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Eight rail stations in Phase 1 of digital sign rollout; ridership up 5.4% in 2008

After a little poking around on the CTA Web site, I found CTA President Ron Huberman's report to the board for January. So here are details from some of the news out of the meeting.

Eight more rail stations to get digital signs. I reported last week about the Red Line 47th Street station testing out the new digital signs displaying arrival train times and advertising. That pilot test is over and now we move into Phase 1 with sign being installed at these eight stations: 18th Street (Pink); 79th/Dan Ryan (Red – Southbound); 35th/IIT (Green – Southbound); Sox 35th/Dan Ryan (Red – Southbound); Roosevelt (Orange/Green); Addison (Red – Northbound); Davis (Purple); Howard (Red/Yellow/Purple). The signs will be installed within the next month.

Total ridership up 5.4%. The CTA system boasted 526.4 million rides in 2008, a 5.4% increase over 2007. Bus rides were up 6.1% (18.9 million rides) for a total of 328.2 million. Rail rides increased 4.1% (7.9 million) for a total of 198.2 million rides.

Top 10 bus routes for ridership gains. Here are the bus routes that showed the biggest gains in ridership in 2008.

Bus rider increase 2008 

Rail lines increase in ridership. Here are the rider increases the rail lines saw in 2008.

Rail rider increase 2008 

Last week when I reported the percentage increase/decrease in these performance metrics, many of you wanted to see the actual figures backing up the percentages. They are here in Ron's report. Such doubters you are! ;-)

I did the math on all the metrics and of course it matches what the CTA reports. More details on these later this week.

Two more words from this Pittsburgh native:

Go Steelers!

Comments

Interesting stuff.

With the Yellow Line up 21%, I'd like to know how much of that is additional weekday riders, and how much is people taking the new weekend trains.

We'll probably have to wait till the full ridership report comes out. Currently, those are only available through September.

ryanwc makes a good point. Same thing with the Pink Line increase. Blue Line service was eliminated where it used to parallel the Pink, so naturally more riders will use the Pink since they now have no choice. In both instances, like is not being compared to like over the period of time.

It's not that we doubt the numbers, it's a question of methodology in arriving at the numbers. Mostly it's a concern that if the numbers turn out to be less meaningful upon closer examination, CTA's credibility takes another hit. Unfortunately, those are the perceptions that detractors, here and elsewhere, latch onto first and give up last.

Did the ridership increase this year after the digital signs were installed? Increase at all I mean because it obviously increased when gas prices rose.

The brown line stopped at Paulina this morning. Doors opened but the platform didn't look shoveled off yet. I can't seem to find any updates to the transitchicago.com site yet....

I can't find the data right now, but most of the increase of the yellow line was due to running the trains on the weekends and having extended hours (I think they extended it) on weekdays. As for the pink line, it went up, but the blue didn't decrease. It still went up with the loss of pink/blue line riders.
It's not all like for like, but I don't see how they could in these cases.

There was only 1 digital sign installed in 2008, and I can't imagine it affected ridership levels much. It's more of a service improvement.

Sounds like the conductor accidentally stopped at Paulina. Hopefully nobody exited the train... :)

[Mostly it's a concern that if the numbers turn out to be less meaningful upon closer examination, CTA's credibility takes another hit.]

My general impression is that the CTA's "credibility" on these matters is only an issue with people who want it to be an issue. In other words, if they can't find something to complain about with the stats, they'll find something else.

As it was, most of the complaints about the stats in the previous thread were pretty non-sensical and/or trivial. In most cases, it was perfectly clear what was being measured and how.

In this specific case, they could measure and report the weekday-only change on the Yellow Line, although that's such a tiny fraction of overall ridership (less than 2%)that I don't think the credibility of the CTA is at stake either way.

But I'm not even sure an apples-to-apples comparison on the Pink Line would look like. Are we going to poll people as they get on, and ask them if they would have taken the Blue Line instead if it were still available? We can't do a direct comparison because the previous circumstances simply no longer exist.

