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"Performance management" yields big results in reliability, says CTA prez

The CTA's on-time performance improved in 2008 because it implemented a performance management initiative, CTA President Ron Huberman told his board Jan. 14.

The CTA uses performance management to "identify and track key factors that influence reliability" -- which certainly is a key strategic goal for the transit agency. Here are some ways the CTA says it improved on-time performance:

  • Aggressive maintenance program to replace parts near the end of their useful life before they fail.

As a result, Ron said "with some rail cars nearing 40 years old, mechanical problems decreased by 16 percent and trains were able to travel an average of 38% farther before experiencing a defect. More reliable cars contributed to more reliable service: During rush periods, 83% of trains came within one minute of their scheduled arrival time."

This maintenance program also helped reduce overdue jobs by 45%. That means "the number of buses held in due to defective equipment has dropped dramatically since last year. CTA has experienced a 99.9 percent decrease in bus runs held in for defective equipment since August 2007."

  • Accountability at the employee level.

The CTA says the number of runs cancelled because of manpower shortages caused by absenteeism dropped by 82% since August 2007. Managers are trained on how absenteeism affects reliability and held accountable for it.

  • Slow zone elimination increased rail reliability.

Rail trips now are faster and safer, says the CTA, with slow zones on less than 7% of the system, compared with more than 22% in October 2007.Certainly gotta give 'em props for this.

  • Bus gaps reduced.

Gaps between buses -- Ron says he prefers to look at gaps rather than bunches -- were reduced by 31% since fall 2007, "and the number of buses arriving within one minute or less of buses ahead has decreased by 24 percent." The CTA defines big gaps as 15 minutes between buses or arrivals that are double the scheduled headway, whichever is greater.

This is good progress. And good performance management just keeps building on itself as employees see the clear connection between PM programs and results against goals -- and presumably, their own future compensation is tied to performance via merit raises and/or bonuses.

Finally, from the press release:

"We are proud of these success stories, but we know we still have work to do to make  the CTA customer experience the best that it can possibly be,” said Huberman.  “Given the difficult economic environment, it is also paramount that we understand the value we get for every dollar we spend and make the most out of the resources we have available.”

In May 2007, the CTA implemented a performance management process that focuses on a data-driven management model aimed at improving operational efficiencies which in turn enhance the customer experience. All CTA departments are responsible for managing to targets based on key performance and financial metrics organized around five goals – safe, on time, clean, courteous and efficient.


Comments

These numbers put out by the CTA don't make a whole lot of sense or tell the whole story. Percentage decreases of percentages is classic saying what you want to say with statistics. Let's just guess that the percent of so-called big gaps was 10% and is now 7% that's a 30% "drop" in big gaps [(10-7)/10]. True, but now that you see the underlying numbers and realize it is only 3% fewer so-called big gaps on the street you aren't as excited. What if it used to be 7% big gaps and is now 5% that's a 29% drop but it is really only a savings of 2% of the big gaps. How many actual big gaps are out there? Same could be said about the bunching numbers. Even the staggering 99.9% drop in runs held in is subject to this interpretation. How many runs were held in due to defects before and after? What if under all this scrutiny the people responsible for putting buses out are just throwing whatever bus they can get out the door so that they can "fill the run"? Even Lucy at the factory started eating the chocolates when the boss isn't looking to improve performance. I'm not saying things are not improving, but how they are getting there and more importantly how they are patting themselves on the back raises some questions. Did performance improve because of outstanding leadership or simply because it was measured now that data are available?

As Mark Twain said, there are lies, damned lies and statistics.

JustaThought,

You have a point, but then if they just used straight numbers such as "X many more trains arrived within 1 minute of on-time" you could say a similar thing in that the numbers don't mean anything unless you know the percent of the total. It could go on forever unless you had all the data.

I think they have been consistent in using only percentages when discussing statistics, so we at least got that going for us. Either way, they are making strides forward and I hope they can continue to do so.

At the moment, the President's Report and similar parts of the Board Presentations are not up, so we can't tell at the moment how many red squares will be on it.

Nonetheless, despite quibbling over statistical methods, at least this shows some effort to improve service and efficiency. It is a change from the Kruesi years when basically they said we can't do anything without more funding (which Kruesi made quite clear meant increasing suburban taxes), even though there were subway derailments and an NTSB report indicating that track inspectors put in five hour days (if that) and then falsified records, just to give one well documented example.

