Mon, Jul

Metro Presented Dishonest Data to Bias Public Opinion Re. Sepulveda Pass Project


LA TRANSPO - The seventeenth of my 20 questions to Metro CEO Stephanie Wiggins asked: “Why did Metro present misleading, statistically unsupported data at its June 2022 Public Scoping Community Update webinar and purport it was statistically valid? Metro implied 93% of all the public supported heavy rail while only 7% supported monorail. This data and its supporting statistics appear nowhere in Metro’s Scoping Summary Report prepared by HTA Partners—probably because no competent contractor would publish such unsupported data. The presentation was misleading at best and potentially fraudulent at worst. Yet Metro Project Manager Peter Carter and Metro Community Relations Director Jody Litvak presented the data as if it was based on 100% of public comments that Metro received. It wasn’t. Less than 5% of public comments had to be twisted a bit to develop these figures. This is not honest conduct for a public agency.”


Metro’s answer confirms that they never said their data was statistically valid: “At the June 2022 virtual community meeting, Metro shared an overview of the 3,100 submissions received from the public during the scoping period. The presentation provided details about how comments were submitted, the geographic distribution of the commenters, and the key topics the public raised. Among the many topics highlighted, Metro noted that of those who expressed support for a specific alternative, 93% supported a heavy rail alternative. This was not described as being a statistically valid reflection of county residents. Rather, it represented a percentage of the 3,100 submissions received from the public.”

In their Scoping Summary Report, Metro’s environmental contractor, HTA Partners, twice stated: “Among commenters expressing a preference for specific alternatives, more expressed support for heavy rail alternatives than for monorail alternatives.” This is a responsible statement with no percentages. Metro converted this responsible statement into an irresponsible one for their June 2022 public meetings: “Of the commenters who expressed support for a specific alternative, 93% supported a heavy rail alternative.” It becomes obvious that Metro has an internal bias toward heavy rail. A trusted steward for the project presents facts, not bias.

Here are facts. Metro received 16,841 comments from 3,049 individuals, 42 community organizations, 6 businesses, and 5 elected officials. Comments were a mishmash that Metro’s contractor presented in their Scoping Report to show the diversity and breadth of comments. The two red-highlighted categories represent “Support Heavy Rail” and “Support Monorail” and provide close to the 93%/7% split Metro reported—but only represent about 6% of all comments. Maybe this is how Metro derived the 93%/7% split—maybe not—because Metro never explained any of this at their public meetings and should have.

The root problem is much deeper than this dishonest data. Metro must explain why they have withheld critical information from the public about this project, why they are so biased toward unaffordable heavy rail, and why they haven’t been correcting misinformation floating around about the project. Metro’s job is providing a level playing field of honest information for the public. An uninformed and misinformed public cannot make well-informed comments. Instead, an uninformed public sadly makes uninformed comments influenced by bias. This is not the way a government agency responsibly works with the public. It’s time for change.

(Bob Anderson is a nuclear engineer with 50 years engineering and business development expertise in the aerospace and high-technology sectors. He is VP and Transportation Committee Chair of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association. Contact him at [email protected].)