“Puff Story” – Headline Grabber!

So, are you reading this post because of the photo?

(no one was killed in the accident shown)

If you are, you were drawn in by a “headline grabber”, or a story or picture to ‘grab’ the reader to read further.

Sorry to disappoint , but we continue with so called transit report cards.

Zwei is not a transit or transportation professional and Councillor Pachall is not a transit or transportation professional, yet he pretend to be one by calling himself a “transit researcher”.

Everyone, especially civic politicians, think they are great transit experts, but the vast majority do not even have a basic grounding in transit and solving transit issues, let alone giving childish report card marks, based on questionable grading.

As I stated before, Zwei would never attempt such a stunt.

Mr. Haveacow is a transit professional and has an extremely good foundation in transit history, finances, construction technique and operations; the kind of person who should be CEO of TransLink!

His answer to the Sun’s “Puff Piece” is succinct and to the point; the so called ‘report card’ report is based on questionable data and poorly researched.

Over to you Mr. Cow.

 

Wow were to start! Always be wary of these types of ‘Transit Report Cards” they are very poorly thought out and constructed.

1. Get the regions right! The Area of Greater Toronto and Hamilton isn’t even the whole Toronto Area Commuting zone. If you are going to use GO Transit as this study does, as one of the area’s transit agencies it draws data from then,you should use the area it actually covers and all the local transit agencies it connects with. Luckily, the government of Ontario has already an official legally defined planning area FOR THIS EXACT PURPOSE, its called the Greater Golden Horseshoe Region. This region has 9.7 million people, GO Transit and 30 local and or single tier transit agencies, (soon to be reduced to around 24 because of the amalgamation of 6 local and one inter regional transit agency into one single tier Niagara Regional Transit Agency). This region is the basis for provincial funding boundaries and covers the an area of 11,000+sq km. which happens to be, the area currently and soon to be served by GO Transit and its connections to local transit agencies. It centers on Toronto but stretches from Kitchener-Waterloo in the west, Georgian Bay-Barrie area in the north,
Peterborough-Lindsay Area in the north-east and Northumberland County in the east, Brantford in the south-west and Niagara Region in the south. I have no idea why a good responsible researcher would not use this area, CUTA even has all the data for it, through the Ontario Urban Transit Fact Book, which is produced yearly.

The author also got Greater Montreal wrong by not using all the transit agencies inside the Greater Montreal Region. First there are 14 transit agencies inside it, not 4. It covers an area of over 3900 sq km and has an area population in 2015 (the date year of the data used in this report) of 4.14 million. One agency used, the AMT (Agencie Metroploitane de’Transport) which was responsible for the Montreal area Commuter Rail system and regional transit planning coordination doesn’t even exist anymore but did in 2015.

The covering of the National Capital Region might be improved if the 5 to 7 (i’d have to check) suburban private transit agencies were also included that move people from the more rural areas of Ottawa (who’s total land area is actually 90% rural).

2. If an area is only represented by a single transit agency or a very small number of agencies dominated by a single very large transit agency, it is far more likely mathematically that, these regions will score higher given the very limited group of data points that were used, compared to larger regions with more varied array of transit agencies.

3. Data interpretation is tricky! The study uses fair box recovery of operating costs as a comparative metric, the higher the better. That is not always so! In Toronto the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) has had very high fair box recovery for a very long time. In fact, throughout individual years in the early 1970′s, the TTC was actually operating at a profit. For financial conservatives this is considered a positive result. But compared to other regions and transit agencies operating throughout North America this means that, Toronto receives actually far less support for its operating costs than most North American Transit Agencies. What financial conservatives consider positive, most senior transit officials at the TTC have nightmares about. This means that the TTC is far more sensitive to changes in ridership than most agencies elsewhere. So if ridership goes down because the economy is sluggish either the City of Toronto has to fork over more money or the TTC has to cut service. The TTC hasn’t made an error. Something out of its control has severely effected its ridership, more than most agencies, the TTC now has some very hard choices to make.. But this report card considers this a positive result.

I could go on for many individual points about these types of reports but I trust my point is clear. These types of reports are designed to grab headlines and aren’t really that useful, professionally speaking and just give ammunition for people in each of these areas to bash their local agencies, governments and provincial governments. But in the real sense are nearly meaningless and useless when trying to improve transit. So take the time, do it right, don’t bother with useless regional comparisons which are overly superficial and have little depth to them.

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