I won't quote stats. I won't repeat data.

I'll just say that my CTA experience in 2008-2009, even with the construction, is 10X better than it was between 1999-2007, the previous years that I have used the system.

The CTA is still a government organization, and will always suffer the faults of that type of management, but the current leadership is heads and tails above what was there before.

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It could go on forever unless you had all the data.
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Yes, it could.

The solution is to accept nothing short of enough data to form an informed opinion rather than just accept the crap they're trying to feed us now.


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Nonetheless, despite quibbling over statistical methods, at least this shows some effort to improve service and efficiency.
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No. For the moment all it shows is a desire to present us with the illusion of effort. We're being told what we want to hear. They are releasing some numbers that look impressive, but if they released enough numbers to allow us to form an informed opinion, we might see very clearly that the only effort being made is an effort to mislead us.

Huberman does do one thing very well: He presents a nice image. But there's nothing behind that image. How can there be? He has no relevant educational credentials, and he had no relevant experience in transportation management when he was appointed. He did, however, have some good credentials in PR and spin.

I'm sure the Cult of Ron will disagree. But there's simply no substance behind the flash. JustAThought did a nice job of pealing away a little of the veneer, but already we've got people defending that what's under the beautiful oak veneer is balsa, and not even pine.

Dress it up all you want, but this glowing report is a bigger snow job than an Alberta Clipper.

Rusty:

If such things as rebuilding the Blue Line O'Hare Branch, ending three track when announced, or finding money for about 550 buses that they previously claimed they couldn't fund were illusions, I would want to know how.

That is not to say that mismanagement such as the Block 37 project and the handling of the Washington station have not occurred under Huberman's watch, and that Huberman doesn't use the mayor's PR apparatus, but there are evident changes on the streets and right of way that the former administration at least implied were impossible, as wr indicates.

Rusty,

You are apparently saying that there have been no improvements since Ron came on board, which I think most people would agree with. You say that it is all PR spin and that no improvements have been made when you say, "But there's nothing behind that image."

Sorry, but most people's experiences have improved, which is progress. See wrburgess' comments... I'm not saying the guy isn't good at PR, but I think he's done a good job and also been good at displaying the good job with good PR.

My comment above should read:

You are apparently saying that there have been no improvements since Ron came on board, which I think most people would DISAGREE with.

There is no doubt that the CTA is operating far better than it was two years ago, regardless of the source of the positive change. The problem with repeatedly using data that may or may not be reliable and verifiable outside of the CTA PR echo chamber is that it adds to CTA's credibility problem. The aim is to show that the agency's operations are more efficient and reliable. The expectation is that no one will question the veracity of the data collection and presentation because the numbers show that things are better.

>Let's just guess that the percent of so-called big gaps was 10% and is now 7% that's a 30% "drop" in big gaps [(10-7)/10]. True, but now that you see the underlying numbers and realize it is only 3% fewer so-called big gaps on the street you aren't as excited.

Actually, I'd say your the one manipulating the stats to whittle away a substantial gain.

Major gaps hurt us based on how often they affect us. The question is, do I experience them as often as I used to?

If it used to be that 10 runs in 100 on my route had problems, and now it's 7, that does in fact mean that I'm experiencing the problem 30% less than I was. And that's a huge deal.

If the CTA completely eliminated the problem - from here on out, all the buses were close to on time, I'd say they eliminated 100% of the problem, but you'd say all they had done is make it go down by 10%.

Rusty,

JustAThought assumed the numbers were correct and had an interpretation of the data that suggests improvement is smaller. You're saying the stats are lies. You don't seem to understand that he disagrees with you.

I'm with WBurgess and Martha. My experience of the CTA is much better now. I also agree with Martha that more complete and transparent data would give CTA more credibility.

All of this statistical nonsense is just an attempt to distract us from the CTA's utter failure to provide muffins and jam during the morning rush hour. Until the CTA addresses this gaping deficiency in service, I really don't see how any of the rest of this stuff you're all talking about even matters.

Also, it goes without saying that everyone should be fired.

I knew something was missing from my morning commute. Muffins and jam!

