Wednesday, November 25, 2015

More ITDP truth-stretching

I wrote a lot last spring about the ITDP and their biased reporting on bus rapid transit. I thought I was done. I wanted to be done. And then I was looking something up and found this. More specifically, I found pages 23 and 24 and I just don't know where to start. First on page 23:
BRT, however, has a distinct operational advantage over LRT: A BRT vehicle can operate in mixed traffic on normal streets and then enter dedicated BRT infrastructure without forcing passengers to transfer to another vehicle. LRT, by contrast, can only operate where there are rail tracks, and passengers coming from locations not served by the tracks must transfer to and from buses, or to space-consuming park-and-rides, in order to use the system. 
This is just not true at all! A subway system can't operate in mixed traffic. But light rail systems can—and do—all the time! Here's an example from Boston. Here's Pittsburgh. Here's Philadelphia, San Francisco and Sacramento. And all of Toronto. Their big hit against light rail is belied by examples in many of the large cities in the United States! It's just wrong.

And then there's page 24. Oy, page 24. Here, they have a list of average speeds for different transit systems. The idea being, I think, is that look how fast some of those BRT systems are! Look, in Ottawa, the average speed of a bus is 50 mph. 50! That's really fast. That's basically faster than any transit service in the country. I'm really not sure what conclusions they're trying to draw from these data.

And the data seem specious, and I looked in to where they got their data from. Which was from a footnote (well, really an endnote) 129 pages later in the document. They know no one is scrolling back that far (Al Franken—yes, Senator Al Franken—makes this point about Ann Coulter; see page 19). Here's where the data is from:
12. Speed data is from the following sources: Ottawa, Interview with Colleen Connelly, OC Transpo, 2012; Cleveland: Interview with Michael Schipper, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, 2012; Las Vegas, ITDP, Recapturing Global Leadership in Bus Rapid Transit, 2011; Pittsburgh, Interview with David Wohlwill, Port Authority of Allegheny County, 2012; Eugene, Interview with Tom Schultz, Lane Transit District, 2012; Boston, ITDP, Recapturing Global Leadership in Bus Rapid Transit, 2011; Portland: Interview with Jillian Detweiler, TriMet, 2012; Phoenix, Interview with Abhishek Dayal, Valley Metro, 2012; Charlotte: Interview with Tina Votaw, Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS), 2012; Los Angeles: Interview with Gayle Anderson, Metro, 2012; Kansas City: Interview with Randy Stout, Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, 2013
Let me get this straight. They got speed data—data!—from a bunch of reports they commissioned themselves and from interviews. If they got accurate data, it would be one thing. But these numbers are wrong! First of all, there's no way that the average speed for the Ottawa transitway is 50 mph. And they asked people for an average speed, and people gave it to them, and they probably didn't understand what an average is because the ITDP itself doesn't understand what an average is.

Here's a trip on buses which serve the Ottawa Transitway. It takes 55 minutes on the vehicle. The distance is about 25 km. The average speed? 17 miles per hour. Even an all-on-the-transitway trip takes 20 minutes to go 15 km. That's 30 mph, which is better. But still nowhere near 50. Maybe they got their metric conversions confused?

Let's go to the Charlotte Lynx. Does it average 35 mph? It runs 9.6 miles in 26 minutes. It averages 22 mph. Not 35. Pittsburgh? 9 miles in 22 minutes (25 mph).

And some of the low numbers are too low. They claim Denver's light rail averages 14 mph. Even through the city center, it runs 14 miles in 38 minutes. That's 22 mph. Phoenix? 23 miles in 65 minutes (21 mph). The Orange Line in LA—advertised as 11.2 mph—actually runs 18 miles in 57 minutes, at 19 mph. They're even sandbagging the mode they want to push!

In any case, it turns out that a fixed guideway transitway—light rail or bus—will run at about 20 mph, stops included. The Silver Line in Boston is susceptible to traffic, but at low-traffic times it even makes 12 mph. How did I find these numbers? The Internet, from actual schedules and times. It would behoove the ITDP to actually do some research as opposed to just making numbers up.

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