experiment. I think it’s sort of, I think it’s Rawlsian if I’m getting my reference correct, that asked people, you know, what do you think the distribution of income is across five income Quintiles? What do you think it should be? Then it’s revealed to them at the end, what it actually is. And people think it, our society should be much more equitable.

Calvin Thigpen (9m 53s):
They think it’s somewhat more inequitable, but in fact it’s way more extremely inequitable than, than anyone actually most people actually think. And so that was another sort of piece that sort of inspired us as well. And then we are actually doing scooter perception research, just not with Kelcie, unfortunately, but just separately.

Jeff Wood (10m 14s):
Is there a reason you picked up the Kelcie not to

Calvin Thigpen (10m 16s):
Be a no Kelcie chose not to join, so we didn’t kick her off. Yeah.

Kelcie Ralph (10m 22s):
Kelcie has serious FOMO, but she is so glad that they’re

Calvin Thigpen (10m 27s):
Kelsey’s disciplined is the, yeah.

Kelcie Ralph (10m 31s):
Does not talk about herself,

Nick Klein (10m 34s):
Just a podcast. I also say this is part of a bigger project that we have are there, like we have one published this first article and we have a couple more in the hopper that look at related a couple of days, three look at related topics, right? So one of them zeroes in whether we can change the public attitudes around particular issues around congestion policy and around gas taxes. Another one looks at the views along similar questions that we ask in the survey paper. We looked at Planning, students and engineering students, and we look at the gap and their views. And then we have a third paper that looks at sort of how we frame questions, how that changes the public’s willingness to support different ideas and how that framing is maybe tied to policy outcomes.

Nick Klein (11m 24s):

Jeff Wood (11m 24s):
Looking forward to that Planning versus engineering student’s paper.

Nick Klein (11m 28s):
What is your hypothesis?

Jeff Wood (11m 31s):
Well, you know, my cohost for our Monday show Chrissy man, senior Nichols, and I had this discussion actually this Monday about, you know, getting policies passed. And then what’s the responsibility of the engineers at state duties and things like that to do that stuff. So my hypothesis, just from my stupidity off the top of my head is that I would say that Planning students lean towards the active transportation discussion and engineer’s lean against the active transportation kind of norms and values as it were. There’s a lot of, you know, I’m, I’m finagling my words a little bit, but that’s kind of which way I’d lean, but you probably, maybe, you know the answer already, but maybe you haven’t even gotten that far, but that’s where I would probably land. And I’m sure it’s yet to be seen. We’ll see when the paper comes out.

Nick Klein (12m 11s):
I mean, we can see some of the results. Hey Robin,

Jeff Wood (12m 15s):
Maybe we’ll have you back to, to talk about it.

Nick Klein (12m 17s):
I will tell you, I’ll tell you what one of our reviewers said, which is one of my favorite reviews that we ever gotten a peer review referring to our article or our writing as magical thinking

Kelcie Ralph (12m 27s):
Quite he referred to, to the thoughts of Planning students as magical thinking or as planning professors for hops. We internalized that a bit too much.

Jeff Wood (12m 37s):
I think there’s fair connectivity. There you are always a Planning student aren’t you? Well, we’ve had Clayton all on to talk about his book, the road to inequity on episode 192. That was really eye-opening I think for us and a lot of the listeners, but you kind of talked about the topic a little bit differently in terms of, he talked about the politics and the Partisanship and how history kind of has led us to where we are, but you all are thinking about kind of the willingness to change. How did you calculate this, this willingness to change, you know, metric, you know, you get people’s ideas, you get their thoughts about how they feel about certain subjects related to transportation policy. And then how do you measure how you think they might change?

Nick Klein (13m 14s):
Well? So we had a number of questions in our survey that essentially had two options, right? So often in surveys that people conduct, you do a strongly agree to strongly disagree or something like that. And we instead framed our questions around. So there’s a stem, right? So transport policy should, and then two options, right? And one of which we consider is usually a more progressive option. And one of which is maybe not as a progressive option, right? So for the main sort of framing question we have for this paper it’s transport policy should option one would be try to shift more trips towards public transit, walking and bicycling, and option two would be, make it easier for most people to drive for most trips.