Once we reach full coverage on the bus tracker, perhaps Rusty can devote his life to generating his own stats. But back in the real world, it's actually pretty normal for organizations to measure their own performance, and most people trust those figures unless there's some compelling reason not to. Rusty seems to think that it's just inherently impossible for the CTA to improve, so I guess that's a pretty compelling reason if you buy into it.

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JustAThought assumed the numbers were correct and had an interpretation of the data that suggests improvement is smaller. You're saying the stats are lies. You don't seem to understand that he disagrees with you.
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No. We are both saying the *conclusion* drawn is faulty. A percentage of a percentage is not a meaningful number.

Chris, despite being a Huberman fanboy, brings up an additional point. While the percentages may be correct, without knowing what whole they are a percentage of means they started off meaningless.

I'll also toss in another issue here: Even though Chris says "I think they have been consistent in using only percentages". But if the whole has changed, the percentages are not consistant, either!

So let's review. We're looking at percentage changes in percentages based on not just one unknown whole, but two unknown wholes that could render even a nominal change in percentages to be an unreliable measure.

As for things like the capital projects that have been completed, I think we've gone over this before: Those capital projects were already on track before Ron stepped into the cab. All he did was watch them come to their ineveitable conclusion, and then take credit for it reaching the inevitable conclusion. His pet capital project, BRT, makes no sense, and could be on it's way to an early grave.

Preception is also faulty. We precieve what we want to precieve. We remember our preceptoins how we want to remember them. Even in bad times good things happen, and even in good times bad things happen. That something good happened doesn't mean times are good any more than if something bad happens it means it's bad times.

And the preceptions of many are rooted in the opinions expressed around them. If Ron keeps telling us things are better, and tosses out some impressive numbers, people in general will begin to believe that things are better even if they're having personal experiences that don't jibe with the numbers being tossed out.

Maybe that's what the CTA needed. Maybe things really can't get better faster, and what's needed is a pretty boy with a sparkling personality who can find ways to spin things to make us feel better. And if he's smart enough to figure out a way to toss out numbers that seem to support his story of good, so much the better. (And that shouldn't be too hard since few reporters have the math skills to even notice the errors in the conclusions being presented.)

It's all spin. And that's because Ron's credentials are that of a spin master. And he's damn good at it, too. In what other city does the person running the transit system have so many fanboys? In what other city does the person running the transit system get away with so little real accountablity? In other places, a few PowerPoint presentations presenting glowing conclusions based on percentages of percentages of inconsistant data would get a top manager fired for incompetence. Only a PR flack could get promoted for such BS elsewhere.

Ron would be a great spokesperson for any agency. But he's not equiped to run a barbershop let alone a major transit system.

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But back in the real world, it's actually pretty normal for organizations to measure their own performance, and most people trust those figures unless there's some compelling reason not to.
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And there are compelling reasons to reject his spin.

Just because you use numbers doesn't mean those numbers have any real meaning. The numbers may be true, but they are still meaningless, and the conclusions drawn from them are thus majorly flawed.

How exactly are the numbers meaningless? Maybe in how they use them, or maybe we haven't received all of them that we would like, but they are certainly not meaningless.

I also hardly think that the people on this site are indicative of the general Chicago CTA riding population. The fanboys you mention on here (you mentioned me as one) are most likely limited to this site and others like it.

You're correct in that perception can be changed. A good example is when people refer to the "good old days" when there were really was never any such thing. However, I'd be willing to bet that most people are more pleased with the CTA than they were before Ron came on. You keep saying that all of these projects were originally done be Kreusi, which even though I don't agree completely with, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt (I believe either Kreusi would not have done as good of a job or followed through on all of these initiatives). In that vein, you are implying that when these projects conclude, we won't have anything good to look forward to. I believe he's done a lot of cost-cutting in areas of waste (though more can be done I'm sure), which is something Kreusi never did. He has also looked at new ideas of generating ads (like the arrival signs coming to every station).

I guess we'll find out this year who's wrong and who's right, unless you plan to claim that all future projects for the CTA in the next 100 years were Frank's ideas anyway and that Ron is just spinning them. Proof is in the pudding, and someone is going to be eating crow.

Here's what I know: I used to get on the Metra at Irving Park because the Blue Line, which I could see from the platform, took too long to get downtown and was unreliable. Now I split the commute, depending on how soon the next Metra is coming because the Blue Line has gotten much faster, and has been very reliable.

