In reviewing the issues surrounding the subway systems of New York and Washington, D.C., a research methodology was used employing both qualitative and quantitative data. First, the qualitative/quantitative research tool known as grounded ethnography is used. Ethnography is “derived from the Greek meaning ‘writing of culture.’ Traditionally, culture was defined as a people’s ‘way of life,’ consisting of social structures and patterns of behavior that are passed down from generation to generation” (Beaudry and Miller, 2016, p.58). Ethnography focuses on participant observation and interviews. In grounded ethnology, the researcher “uses grounded theory for data analysis and interpretation” (Beaudry and Miller, 2016, p.63).
This project uses the Pew Public Transportation Methodology American Trends Panel (ATP), which focuses on the cultural backgrounds of public transit users in the major urban areas of the nation (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia). “ATP, created by the Pew Research Center, was a nationally representative panel of randomly selected U.S. adults living in households. Respondents who self-identified as internet users and who provided an email address participated in the panel via monthly self-administered web surveys, and those who did not use the internet or declined to provide an email address participated via the mail” (Pew Research Center, 2015, p.1). The ATP, however, did not include observations of the transit participants, but used only interviews of those chosen for the research.
Finally, case studies of the history of the problems of the subway systems of New York and Washington, D.C. are used in the research methodology. In a case study “the researcher investigates a contemporary real-life event, program, or process…[I]t has a limited focus; it is ‘fenced in’ so that it does not extend beyond the particular situation or program under study”(Beaudry and Miller, 2016, p.76). In analyzing each case, the project employed digital scholarship tools (TimeLine JS and StoryMap JS) to display how the nation’s crumbling subway systems are placing Americans at a greater risks for serious injury and/or death.