2017-03-27 Mon

Clear Thinking

I have learned to be leery of any newspaper story that bears words like “more” and “almost”. They appear to convey some sort of numerical value, but truth is that they generally convey negative value.

“I am more likely to do this ...” means only that it is NOT likely that I will never do it, and that it is NOT likely that I will always do it. “More likely” is “likely”, and really that means “not 100% and not 0% either, but somewhere, unspecified, in between.

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Here is a typical Scare Headline from the Toronto Star. We are supposed to react by siding against SmartTrack because this article shows that delays will cost ridership and therefore make the proposal even more uneconomical than it is.

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Note that “... the addition ... would increase travel times ...” but without a quantifier.

Note that “some” GO passengers would opt out. No quantifier.

Note that “almost 490 riders per day”. How does the reporter get this figure of 490? Seems rather high to me, because transit riders generally (no quantifier!) occupy themselves while riding – chatting with their travel-mates, reading, typing, listening to podcasts.

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Lucky for you I can provide some factual data.

The screen snapshot is from the 2016 timetable for trains on the lakeshore West line. Look down to the bottom of the schedule.

Note that the 15:15 train from Union slides into Clarkson at 15:48, a 33-minute trip.

Note that the 16:00 express train from Union slides into Clarkson at 16:23, a 23-minute trip.

Note that the difference in travel time is ten minutes.

Note that 4 stations are elided.

Now divide those saved ten minutes by four skipped stations, and you come up with – Tada! – two and a half minutes per station.

So we might expect, based on GO Transit’s published schedules, that each extra stop will add two and a half minutes to the travel time.

Considering all the hoo-hah raised over delays on the Gardiner expressway, it seems a small price to pay, and I rather suspect that most (no quantifiers!) passengers will continue to ride transit so as not to get caught up in the guaranteed-to-get-worse traffic congestion downtown, which will soon be defined as anywhere south of Steeles Avenue.