The Secret Worldwide Transit Cabal

Informed but opinionated commentary and analysis on urban transportation topics from the Secret Worldwide Transit Cabal. Names have been omitted to protect the guilty.

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Friday, January 30, 2004

Wendell Cox Can't Count, But Bugs Bunny Can! Part Deux

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Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity: and I'm not so sure about the universe. Einstein

From the Cabalmaster:

Y’know, it’s funny how something that starts as a “spur of the moment” thing can turn into a series!

We just stumbled across another “Wendellpage,” This one is titled “US Public Transport Fixed Guideways, (Urban Rail and Busway), Length and Speed: 1996.

It has two tables: “US Metropolitan Areas Ranked by [One-Way] Miles of Fixed Guideway,” and “Metropolitan Areas Ranked by Average Fixed Guideway Speed.”

The first table states the source as “Calculated from National Transit Database.” The second table contains no source notes – but that’s what you expect on a “Wendellpage.”

Although Wendell doesn’t state the source for the second table, the data obviously came from the National Transit Database. But NTD does not include data on “passenger” or “commercial” speed. So, the only way you can figure “speed” is to divide annual revenue vehicle-miles by annual revenue vehicle-hours. This method is 1.) quick, 2.) lazy and 3.) provides misleadingly low numbers (. . . hmmm . . . sounds like just the thing for a “Wendellpage”!!).

The reason “the numbers” come out misleadingly low is because “annual vehicle revenue hours” are actually driver pay hours -- including scheduled layovers and driver breaks (“layover time” in transit jargon).

Although the ratio of “annual revenue miles” to “annual revenue hours” is an important measure of labor productivity, it is not directly related to the “speed” that transit passengers actually experience. In order to calculate this, you’d have to refer to public timetables. Figuring an “average passenger speed” for a system with more than one line may require lotsa work. Even so, no serious transit professional would offer the ratio of “annual revenue miles” to “annual revenue hours” as a substitute. Reaction from others in the field might sound something like this:

Another telltale clue: NTD data are broken out by mode (e.g. bus, light rail). So, if you want to know “Busway/HOV speed,” you have to use a source other than the NTD. Wendell apparently managed this for Houston, but not for Hartford, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Phoenix, Pittsburgh and Seattle.

Hey! Do YOU think he left off the source notes deliberately, so that you’d think he consulted timetables? Nah . . . we can’t believe that Wendell Cox would resort to THAT!!

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