[Blue Line service was eliminated where it used to parallel the Pink, so naturally more riders will use the Pink since they now have no choice. In both instances, like is not being compared to like over the period of time.]

This comparison should still be valid. If I recall correctly, the rush-hour Blue Line trains on the Cermak branch were always counted as part of the Pink Line's total ridership because there was no way to distinguish between who was boarding a Blue train and who was boarding a Pink train.

To carry Nick's point forward a little, any word on the methodology the CTA uses to divvy up passengers boarding at Fullerton, Belmont, and Howard? For that matter, most of the turnstiles in the Loop can be divided among more than one platform, and some stations share turnstiles for both directions.

I think that CTA should include overtime (hours and $) as a performance management metric. Wouldn't that help to show how much money is being spent to make the system run safely, cleanly, and more efficient?

In the CTAs reporting, Fullerton, Belmont, and Howard are counted as part of the Red Line. And the CTA always counts the Loop as it's own train line.

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In the CTAs reporting, Fullerton, Belmont, and Howard are counted as part of the Red Line. And the CTA always counts the Loop as it's own train line.
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Which is why the methodology is one of the issues.

While the numbers may be right, and the calculations mathematically correct, are the numbers meaningful? Or, more concisely, do they mean what people say they mean. Are the conclusions drawn correct.

Over a 10 minute period, I saw 10 riders on one bus going through an intersetion, and 5 riders on another bus. That totals 15 riders in 10 minutes, or 90 per hour through that intersection. Last year I came up with 80 per hour, so there's an increase in ridership of 25%.

Both observations are correct. The math is correct. But what do those numbers really mean? And is my conclusion correct?

I don't have a problem with whether the CTA is giving us correct numbers. I don't have an issue about whether the results of their calculations on those numbers are correct.

My issues revolve around whether they're telling us the relevant numbers, whether the calculations they're performing on numbers are relevant, and whether the conclusions they are spoon-feeding us are accurate representations of what's really happening out there.

If I hire you to do a job, and I want to measure how well you're doing at that job, would it be smart of me to ask you to come up with some ways to measure your performance, and then let you form the conclusions, too?

The bottom line is the President's report is a self-serving piece of PR. Whether it's reporting good news or bad news, it's not much different than any other state of the [blank] report. It's purpose isn't to inform. It's to persuade.

None of us have the time or resources to dig up numbers. Nor do we have the time to develop a methodology to find any meaning in the numbers on which to form conclusions. But together we should be able to get that accomplished. It needs to be accomplished by an outside auditor.

The rooster is not who should be watching the hen house. The CTA president is not the person who should be telling us whether he's doing his job well. The issue isn't one of math. It is one of credibility.

That certainly wasn't my point, Martha.

The CTA does factor in the change from Blue to Pink.

Changes in service levels, like the one I asked about on Yellow, are different. I was asking a question of what caused the influx. I'm not sure what you're implying, and why the CTA's credibility would take "another hit" if the influx was caused by the fact that they added service on the weekend. To me, that would be a good thing - they added something, and a lot of people use it.

The number are certainly meaningful. They show that overall, people are using transit more. Particular articulations can help us understand what types of service they're finding more useful. And of course, CTA does provide those breakdowns, in great detail. Just not in the president's report, so it's not quite up to date yet.

I don't see any credibility issues here, and I've been looking at the ridership numbers for a long time, as shown by my comment about the timing of the ridership reports.

So, you're saying that we should have an independent company watching the CTA and reporting on their numbers and progress? And how much do you think that will run you? It won't be free...

>Over a 10 minute period, I saw 10 riders on one bus going through an intersetion, and 5 riders on another bus. That totals 15 riders in 10 minutes, or 90 per hour through that intersection. Last year I came up with 80 per hour, so there's an increase in ridership of 25%.

>The bottom line is the President's report is a self-serving piece of PR. Whether it's reporting good news or bad news, it's not much different than any other state of the [blank] report. It's purpose isn't to inform. It's to persuade.

I don't care if a few allied malcontents jump on me for it. These two comments are ridiculous,and I'm using the t-word again.

TROLL!

