The Other Dr. Grant
One of the chief
architects behind the MTA's first major bus/rail passenger survey since
1996 once considered honoring a family tradition -working at a car
Dad was an engineer
at Ford Motor Co. and both his grandfather and great grandfather were line
workers at Pontiac until they lost their jobs during the Depression.
The change in
career plans took place when Dr. David Grant, an MTA transportation
planning manager since January and no relation to Toni, was an
undergraduate student at the University of Michigan.
"I was just
scraping by in calculus when several sociology classes I was also taking
captured my interest," said Grant, now 37. "Classes on population and
Latin American politics seemed more relevant to the world and people's
lives than did calculus equations." Grant went on to earn three
sociology college degrees, including a Ph.D from UCLA in 1998. Another
career didn't quite get off the ground - he drove a taxicab as an
He isn't the
first member in his family, however, to deviate from the family automotive
destiny. Older brother Gordon became a psychologist and older brother Eric
is a biomedical engineer.
At the drop of a
hat, Grant, can brain-freeze the average listener with a complicated
discourse on the spatial skills mismatch hypothesis (you don't
really want to know
do you?), yet ask the Michigan native what was the main influence in his
decision to enter the sociology field and the answer is relatively simple.
His mom was involved in the civil rights movement back in the late 60s and
cared deeply about social justice, as does Dr. Grant whose work at MTA
involves determining how to help transit dependent, low income passengers
based on survey data and focus groups, a perfect match.
The survey, MTA's
first on-board survey of Metro Bus and Metro Rail passengers in the 21st
Century, will assess how well the Metro System is working and measure
customer satisfaction. A total of 65,000 surveys will be filled out. Final
results are due in November and will be plugged into a computerized
transit model. The data will be referred to for decision-making on bus and
rail deployment, scheduling, marketing and customer relations.
The first batch of
information is due July 1, but by November, the equivalent of 1,000 pages
of data would have been analyzed.
"This is really a
large project," said Grant. "Most surveys involve only 1,000 to 2,000
people. Something this large is unusual. A researcher doesn't get an
opportunity like this very often.
"The bus and rail
survey affects the transit dependent population in Los Angeles,"
continued Grant, an avid hockey player, mountain biker and hiker ¾
he once climbed Mt. Whitney in one day instead of the recommended two days
in order to become acclimated to the altitude. "The survey is exciting
but it's a lot of work and you don't want to make a mistake. It's
also a hard sell to the bus operators because they're already very
The prospect of
continuing similar research he conducted at UCLA while a graduate student
wasn't the only thing that lured Grant to MTA from
University where he taught sociology classes in demographics and race
relations for 2/l/2 years. Suzanna, his wife, a California native, took a
strong disliking to the harsh Ohio Valley winters.
"We love L.A., we
wanted to start a family and really wanted to be here," said Grant, who
found out about the MTA job opening from one of his former professors.
When all is said
and done in his professional career, Grant said the topper would be to one
day testify before Congress and share his transit survey and population
study knowledge. "That would be great, that would be exciting."
Besides the survey,
Grant's other major preoccupation these days is daughter Natalie, his
first child born eight weeks ago.
changing diapers has become my most challenging job," he said with a