Nick Klein (13m 56s):
Right? And so there we see, we, we sort of think about this as like how willing are people to support changing the status quo, shifting more trips towards public transit, walking and bicycling. Whereas the status quo maintain the status quo would be, make it easier for most people to try for more trips, right? So essentially supporting car dependence is the status quo. We sort of frame it as bad. Right. And what we want to see is like, are people willing to shift and push back now without a spot? Do they want a change? Do they want more people using alternative modes? Do they want to have sort of more mixed use development? Do they want to reduce driving? Do they want downtown shopping districts that sort of have less space for cars parking on the street and more places for bike lanes and other, you know, walking into other modes that other types of uses for the street.

Nick Klein (14m 45s):

Calvin Thigpen (14m 46s):
I ended up necessarily calculating like some sort of metric or a score for each individual person, but we looked across all of the responses and cut the sample by different groups and things like that. And then just estimated what percent of those groups agreed or disagreed with the different statements.

Jeff Wood (15m 2s):
And so it was the end result. What did you all find?

Kelcie Ralph (15m 5s):
I think the first thing we want to make sure is clear is that overall there’s actually a lot of support for Reform. That’s the sort of biggest takeaway, but then beyond that there is considerable polarization and differences by PO party ID. But then I think what makes the heart and soul of this paper is what is underlying that. And to answer that question, we explored four different areas and we can talk about them each in turn. The first one was self-interest and this is based on Clayton all’s work, where he used an indirect indication of self-interest based on sort of the residential location of individuals by conducting our own survey, we were able to ask specifically about people’s travel patterns and the travel patterns of their neighbors.

Kelcie Ralph (15m 52s):
And what is kind of amazing is that as you’d expect, if you’re a person who walks in bikes, or if you don’t own a car, you are much more excited about transportation Reform, but we found that it had very little to do with explaining underlying partisanship because liberals and conservatives actually travel almost exactly alike. Basically everyone in the United States is driving. And so it’s just self-interest is really not. What’s underlying this shift in Partisanship over time. So then the next thing we looked at was factual knowledge. And like I mentioned, at the outset, we were doing this research at the time of COVID. And so we knew that people were operating from alternative sets of facts and it is true that conservatives and liberals have different understanding of the factual knowledge about transportation.

Kelcie Ralph (16m 43s):
However, those facts for the most part were not really that closely related with our policy preferences. So if, for example, you underestimated how many people owned cars in the United States that didn’t really influence your, your thoughts about whether we should do Reform or not. There was one important exception, however, and that is induced demand. So first I should say that if you understand induced demand, which is the idea that sure we can build our way out of congestion for a little bit, but after a while the congestion is going to set back in again, if you understand that idea, you’re much more likely to support Transportation Reform. If you misunderstand that idea or unfamiliar with it, you’re less likely to support Reform.

Kelcie Ralph (17m 28s):
Liberals are more likely to understand this idea, but I want to be really clear that most people don’t get it. So it’s a really low bar.

Jeff Wood (17m 38s):
I noticed that in the answers that both sides are very, you know, less informed on induced demand.

Nick Klein (17m 44s):
I think this is like, I mean, we could talk about this for a whole nother podcast, right? But I think this is like a really important part of the story and an important part, sort of our, our broader transportation policy, right? We all four of us on this call and probably almost every listener right. Already knows about induced demand. We don’t need to explain it, but by and large, the public does not. Right. And so, you know, occasionally we’ll see wonderful examples of public education around this, like David zippers, recent piece and city lab, Bloomberg news, whatever it’s called these days. Right. Steven Farber had a great article in Toronto last year.

Nick Klein (18m 25s):
One of the papers there, because there is an issue around the professor there, like Manville is published stuff, right. But it’s not enough. Right. We need a lot more around this one issue because it’s central to what happens, you know, in cities, across the country. And now we see all these cities that are investing in and expanding their highways. Right. And so I think it’s really a key thing. So I want to just sort of highlight that without sort of derailing in our whole conversation about this paper.

Jeff Wood (18m 51s):
I do want to say one thing about that though, is that it’s really interesting to think that people live in these regions, which are expanding freeways and they see the results eventually, right? They’ve lived in a place where they’ve expanded the freeway and then it gets congested. Again, if you live there long enough, I mean, in LA they have this whole discussion about Carmageddon happening in the 4 0 5 when they’re expanding it and they’re doing the, and then it comes online and then it’s crunched again. And then, you know, so people understand that. I feel like at a, you know, at a basic level, but then in responding to questions, they don’t. So it’s like this weird, I don’t know. I don’t know what it is. And in Texas for that matter, I 10 freeway that goes to 24 lanes or whatever, I’m from Houston originally. So you know, that, that irks me every time people see it intuitively over their lifetimes that they drive, but it doesn’t kind of, there’s a disconnect somewhere maybe.

