GW Serves: Senior’s Statistical Study Supports Sidewalk Safety

Working with the Capitol Hill Village Sidewalk Safety Team, Sahas Srinivasan’s data analysis unveils need for improved pedestrian safety in D.C.

January 25, 2024

GW Serves with Sahas Srinivasan

Senior business analytics and international affairs major Sahas Srinivasan was involved with a project aimed at improving pedestrian and sidewalk safety in D.C. (William Atkins/GW Today)

Unbeknownst to pundits trying to accurately project results of the 2010 FIFA Men’s World Cup, their best source of information may very well have been an 8-year-old Munich, Germany, transplant from the Seattle area.

Enthralled by the world’s game as a new resident of the soccer-crazed nation, Sahas Srinivasan gathered team and individual statistics from various sports websites and crunched the numbers with pen and paper to predict possible outcomes. And it turned out, he was quite accurate, even correctly picking a few noteworthy upsets in the tournament that commands the world’s attention every four years.

“At that moment, it was clear to me that I could use data to try and make predications and just to try and understand things,” said Srinivasan, a current senior business analytics and international affairs double major at the George Washington University.

While his affinity for data and soccer became quite conscious during his stay in Germany, the renowned walkability of the city he’d call home for two years was perhaps less so. Munich consistently ranks as one of Europe’s most walkable cities, quite a feat on a continent synonymous with pristine cobblestone roads and urbanization.

When he returned to the Seattle area in 2011, Srinivasan noticed that his walks to school were more cumbersome despite a closer proximity to home compared to Munich. After living in such a navigable urban European city and developing a penchant for walking, Srinivasan then became quite conscious of the benefits to pedestrian culture. 

“It just makes a city that much more livable,” he said.  

During this fall semester, Srinivasan used his data analytics skills to help improve the walkability of his college hometown of Washington, D.C.

Volunteering with the Capitol Hill Village Sidewalk Safety Team, Srinivasan analyzed three years (2020, 2021 and 2022) worth of data that, among other things, investigated the city’s response to sidewalk complaints. Finding the opportunity through GW Serves to satisfy an itch for civic engagement, Srinivasan found that D.C. has a much stronger response rate to pothole complaints—around four days—than sidewalks, which he found averaged roughly 270 days between complaint and repair.

Using the software program R after realizing the data would be too large for an Excel file, Srinivasan prepared reports for the Capitol Hill Village Sidewalk Safety Team to present to D.C. legislators and public administrators in a pitch to improve pedestrian safety and culture for residents and visitors alike. The team also presented the data to a local advisory commission in December, which Srinivasan heard went over well.

“I really hope [the project] inspires a lasting change,” Srinivasan said.

Based on feedback from the Capitol Hill Village team, it seems as though his thorough analytical work will do just that.

“[Capitol Hill Village] and the [Sidewalk Safety Team] are grateful for Sahas’s tenacity, talent and creativity,” wrote Scott Price for Capitol Hill Village News. “We are confident that the legacy of data analysis he leaves behind will result in safer sidewalks for all D.C. residents and visitors.”

Srinivasan appreciates the learning experiences from analytics courses at GW, as well as the opportunity to work with the Capitol Hill Village through his BADM 4001 course. The Community Engaged Scholarship section of BADM 4001 is facilitated by the Honey W. Nashman Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service, whose director of community-engaged scholarship, Wendy Wagner helps business students find community-service projects that leverage their unique skill-sets. In addition to studying business analytics, Srinivasan is also an international affairs major and believes data analysis and policy intersect to complement one another’s missions. 

“It’s always going to important for people making their case to back up those narratives with numbers,” Srinivasan said.

Whether contending that Germany will beat Brazil in a World Cup semifinal or that pedestrian safety needs improvement through faster sidewalk complaint response times, every argument is only as robust as the evidence on which it stands. Srinivasan is dedicated to making sure causes that mean the most to him always have the legs to hold up strong.

GW Serves is a series featuring students who are living out the university’s mission to build up public service leaders and active citizens to create a better world for all.