Dear CTPP-News people:
Some friends and I had a dinner party yesterday, and 3 of 5 received
the Census 2000 long form. Of course, I didn't get one, so I have
"long form envy". Luckily for our region the press is picking up good
stories about "long form envy" instead of the libertarian cr*p about
invasion of privacy. And, yes, my friends had concerns about the
level of research (in hours?!) needed to provide accurate answers
about utility costs....
In Ron Tweedie's example, it may prove useful if the Census Bureau in
coordination with the State Data Center could provide the local
newspaper editor the reasons and rationale for collecting this long
form data. If congestion and poverty are issues in your metropolitan
area, then household income is an absolutely critical data need. And
I do believe there are Census Bureau documents citing the chapter and
verse of the US Code where each census data item is required. (It's
somewhere on the Bureau's WWW site.)
My concern right now is the interpretation by census respondents to
the term "last week" (as used in our journey-to-work questions.) We
have traditionally (incorrectly?) assumed that the term "last week"
refers to the "census reference week" or the last week of March in
1970, 1980, 1990 and 2000. Well, the Census Bureau mailed forms to
all (or most) americans the week of March 13-17. So, is "last week"
to be interpreted as the week before they received the form (March
6-10); the week before they fill out the form (either March 13-17, or
this week -- March 20-24, or next week -- March 27-31)!!!! The answer
is, probably yes, to all of the above. Yikes!
People are (and should be?) mailing in their long forms *RIGHT NOW*
and this "last week" ambiguity will be interesting. My thinking is
that people will substitute an "unusual last week" with a "usual last
week" if they want to provide "relevant" data to the Census Bureau.
In my own situation, I was in Phoenix last week on vacation. This
week I'm at home in Oakland. If I had a census long form, my
inclination would be to delay answering the census until *next* week,
when my "last week" commute pattern is more typical of my regular and
usual commute pattern. My friend showed me her long form packet, and
there were no apparent instructions to clarify what is "last week" or
even *WHEN AM I SUPPOSED TO MAIL THIS BACK?*
Given this ambiguity in terms of what is "last week," my
recommendation to the USDOT, Census Bureau, State DOTs and MPOs is to
start compilations of events of interest that may influence
journey-to-work patterns in *all* of March 2000:
1. Weather conditions (daily clippings from the newspapers, and
should report on natural events including quakes, floods,
snowstorms, precipitation levels, sunny days, etc.);
2. Labor conditions (transit union strikes or slowdowns; other major
3. Gas Prices (we're now at $1.90 per gallon in the Bay Area, and
rising! Also, surveys of other transportation costs such as tolls,
fares, parking costs would be ideal to conduct this month and next.);
4. Road and Transit Network Status (important if new or expanded
facilities are opened in early 2000).
That's about it. Anybody else have ideas on things we should be
monitoring for understanding "last week"?
Chuck Purvis, MTC
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