Calvin Thigpen (19m 37s):
Well, I think we S I see it whenever I talk to people about this, not that I’m going around like proselytizing and decent man, but whenever I talk to people about it, they’re surprised to hear that this phenomenon exists. And if you end up having a conversation with them about it, I think part of it is like, there’s other things happening in the world at the same time, right? The population is growing. Like there’s all these other like alternative explanations that people can come up with. And so that’s where the value of academic research comes in. It’s like, what are we controlling for? How do we isolate the actual induced demand? And so I did, I think it is important to have those resources. I think transportation for America has resources having those types of conversations, I think can be really important and helpful because it can, you know, like Nick said, sort of set off a light bulb about like, this is, you know, we’re all about expanding highways and this phenomenon is going to sort of negate the benefits very, very quickly.

Jeff Wood (20m 36s):
You all just gave me an idea for a t-shirt induced demand is real. I like it.

Kelcie Ralph (20m 42s):
I want to see a bit of empathy for people who misunderstand the idea and push back on it. So I definitely believe it’s true. I’m not a, a true fair about induced demand. But I think for most people in their imagination travel in the four or five would be even worse without the extension and, and travel on the I 10 would be even worse. And of course we need to disabuse the public of that notion, but I can understand where it’s coming

Jeff Wood (21m 8s):
From. Okay. Kelcie with the third. Okay.

Kelcie Ralph (21m 11s):
So I told you about two ways that we’re not leading to Partisanship. Let me tell you about two that are in fact leading to greater Partisanship. The first is beliefs about change. If you think it’s possible to change our infrastructure, if you think it’s possible to change behavior, either with prices or building differently, then you’re going to be more supportive of reform. And somewhat unsurprisingly liberals are much more likely to believe in the power of change. Conservatives are much more skeptical. So this was the first of our four that really did contribute to this growing Partisanship. So the final one and the one that really matters probably the most is these core values about transportation.

Kelcie Ralph (21m 52s):
These are things like perceptions of fairness back would be whether we should share the road space. These things are very differentiated between liberals and conservatives and are very closely linked to whether you think Reform should happen.

Jeff Wood (22m 6s):
The question I have is how do you think people are informed about transportation policy issues? Is it, is it just that they’re in it and they are a part of it because they travel or do you think they are actually educated in some way about it? Whether it’s through the news media, how do you, how do you think that works?

Nick Klein (22m 26s):
Because every question we struggled with us, you know, we, we sent our survey around PAs right out of institutions. And as some people are like, well, most people don’t think about transportation, right. That function of daily life, which I don’t necessarily agree with, but think about aspects of that Transportation all the time. So maybe we don’t think about a lot of these policy questions, but I think that some of our questions about sort of are there about business for the future, right? Our visions of what type of transportation system we want when we get to these sort of questions about what should the goal of policy being, should we focus on shifting more trips to transit, walking, and biking or, or, you know, make it easier for people to drive? I mean, I guess I pushed back and said that I think a lot of people do have strong opinions about that.

Calvin Thigpen (23m 7s):
And I do think some of it, I mean, not to fixate too much on the research I’ve done that, that Nick was alluding to. I mean, some of it does come from your personal experience. You know, if you’re at a Davis or a Portland, or, you know, you bike wherever, wherever you are, you know, you’re going to come away with different attitudes, different skills, different perceptions than someone who hasn’t hopped on a bike since they were a kid. And so I think one tricky part of what our research is looking at is it goes both ways, right? Like if you believe that we should be focusing most of our transportation money, most of our new regulations on encouraging active transportation, then of course, you’re going to implicitly hope that that will be effective and change will occur.

Calvin Thigpen (23m 54s):
Right. And so it kind of goes both ways. And so I do think having experiences does absolutely changes people’s attitudes and values and perceptions. So it’s, it’s a tricky, like bi-directional relationship. It’s really hard to sort of unpack,

Kelcie Ralph (24m 10s):
I think at the same time though, these are specific manifestations of like the deep stories we have about the world. So if you think that the history of Automobility is about the government and businesses encouraging it, or if you think that it’s about individuals just pursuing self-interest like that, that comes from a deeper story about everything, right? Same with the fairness of using the gas tax to pay for other, other modes or even the environmental harms. Right. I think transportation is just one way in which we express our deeply held political values.

