October 25, 2013


Truth in Data. Use in Data. Faith in Analysts


Friday, 1:40 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.


1605 Tilia, Room 1103, West Village


Does data equate with truth? Technocracy-centric planners and decision makers are enthusiastically jumping on the data deluge bandwagon, but what are the warning signs that they should be reading along the way? Travel behavior analysis is inherently full of uncertainty and is by definition as difficult to model as a system of human brains interacting with each other and their environment.  Yet people in this field cannot expect to be taken seriously if they label every result with “plus/minus infinity” confidence intervals.  We will discuss the incredible power and responsibilities that analysts often have and the fine lines that exist between Debbie Downer, Interesting Irene, and Misrepresentation Mary.

Biographical Sketch

Elizabeth Sall is the Deputy Director for Technology Services (and also currently Acting Deputy Director for Planning) at the San Francisco County Transportation Authority where she is in charge of designing, building and utilizing analysis tools to help planners and decision makers analyze transportation policies and investment decisions.  She is a graduate of North Carolina State University (B.S. in Civil Engineering) and the University of Texas at Austin (M.S. in Civil Engineering) where she focused on modeling behavior in urban systems.  She has published many peer reviewed papers surrounding the implementation of advanced modeling methods into practice, serves on various committees for the Transportation Research Board (currently ADA20, ADB45, ADB50, various conference planning committees, and the Younger Member Council for Planning and Environment), and several times a year visits planning agencies across the country as a peer reviewer.  Elizabeth has served in advisory roles in several research efforts administered by the National Academies and currently serves as the chair of the SHRP2 Technical Expert Task Group for the SHRP2 C46 which seeks to develop a resource and implementation strategy for advanced integrated [tranport] models.  Prior to working at the Transportation Authority, Elizabeth was a consultant in Washington, D.C. and Oakland, CA.  She is especially excited (and healthily skeptical) about how data can help us make better policy decisions, and to the possible detriment of her social life, she enjoys overanalyzing human behavior and why “people do what they do”.

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