Of course, by doing so, I'm feeding the troll, which will probably result in a threadjacking of what should be a discussion of what the numbers do mean. Sigh.

Ryan,

Those comments made no sense to me either. They are not in the slightest comparable. He doesn't mention when days were taken, how he calculates 15 riders in 10 minutes, what intersection this happened at, what bus route, what time he is comparing. Also, it's completely unscientific in that it is nowhere close to an average. Also, a jump from 80 to 90 per hour is not an increase of 25%, so his math is wrong as well.

Basically, I have no idea what he is talking about and if it is supposed to be an example of what the report shows, then it is not even the slightest bit close to the numbers that the CTA has provided.

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So, you're saying that we should have an independent company watching the CTA and reporting on their numbers and progress? And how much do you think that will run you? It won't be free...
====

No. I'm saying that if you want meaningful conclusions beyond those spoon fed us by the PR folks running the place, an independent party has to do the counting.

There's no question that the CTA is doing a job. There's no question that people are being transported from one place to another. The buses and trains go out each day, and work gets done. That's enough for most people most of the time.

However if it's important to know whether they're doing a better job than before or not, you can't depend on them to review their own performance.

The President's Report is a self-written job review. Nothing more.

Do you write your own performance review? I don't know many people who do. But if you were given the chance, how objective would your review or your own performance actually be?

The question is how important is it for us to know anything meaningful beyond the self-generated PR? If we're really concerned about these things, then let's get the numbers parsed and crunched in a way that comes up with conclusions that have some real meaning beyond an annual self-review.

Otherwise, let's remember that it's a self-review, and subject to all the spin that a self-review is going to have. Let's not pretend these self-serving numbers tell us anything more than what they want to tell us.

Is there any data on how the opening of the Hudson exit at the Sedgwick station would affect overall ridership? What about the moving of planters?

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Those comments made no sense to me either. They are not in the slightest comparable. He doesn't mention when days were taken, how he calculates 15 riders in 10 minutes, what intersection this happened at, what bus route, what time he is comparing. Also, it's completely unscientific in that it is nowhere close to an average. Also, a jump from 80 to 90 per hour is not an increase of 25%, so his math is wrong as well.
====

Your assessment of my example is almost correct. You did catch a math error. It's a 12.5% increase. But so what? What did my raw numbers really represent? How were they collected? Why is the sample used thought to be representative of the whole? And how did I come to my conclusion? Why did I come to that conclusion? Is it valid? Does it even matter?

Now, if you could look at the President's Report with the same critical eye you look at what I say, you'd get the rest of my point.

Why when I spout off some numbers, make a few calculations, and give a conclusion are you willing to look so closely to discredit me, but you don't do the same for the President's Report? Is it because you want to disagree with me, but you want to believe what Ron tells you?

It's all about how willing you are to have conclusions spoon fed to you. Who do you allow to spoon feed you without question?

If you're not willing to view the President's Report for what it is, I'm sure that we could dig-out a few of Kursi's President's Reports, and see if you'll accept them without a critical eye as well.

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TROLL!
====

So advocating looking at PR with a critical eye is the behavior of a troll now?

I'd say the attempt to make me the issue by calling me a troll is more trollish than saying we need to look at PR with a critical eye.

Or are you suggesting that only Ron's cheerleaders should be allowed to express an opinion?

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The number are certainly meaningful. They show that overall, people are using transit more.
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Yeah. So what? Because the President's Report got that correct, all the other conclusions it makes must be right, too?

And if that's all the numbers show, we didn't need the President's Report for that.

My point is that THIS president shouldn't get a free pass from critical review. His self-serving conclusions should be looked at with the same critical eye that's given to self-serving reports from people you don't like.

Rusty,

I do get your point and your questioning of how they got the numbers is valid. I'm simply saying that Ron's report has more information about their numbers than your example. Also Ron's math was correct according to Kevin who double-checked it. I really don't get the fascination with these numbers. I could tell you that my CTA experience has improved without reading this report, which is what is important to me at the end of the day.

As for filling out your own performance review, I've done that every job I've had out of college. Granted, my boss also fills out my review too, but I still have input and am given a chance to present what I have accomplished over the last year or quarter.