Jeff Wood (24m 44s):
You all have kind of hit on a lot of the questions that you asked in the survey. I’m wondering how you came up with those and did some of them, when you were developing them, make you argue, did some of you cringe at some of the questions that you were asking? I wondering what the process was for creating the survey. Right.

Nick Klein (25m 1s):
That’s amazing. I find really hard writing always is hard already, and it’s constantly rewriting everybody editing feedback and surveys are no different. I think we spent a long time thinking about the types of questions we wanted to ask how we wanted to ask them, right. Revising them. Keasy town, different aspects about them. Like, are we hitting on these core sets of beliefs? Are we getting acknowledged questions that we think really capture or central to understanding policy preference? Right. So we spent a long time doing that. We send it, we draft the survey, we send it around to peers who suggested alternatives, who argued with us, who wrote friendly comments.

Nick Klein (25m 46s):
Right. We’ve piloted the survey twice with a smaller sample to make sure the survey questions were working. Right. And I can’t remember exactly. There might’ve been some questions where, you know, let’s say like, no one disagreed, right. Everything was exactly a univariate. Like everyone said, yes, I love apple pie. Right. And so like those questions, we don’t need to keep them. So there was a lot of revisions around this. I mean, I would say that no surface perfect. Right. I’m sure I would love that people took our research and sort of did a better version of a survey right. And refined it, you know, and made sure that our questions were really valid and accurate. They assessing what we probably want to. I think that would be great. And does that sort of get at the kinds of things you’re looking for a job?

Jeff Wood (26m 27s):
Yeah. I mean, I, I just, I’m looking at the question. A central goal of transportation planning should be to reduce driving or make driving more convenient. And like I said, like how, how much revision went into this individual question that seems so boiling down simplistic to our, you know, really complicated system of thinking.

Nick Klein (26m 45s):
And we really wanted questions that were not obvious, the ones skewed one way or other, we wanted to sort of make trade-offs right. To make it so that we could imagine people would choose one or the other. Right. So like the, you know, this question, the central goal of transmission, what should the central goal of transportation be? Right? What do we think the public wants? Do we think they want to reduce driving or do they, do we think they want to make driving convenient and eliminate traffic adjusted? A lot of our policy for the past hundred years has focused on eliminating traffic adjusted. Right. I don’t know that, that public ones, that,

Kelcie Ralph (27m 18s):
In fact we know that they don’t.

Calvin Thigpen (27m 21s):
Yeah. We spent a lot of time refining these questions, Kelcie. I think you even early on, like on Twitter posted, like, what do you think most people misunderstand and you know, all of the Transportation, Twitter verse, like the, send it on Kelsey’s question and had lots of great suggestions. And frankly, like some of the choices we made, like for example, picking just two options instead of doing that Likert Likert type scale was controversial. I think we got lots of comments saying you should really consider going to liker. And we ended up going with what we did. So yeah, it was, it was challenging. It took a long time. I know one of the, one of our spouses continues to comment that this project is still going on.

Calvin Thigpen (28m 4s):
You’re not done yet. So I think that’s an attestation to how long this has taken.

Kelcie Ralph (28m 10s):
But just as an indication of how hard it is. I think one of the questions that we’re still not super happy with was the number of minutes you spend in a congestion. And the reason we wanted to ask it is we wanted to tap into this idea of your frustration in your current travel patterns. And that if perhaps you were incredibly frustrated, you might want to change. Even if you were a driver, even if you’re someone who, who owns multiple cars and it kind of works, but it didn’t quite tap into what we were getting at. And we talked for weeks and weeks about better ways to tap into that. And I think ultimately we decided that this was the cleanest way, but it’s, you know, a poem is never finished.

Kelcie Ralph (28m 50s):
It’s merely abandoned, same with a survey who we tried our best. And I think like Calvin and Nick, I’m really excited about other people refining and continuing to do this sort of research.

Nick Klein (29m 2s):
There’s a lot of questions without, from the current board, right? So with the survey, you really, our survey is not short. The goal is always to have a shorter survey, right? And to really hone in on the things you want, that will answer the questions you have in the shortest amount of time. And so people don’t get survey fatigue, and there’s all sorts of other things we wanted to ask about, right. That we really wish we could have been included or you know, this or the ongoing projects both have to be in future surveys.