You can say that I am merely perceiving what I perceive (!) but so what? My "perceptions" of other commutes are crap because they are based on gross data and other people's experience. My commute is based on what time I get to work and what time I get home for dinner with the family. If I know what has happened with respect to those trips, Ron isn't spinning anything.

And percentages of percentages are not "meaningless." They are a perfectly valid construct. Furthermore, they really only tend to create unreliable data when there are dramatic changes in the underlying data. Here the CTA's trips etc. are all likely to be pretty stable, meaning that percentages (and percentages thereof) tend to be consistent over time.

I guess at the end of the day everyone is either a fanboy or "in the know" but my CTA commutes are better and more reliable than they were twelve months ago. Disprove that.

C'mon, Rusty. Uncle Frank said it would take $100 million and 10 years to fix slow zones. Uncle Frank's trains, stations and buses were filthy and smelled like pee. The Boy Wonder has been able to address both in less than two years. You can't say there's been no progress, just as Huberman can't say things are 79% better without telling us exactly how he arrived at 79%.

I'm beginning to think Rusty is an Uncle Frank fanboy!

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You can't say there's been no progress, just as Huberman can't say things are 79% better without telling us exactly how he arrived at 79%
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Okay. Fair enough.

But he did. So where do we go from here?


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And percentages of percentages are not "meaningless." They are a perfectly valid construct.
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Only if you like to distort the truth. But even for that to work, the percentages have to be percentages of the same whole.

Is 7% of an apple 30% better than 10% of an orange? Well, if the quantification of the apple and the orange are different, you can't make any assumptions! None!

If apples and oranges are quantified the same, then 7% of an apple is 3%, not 30% better than 10% of an orange. But we have no idea how the apple or the orange are quantified, so we can't even take this leap.

Even if I give him the benefit of the doubt, and accept on pure faith that the apple and the orange are quantified the same, his conclusion is still in error by a factor of 10 in this case.

So where's his credibility? If he's still going to distort his conclusions that much after I accept his word that the two wholes are quantified the same, that tells me that I shouldn't take him at his word for anything.

I could have accepted it if he said it's 3% better than before even if I have to accept on faith that we're talking about the same thing. But he had to go and distort the hell out of what little he is sharing. If he'll distort what I can verify, how badly is he distorting what I can't verify?

So maybe I can't say there have been no improvements under his watch, but he can't honestly claim what he's claiming, either. He can't claim anywhere near what he's claiming.

My lack of credibility does not mean he doesn't have as much, if not more of a lack of credibility. Just because you think I'm nuts doesn't mean he's not nuts, too. And it doesn't mean he's not more nuts than I am.

So before anyone asks me to prove that no progress has been made, I would suggest that we go back to the guy who should have been resposnsible for any progress, and ask him for some better proof than his percentage of percentage when we don't even know what whole the percentages are from.

Like my opinion or not, Huberman has not presented us with valid measurements on which to form an opinion of his actual performance. He's given us psuedo-statistics in the hope that we're dumb enough to accept his conclusions based on these royally flawed numbers.

Sorry, but I'm not drinking the Kool-aid.

The percentages are stupid and who knows what they really mean. We could have all the data that they have, and there would still be issues like "They're measuring it wrong" or some other problem.

The real meaning is that through these percentages, there are real quantifiable improved user experiences as testified on this site. That's all I'm concerned with. The percentages are just a means of trying to express that, and depending on your view, either helpful or not helpful.

And Rusty you're starting to make a little more sense and a little less paranoid.

Can we retire the phrase "Drinking the Kool-aid"? Comparing someone's support of something as mundane as a transit agency's statistics with the infamous suicide-murders of over 900 people at Jonestown ... it's tired.

Also ... I know for a fact that hey give out muffins and jam to Brown Line riders but Red Line riders don't get squat. It's another part of the campaign against beleaguered Red Line riders.

Yeah, we're going to retire a popular phrase just because you are tired of it... Besides, I think the phrase refers to the Merry Pranksters Kool-Aid Acid tests as well as the Jonestown Massacre.

Chris,

Yeah, we get muffins & jam on the brown line, but red line riders get tube socks!

Hmm, I guess the "proof is in the pudding," and I am now "going to be eating crow." Sheesh.