I guess I should post a disclaimer when I make statements about CTA data. So here goes: I personally don't give a rat's ass what numbers CTA puts out there. More times than not I'm pleased as punch with CTA and I think the job they're doing is peachy keen. Sure, stuff happens, but about half of my commutes used to suck when I was driving to work every day. I would like to see a target number for peachy keenness, however.

What I worry about when I talk about CTA's credibility is the jaundiced eyes of downstate legislators and other transit-haters that think CTA makes stuff up all the time when they say they need money. Further, in the past there have been instances where CTA has played fast and loose with numbers to cover up malfeasance. I'm not implying that's what's happening here at all. A footnote to explain mitigating factors would be helpful. When I was doing internal reports of sales data at a brokerage firm, I wouldn't put that fixed income investment product sales were up 56% in Missouri without a logical explanation for it, if one existed. Maybe the firm opened up five new branches in the St. Louis area. Maybe a municipal bond fund was offered that consisted of Missouri securities and therefore was advantageous to Missouri residents.

Maybe I think too much. Maybe I'm like that guy I used to sit next to at the symphony who would bitch about the horn section missing notes all the time and I'd be thinking, "Guy, STFU, all I want to do is enjoy the Mahler."

Yeah, we do need some context here -- driving sucks.

This is the number of times people have swiped their farecards inside of a train station. It's pretty objective data, and you are free to interpret it however you want.

I'm glad to see that my station (Roosevelt) will be part of the Phase 1 trial. I am, however, disappointed to see that arrival times will only be available for the Orange and Green lines. This is because when I enter the station from Roosevelt Street it would be very helpful to know when the next Red line train is.

Lets say I plan on going to Macy's on state. I can take the green line or the red line. If i just a missed a red line (running every 8-10 minutes) but a green line (less frequent) is about to arrive, then I can decide to take the green line even though I would normally just take the Red knowing it runs more frequently.

[What I worry about when I talk about CTA's credibility is the jaundiced eyes of downstate legislators and other transit-haters that think CTA makes stuff up all the time when they say they need money.]

This is what I mean, though. How many opinions are going to be changed among transit-haters even if the CTA put out impeccable numbers all the time?

There's no convincing most of those clowns. That's why they're called transit-haters -they hate transit!

[Yeah. So what? Because the President's Report got that correct, all the other conclusions it makes must be right, too?]

Huh? What? Who's saying anything that remotely resembles such a thing?

"There's no convincing most of those clowns. That's why they're called transit-haters -they hate transit! "

I've never heard of anyone who hates transit. In the 2006 funding dispute, the people who were against the CTA receiving more funds were motivated by a mixture of legitimate and ilegitimate concerns that the plan wasn't the best way to generate revunue and that it wouldn't be used properly. In fact, I think there was a misunderstanding among many people who thought there was not any reform tied with the funding package. That is undestandable considering that neither Jon Hilkevitch nor anyone else bothered to mention anything about these mandates during their news reports. The only good news report about how CTA mismanagement largely caused its financial mess was reported by the Chi-Town Daily News (yes, that's right, the Chi-Town Daily News): http://www.chitowndailynews.org/Chicago_news/Exclusive_CTA_plagued_by_selfinflicted_fiscal_problems,10358

The downstate legislators, of course, wanted to vote against the bill because they realized how vital it was and wanted to use the leverage to get something in return. It's not about anybody "hating transit".

finally, reuben, a source of reason! :)

"I've never heard of anyone who hates transit."

Try going to the suburbs, or Texas! :) I'm only kind of kidding, but many people feel that transit is for poor people and that the money would be better used building smoother, wider, and longer roads.

Maybe they don't hate transit, but they don't understand it. However, in the city this seems to be far less common.

Just a grumble...but hey, yeah, why even consider the Blue Line as part of the Phase 1 digital sign rollout? Because, you know, no one is using the Blue Line to get to one of the world's busiest airports and no one would ever think to wonder when the next train is coming, to ensure they make it to the airport in time...

Sigh.

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