Jeff Wood (29m 30s):
Another question I had for you all, do you think the current language and framing around transportation is adequate to discuss the changes we need in things like safety, access, climate change. I mean, you discussed this a bit in the paper, but I’m wondering if you think that the language that we use is up to the task. I mean, induced demand itself. The language of it is, is strange in itself.

Calvin Thigpen (29m 50s):
I can offer a local example. Like when you talk about, I live in San Francisco, when you talk about the great highway, which has been throughout the pandemic has been closed to cars, but open to pedestrians and people biking and walking, you know, taking scooter rides, et cetera, you know, that whole language around, reopening it while it’s been open the whole time. It’s just not to, not the cars. So absolutely Kelcie Tara Goddard and Evan, you know, two Bucci, I think I’m saying his name correctly. Sorry. I have M if I’m not studied this around safety and news crash reporting and definitely saw strong effects.

Calvin Thigpen (30m 31s):
So I think absolutely. I think there’s lots of room for growth there.

Jeff Wood (30m 36s):
Yeah. It’s open to sand all the time to the great walkway. Yeah.

Calvin Thigpen (30m 40s):
I went for a run on it today because there’s sand,

Jeff Wood (30m 43s):
Which closes off to cars. The fascinating thing, I found some interesting findings in the charts too, that y’all had. I noticed that in some of them, the very conservatives were to the left of conservatives. I’m wondering if you saw that and what you’re thinking that might be,

Nick Klein (30m 59s):
Is it the first, the big figure that we have? I mean, I think we do not have enough, very conservatives in our

Calvin Thigpen (31m 4s):
Sample, small sample sizes.

Nick Klein (31m 6s):
So this is why a lot of in the rest of the paper, I think they’re mostly focused on grouping conservatives together, you know, liberals together and moderates together so that we sort of have larger groups. We weighted the sample are fairly confident, you know, that it sort of tells the story, but I guess I wouldn’t fixate too much on that one group in the absence of the tread, right?

Kelcie Ralph (31m 30s):
At the same time though, I would point to our models where we, so statistics Dargon for a moment, we’re going to try to account for all of the things, those pathways that I mentioned before, we’re going to account for self-interest and beliefs about change and underlying values and knowledge. And when we do that, we sort of get rid of the effect of Partisanship, but it’s gone that is explaining all of Partisanship except for very, very conservative respondents. And so you asked earlier, Jeff, about where are people getting this messaging? To me that suggests, it just suggests that it’s coming from sort of conservative political operatives. Like this is the ideas about transportation that we’d like our voters to have.

Kelcie Ralph (32m 14s):
And then we’re going to continue to message about these things.

Calvin Thigpen (32m 17s):
I also just quickly point out that in another paper we’re working on, we also see some very interesting things on the complete opposite end of the scale with very liberal and respondents displaying some sort of entrenched, you know, very extreme sort of answer patterns in similar ways to the, the very conservative, just on sort of the other end of the spectrum,

Jeff Wood (32m 40s):
What would be an extreme liberal answer? I’m just curious about, don’t have to give anything away. I’m just thinking about top level extreme liberalism,

Nick Klein (32m 47s):
Bam cars. Yeah.

Jeff Wood (32m 49s):
Ban cars. Okay. There was a fight over that the last couple of days, I think it was some journalist to gut all talking about it. And so it caused him to be ratioed form or fashion, which happens in social media, along those lines. Yeah. Yeah. Social media. There’s also a warning about transportation professionals getting to partisan in the paper. I think you find even here in progressive cities like San Francisco, where, where I am as well, you have trouble getting consensus. I’m wondering how that plays out. If Transportation professionals take this, these answers in the survey and they get too partisan about their transportation policies and what they’re pushing, what happens?

Kelcie Ralph (33m 32s):
I think that advice comes out of our reluctance as academics to be political operatives, right. What we do not want to be responsible for is guiding the strategy of folks, trying to bring about transportation reform. And so we were very careful to sort of lay out two different options. On the one hand, we could embrace this idea that Partisanship is growing and really lean into that and be more part of the second and more sort of ambitious in our goals. On the other hand, we could try to sort of keep Partisanship at arms length, think and pursue our goals in a sort of nonpartisan way. And we’re not sure which is better.

