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Naked City

Discrepancies in AMD Lantana traffic data?

By Rachel Proctor May, July 29, 2005, News

Four months after Advanced Micro Devices announced its plans to move to a new corporate campus in the Barton Springs watershed, environmentalists are still peeved, and still raising new questions about the move. Save Barton Creek Association board member Steve Beers took it upon himself to test AMD's assertion that the Lantana site is more convenient to more AMD employees, and that the shorter commutes would save 10,000 vehicle miles daily. This was no easy feat – in the name of employee privacy, AMD did not release the full data set of the traffic study through which they came up with the 10,000-mile figure. Instead, the company released only a list showing how many employees live in each ZIP code, and how far their homes are from both AMD's primary existing campus on East Ben White and from the Lantana tract the company intends to make its new southwest home.

Without street addresses, Beers couldn't precisely test his concerns that the company had fudged the numbers to make Lantana seem a little closer and the Ben White site a little farther away. Using a dizzying array of online mapping tools, Beers found some inconsistencies in the numbers, however. For example, by his reckoning, the farthest distance from the existing AMD campus on East Ben White to anywhere in 78704 is 4.7 miles. In AMD's spreadsheet, however, 34 employees with 78704 addresses are shown to live more than 4.7 miles from the Ben White campus, something Beers says is impossible. The same issue springs up in about two dozen ZIP codes, which is why, he says, he needs more complete data to see what exactly is going on. "They're generating numbers out of a black box and saying, 'trust us,'" he said.

AMD spokesman Travis Bullard, who had not seen Beers' analysis and was therefore unable to comment, said he would "potentially" be willing to release a more detailed version of the company's traffic analysis. Due to employee privacy concerns, however, he said he had to run the prospect through the company's legal team. He pointed out that the company ran its analysis by WHM Transportation Engineering, which confirmed AMD's findings. "Their oversight provides third-party, expert validation of the AMD data," Bullard wrote in an e-mail.

Colin Clark of the Save Our Springs Alliance, which also has long viewed the traffic study as the Holy Grail of the Move AMD movement, admits there's good reason for AMD not to release employees' street addresses. He pointed out, however, that there are ways to provide more detail while still protecting employee privacy, such as releasing street names or block numbers. In any case, the group will keep the profile of its displeasure high through ongoing flyering, a new billboard campaign, and whatever else the group and its allies come up with. "We're going to continue our campaign as long as necessary to get AMD to do the right thing," Clark said.

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