Wait a minute... There's pudding? Where?

Am I too late?

Rusty's making more sense? Really? In a very fundamental way it is true that Rusty's credibility is not related to Huberman's. OK. So what?

I don't read the comments here often enough to know if this has been covered, but I think that Rusty is a CTA old-schooler who is threatened by a new regime. I say this because it is clear that NOTHING Huberman does will be good enough for Rusty. I was also struck by the criticism that Huberman does not have a transit background. If the CTA were a smoothly-running business that needed policy guidance that would be a decent criticism. It isn't. Making it run like even a semi-efficient business would make a huge difference. We'll get back to policy wonkiness when the agency runs better.

Oh, and drink the Kool-Aid, drink the Kool-Aid, drink the Kool-Aid, drink the Kool-Aid.

So there.

It seems like the model for "running things like a business" is for top executives to run the company into the ground while collecting massive compensation, then face no consequences for their failure. If so, then perhaps the CTA was being run like a business under Kreusi!

That's funny, Adam, and true. I'm tired of people saying that public assets need to be run like a business. We hear this all the time in education. These days there aren't many things I'd want to see run anything like a business, even the businesses themselves. McDonald's seems to have retooled themselves well and is one stock that's actually turning a profit. So, no muffins and jam, no pudding, no Kool-Aid. We riders will accept nothing less than fries!

So let me get this straight: A transit agency only needs someone who knows how to run a transit agency when it's already running well. When it's not running well, it needs someone who knows nothing about running a transit agency.

Hmmm.

If that's the way people think, then it's no wonder the whole country is in such a mess.

And there are things that Huberman does well enough for me. He's an excellent spokesperson. He'd probably make an excellent Whitehouse Press Secretary, assuming that the President would want a typical guy who's credibility is high with the reporters he smoozes with, but low with the ones that do research beyond what's handed to them at the briefing.

Huberman is a highly skilled professional. He's just got a job in the wrong field.

Yes, but he got there because he was appointed by a mayor who obviously doesn't care to get a qualified transit professional for the job. You can't blame Huberman for taking a job that he couldn't refuse unless he wanted to kiss his future in Chicago government goodbye.

Oh good grief! There is no reason in the world that anybody should be critisinsing anything for being "run like a business". What is the alternative? The only alternatives I can think of are fiefdems, pure beuracracies, and patronage organizations. That is how the government in Cook County is run. Do people think that is a great model of how it should be done? Many governments and govenment agencies are and have been run in these manners. The CTA at one time (not saying it isn't neccessarally still the case) had an extreamly bloated payroll with way too many jobs and people getting unbelievable pay and benefits. You cannot operate in that manner and still provide good and reasonably priced service to the people you are supposed to serve. A business needs to be run like a business. And yes, the CTA is a business. It is not a for-profit business but it is a business nonetheless. It's purpose is to provide for a good transportation infrastucure so that the area can have sound economic activity. In order to do this it needs to operate efficiantly. Adam Kotscko and Martha seem to be suggesting, for whatever reason, that they'd rather it not be run efficiantly. Whether there are enough consequences to executives for failure is another matter.

As to the question about Huberman and statistics and whether he is doing a good job, I am somewhere in the middle. Obviously, it is correct that statistics like those mentioned are usually meaningless. With something like bus reliability, you could very easilly choose the statistics you want from dozens of possibilities. The only way in which a statistic might be useful is if it set up ahead of time and the person providing the statistics doesn't have control over what is being measured. It always astounds me how many people see a statistic and don't even question whether it says anything worthwhile. That said, it has been very noticable to me that bus reliability has improved in the last year and a half. So it doesn't matter to me, in this particular case, whether these statistics are valid or not. I have critisized Huberman many times but this is something he has seemed to have done well.

Many times it is a good idea to have a leader who has a lot of experience in the area he is leading. Other times the culture of an organization is so inflexible and ingrained in certain habits that it is very worthwhile to get someone from the outside to bring a fresh perspective. If that is done, it is important for that person to surround himself with people who have more experience than him in the field in which he is making decisions. And he needs to rely on them to give good advice. When one doesn't do that and thinks he can actually form these opinions better himself then it causes problems. That occured with the former CEO of Gap who decided to make most of the major fashion decisions himself regardless of the advice he was given despite the fact that he had no fashion background. As a result, the company's earnings and stock price declined dramatically. I am not in the business meetings that occur at the CTA so I don't know whether Huberman falls into that catagory or not. But it is simplistic to say either that the President of a transit agency should always have spent most (or even any) of their career in the field and it is simplistic to say that not having experience, by itself, is a plus.