Kelcie Ralph (34m 12s):
We don’t have any data on that from our own research. And so as academics, we’re really careful to not extend beyond.

Calvin Thigpen (34m 19s):
And arguably, when you look at the data, you look at the model, we’ve talked a lot about the liberals. We’ve talked a lot about the conservatives, but we haven’t really talked about the moderates and they tend to fall as you might expect right. In the middle, right along where in general, we’re finding majority support for Reform. So I think there is some indication that you could have success not leaning into Partisanship. And if you just do the things that people say they want, you would have success. So I think there’s also an interesting angle of just addressing what moderates want as well.

Nick Klein (34m 54s):
And we, I mean, I think here we Transportation, we don’t have a lot of research that looks at these hyper-partisan cases, right. But you know, looking at the work of Ken Fricker, who has looked at sort of conservative views on policy, right around land use and other issues and, and thoughts and PACS, that’s our work and these concerns, setting planning issues in conservative contexts and Foster’s work in particular sort of suggest that, you know, we should focus on tangible actions, right? Like that in these contexts where, you know, in a very conservative context where people may not support things that are viewed as in a partisan lens, focusing on sort of the specific and tangible goals, right.

Nick Klein (35m 39s):
As opposed to the broader policies may work well. I mean, but I do think we don’t have a lot of research on sort of Partisanship and Transportation, right. There is some, but it w w we were talking about very conservative views on transportation policy. And, you know, I would love to read sort of the view of like, what is the very conservative view of transport policy, right? Like we have some inklings from different things, but immediate analysis of that would be fascinating. Right. And might help us understand a little bit more of these interpret are our findings,

Jeff Wood (36m 8s):
The lens of putting together this paper. What did you all think of the discussions generally about the infrastructure bill that was happening for the last six months or so?

Nick Klein (36m 17s):
I think we generally talking to subordinate. I mean, there’s this what we see, which is what Kelcie has started our discussion about the main point of our, what are the main findings we have is overwhelming support for, you know, before I’m in transportation and, you know, for changing the status quo and what transport infrastructure bill is largely about maintaining the status quo, you know, investing more in roads and highways, right? There’s more money for transit, but there’s a lot of money for highways and roads.

Calvin Thigpen (36m 51s):
I wish that more senators understood induced demand. Maybe that would make a small, small dent, but yeah,

Kelcie Ralph (36m 56s):
You’re frustrated. It also doesn’t leave you particularly hopeful because we work so hard to have a democratic administration. And the promise of a Pete Buddha judge led to department of transportation has not led to the sorts of dramatic changes that maybe in a naive person pointing out myself, might’ve hoped for.

Jeff Wood (37m 17s):
I have a magical thinking of planners. There is the

Kelcie Ralph (37m 20s):
Magical thing.

Jeff Wood (37m 23s):
Well, it also goes back to that question of, of how you learn about transportation or, or how much it’s in your life. And I, aside from Peter to Fazio and Earl Blumenauer and some others, it feels like infrastructure has a, as a topic is secondary to many politicos from the Senate to the house all the way down. It’s not their main study. And so it feels like how would they get information is through that partisan political lens of values and thinking about all the stuff you all talked about in the paper for that matter, but it doesn’t ever get fixed because there’s not going to be enough on one side or another learning the lessons of transportation to make that change. You can have somebody like Peter to Fazio write a really good bill, but then you have somebody like the Senator from Delaware, throwing it out nine other senators to do a bipartisan bill.

Jeff Wood (38m 10s):
So there’s this weird rural interest of the electoral college slash you know, us system that kind of gets in the way of urban political change as it pertains to Transportation.

Kelcie Ralph (38m 22s):
So this is one of the things that we talked about a ton as a team at the end is what do we make of this? And I’ve already said that we’re scared of being closed local operatives, but we do notice that if liberal cities have strong sort of consensus around transportation reflect forum, but they’re in a state or surrounded by a region that is more right-leaning and less interested in Transportation or form our current administrative situation is such that they’re going to be stymied. They’re not going to be able to pursue the reform that they’d like. And so I think Transportation reform advocates have to do some serious thinking about what should we do to change the way we make decisions so that we can achieve the things we want to achieve.

