Thursday, April 02, 2015

"Juking the stats" on Polk Street

From the KCBS interview with Noah Budnick last month:

One of the things that City Hall has done in the last year, which has been very helpful, is drawn a map of the most dangerous streets in the city, and that’s the place to start. We are in the age of data, and this is data-driven design, whether it’s making streets safer, whether it’s deploying enforcement resources, government figures how to do more with less. For me the starting point is looking at the data, so we know where the most dangerous streets are, and now we can work with the communities that are affected by those danger zones and, with government, come up with plans to make them safer.

That map is bullshit, since it shows every busy city street is now supposedly part of a "high-injury network." The MTA is now waging a campaign of deliberate deception---aka, "lying"---about safety to justify all the "improvements" it wants to make to city streets, especially taking away scarce street parking and traffic lanes on busy city streets, aka "traffic sewers," to make bike lanes.

A timely article on Medium talks about the increasingly common deceptive use of "data": 

Whether intentionally or not, misleading studies, analyses and stats are thrown around all the time now. Some organizations fudge numbers to manipulate public perception or push dishonest agendas...Trying to fit numbers into a pre-crafted story is often manipulative and deceptive.

The writer lists the reasons people use phony data, including these two (Juking the Stats): 

"We’ve already committed to the story we want to tell, and we just need to find numbers to justify the budget" and "We know it’s true in our gut. We just need numbers to show our gut’s right."

The second reason would actually give the MTA too much credit, since they surely know what they are doing is deceptive, since the numbers the agency is now using to justify taking away all that street parking on Polk Street weren't available to the public until after it faced serious opposition when MTA head Ed Reiskin tried unsuccessfully to sell the Polk Street bike project in a neighborhood meeting.

Medium again: "As data becomes more widespread, it’s more important than ever to make sure people are interpreting data correctly..."

The MTA used to analyze accidents to figure out what can be done to make streets safer in their annual Collisions Reports. Not any more. Now that it has that phony Vision Zero map, after huddling with the Bicycle Coalition, the MTA can cherry-pick streets in the city to make any "improvements" it chooses.

Commander Ali made the mistake of doing what the MTA should be doing on all accidents: analyzing all of last year's traffic fatalities on city streets. That got him exiled to "Siberia."

An agency that has 5,359 employees should be able to find a couple of people to analyze every traffic accident---especially injury accidents---on city streets to figure out how to make our streets safer.

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