LISA KENNEY

Lisa is a Ph. D. in Decision Science focusing on transportation as a means for transformative change for Western New York.


“Data, quantitative or qualitative, is a piece of information to help you make decisions but reality is more deliberative, group-based, or even within yourself or your household, there’s still deliberation, there’s still values.

Trying to decide where to go on vacation, you can make your matrix, and quantify everything, but at the end say ‘Actually, I want to just go to the beach’”


“Look for the tall redhead, that'll be me”

The direct, personal approach is my favorite when meeting a person for the first time.  In an age where almost everybody has an online presence, each party is pretty sure mutual Googling has occurred, and nobody wants to assume or acknowledge this is the case (perhaps because it still feels creepy), there still exists the “here’s how to find me when you arrive” communication.  Leading with a personal feature seems to be the favored approach of the more outgoing.  Others go for the clothing indicator, “Woman in the blue jacket” and the most conservative stick with location, just the facts, “Last table on the right”.

In the end, everybody just stares at the door like they’re on a blind date waiting for somebody else to walk in looking lost, and pretending like they didn’t already know what you looked like, but we do our best.

Navigational excellence aside, Lisa spends her days focusing on transportation planning for the Buffalo-Niagara Region.  This includes short-term issues like confronting sprawl without growth, ride-sharing (Buffalo just passed its second anniversary of having Uber and Lyft), e-scooters and e-bikes, and evolving IoT infrastructure and planning.  It also includes longer-term issues, like whether the region will be ready for the coming onrush of data.


“The farther stuff is the data governance piece, who owns the data, who manages it, who can make money off of it.  Can the city make money off of it?  We’ve got a lot of competing interests and not a lot of capacity to think of that stuff."


Lisa also happens to be an expert in decision and behavioral science (I’ll admit I wasn’t previously versed in the nuances of Decision-Science and found this article helpful).  She describes her focus as more “structured” or “passive" decision-aiding, think asking the right questions, and effectively collecting and utilizing the data to inform choices.  This is opposed to “active” decision-aiding, think “nudge”, or how small choices might impact people’s decision to carpool, or take transit.

The relationship between data and decision is complex.  Sometimes there isn’t enough data to inform a decision.  Sometimes there is but there’s a cultural or political reason that makes a result less-than-useful. Sometimes there isn’t any clear decision to inform, but you use data to keep the ball rolling, looking down the line.  This placement of data within a much larger, complicated set of values in decision-making can be humbling to those plying a data-centric trade, and it contrasts what many of us are taught, but it is a necessary view.  There's no perfect balance between diminishing the role of data towards complex decisions and elevating it too much, but a little awareness goes a long way.


RECOMMENDATIONS



Cass Sunstein; Author of “Nudge” and “How Change Happens”

Jarrett Walker; Author of “Human Transit: How Clearer Thinking about Public Transit Can Enrich Our Communities and Our Lives“

Brent Toderian; City Planner, Urbanist, Former Vancouver Chief Planner

WORK



Greater Buffalo Niagara Regional Transportation Council; Maps and Data

Bike Buffalo Niagara Initiative

BACKGROUND

  • PhD, Decision Science
  • Master of Public Administration; Master of International Studies; BA, International Studies





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