Kelcie Ralph (39m 8s):
It’s quite possible that we can keep letting rural areas build roads, but if we don’t have the agency to make the decisions within our own cities, then I don’t know,

Jeff Wood (39m 19s):
It kind of goes to this, this issue of, you know, the multiple levels of government too. I mean, thinking about how, and I’m thinking about this for looking at all the innovations that are happening in, in say Paris and France and Germany and things like that. I mean, you have this discussion of people in Berlin petitioning for a car-free center. And I think that only happens because you have, you know, maybe two, three levels of government instead of four or five levels of government, it gets more complicated. It’s more of amazed as, as you get into the system where you have to answer to more people, it might also be interesting to look at somewhere like, you know, Indianapolis who has fought really hard against people, not allowing them to build light rail. And so they’re ending up building BRT, they got a sales tax passed versus an Asheville, which obviously that plan went down in flames and they both have conservative state governments.

Jeff Wood (40m 6s):
And the way that they achieved goals or didn’t achieve goals is a different outcome. Might be a way, way to look at that going forward. So there’s, there’s answers, I think, out there, but more research always needs to be done, right.

Nick Klein (40m 19s):
Oh, I was going to say, when we were writing this, we struggled among ourselves, but you know, I think we disagree about how much we think transport policy should be developed, how much devolution there should be a transport policy and what the outcomes of that would be. Right. If more policy was pushed down to the local level, right. What would that look like? I think there’ll be some clear winners, right? In terms of supporting policy that we think is a very progressive, but I think we also worry about what that would look like for other places. And I think we start to struggle with that question about how much do we want to talk about that in the paper? How much do we just talk about that on podcasts? Or just argue about it over a beer or a cup of tea, you know, and sort of talk through these issues.

Nick Klein (41m 2s):
And I think those examples are really good. And I think we want, we want to see more examples like that so people can see what transformation looks like. Right. And not just, you know, one of our viewers, Chris, back in the earlier version of this paper where we, you know, say set examples from whatever Northern Europe and they were like, can we stop having all the examples be from Northern Europe about like what good transport policy looks like? And I think there was a good example and it also left us wanting for what examples here look like, right? Like where are those big transformations? Where, where do we see that? We want to see them. So people and say like, oh my God, Indianapolis, right. Has done such amazing things. Like, can we all do what they did?

Nick Klein (41m 43s):
Or could we look at think about what that would look like for our city?

Jeff Wood (41m 46s):
Well, what’s next for you all? How does this lead into other research?

Nick Klein (41m 50s):
Jeff, I’m glad you asked. We have several exciting projects lined up. So we have a couple of papers coming out of this and I will let Kelsey and Calvin talk about them because they’re about to leave office.

Kelcie Ralph (42m 3s):
So we mentioned some of the papers that are coming out of this later, too, that I’m leading in on one is how do perceptions change? If we shift from asking people, if they want to shift trips to transit, walking, biking, or reduce driving. And we know that there’s going to be a big drop-off in support for reducing driving, but what we’re interested in is who changes their mind when we switched between those two frames, I’m assuming we should have something out about that within the next month or so. And then the next is a study of transportation, planning, students, engineering students, and then interviews to the public. I think we should just come back and talk about it in a couple months when it’s, when it’s up there.

Calvin Thigpen (42m 49s):
And then the third or fourth, depending on how you’re counting paper that we’re, we’re, we’re having the hopper is we conducted a survey experiment within this same survey. We’re interested in seeing whether presenting the respondents with information about fundamental facts around, about transportation. So induced demand and the gas tax. The fact that the gas tax doesn’t cover the costs of roadway, expansion, and maintenance. We wanted to see if presenting them with that information would change their policy preferences on related topics. And when we got the results back, we were very excited.

Calvin Thigpen (43m 31s):
There were big statistically significant changes, but then we decided, let’s see if that actually persists six months later and lo and behold, it does not. And so there’s again, happy to dig into it more and especially once the paper comes out, but there’s some really interesting implications for sort of best how to put this as sort of politically biased, motivated knowledge retention. I would say similar to cognitive dissonance in the sense of I’m going to keep the information that supports my preexisting beliefs, political police, transportation, beliefs, and I’m sort of just chess. And they think that doesn’t work. So I think there’s some interesting potential implications there.

Calvin Thigpen (44m 14s):
That’s still still in progress.

Jeff Wood (44m 16s):
Well, Kelcie, Calvin and Nick, thank you for joining us. We really appreciate your time. Absolutely. It was

Calvin Thigpen (44m 21s):
A pleasure

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