Oops. Meant "critisising", not "critisinsing".

So Rusty is saying that it's bad that Huberman didn't have transit experience before getting this job, and his evidence is that the statistics he puts out show improvement.

Plenty of people heading government agencies aren't insiders to the field before their appointment. Huberman seems to me to have good management skills and to be doing a good job, even if his statistics are imprecise or unclear. You can hardly accuse him of sitting back and doing nothing on slow zones, for instance -- there's been a huge drop. And he really did speed up work on the 3-track! Both of those are verifiable, empirical achievements that anyone can check out. Belmont and Fullerton really do have all four tracks open! Slow zones on the Blue Line really are radically reduced! Maybe those obvious achievements make people give him the benefit of the doubt on these unclear statistics as well.

It is easy (and lazy) to equate "running things like a business" to the current financial industry issues. The fact of the matter is that you CANNOT bitch about inefficiency and laziness at the CTA and also bitch about running it like a business. I am sorry that Huberman is not a train geek who grew up on model railroads and mass transit theory. He brings something different to the table, which is actual management. That is not the end-all-and-be-all of running the CTA, but it is something the CTA needs.

Education should be run like a business. I spent 13 years in Chicago Public schools, and seven in Illinois public universities. If education had been run like a business, I would have had better teachers, and the really great teachers I had would not have had to work with loser hacks.

Adam,

Perhaps you could shed light on all the "verifiable" and "empiricle" information on how Ron Huberman used his skills as a manager to speed up the end to three-tracking and to end the slow zones. Because I don't see any. All we know is that just before Huberman arrived there had been a huge increase of slow zones due to the mismanagement of the previous regime. And we know that the CTA made the decision to fix those slow zones. And yes, we know that this occured during Huberman's tenure. But I really don't understand the huge rush to to praise Huberman for this as if it were an extraordinary achievement. Let's say an airplane crashes and the CEO of the airline happens to be fired soon afterwards (whether the two things are related or not) and then it is discovered that the crash resulted from a very poor system of maintance across the entire airline fleet. The new CEO would obviously, if he had not already, improve the maintance operations so that it engaging in the basic processes that everyone else does. This decision would be made by every CEO who would be in that position. Whether he may be a genious, an idiot, or anything in between is not going to affect whether he makes that decision. The same thing is true with Huberman's removing of the slow zones. No transit agency is going to operate all trains on two enormously busy lines at an extremely reduced speed without doing something about it. It doesn't matter that there is only a limited amount of money to do this and that the will, of course, mean other things cannot be done. I don't understand why there is this fawning of Huberman for making a decision that was obvious.

I don't know the specifics of how the decision was made to end the three-tracking earlier than first planned. My recollection is it had something to do with realizing the CTA would make back the extra money needed to do this with the higher ridership caused by the more convenient commute. This is something that could have been discovered by mid-level budget employees doing routine work. And once this occured, it could have been so extreamly clear what the decision should be that anybody would have made it, including Kruesi. Of course, it could also be the case that Huberman did initiate an investigation of whether this change could be made and deserves credit. I don't think anybody here knows. It seems rather premature to act as if this is "obvious" "empiricle and verifiable evidence" of his good management skills.

For me, Rusty outed himself as a troll today. When he says percentages of percentages are "meaningless", he has no idea what he's talking about. But armed with ignorance, he's willing to post OVER AND OVER.

CTA isn't comparing apples to oranges. They've had performance data on bus gapping for quite a while now, just not in real time for the tracker.

If 10% of buses were running inordinately late, leaving a gap, and now 7% do, that means that for every 100 buses, 10 were late, and now 7 are. You can do the percentage improvement on the percentage, or on the overall numbers, and it works out exactly the same -- 30% fewer buses are gapped.

If it was really 5% and now it's 3.5%, that still has to mean that there was an underlying number of late buses, and now, there are 30% fewer.

No matter what the underlying numbers are, if the improvement, expressed as a percentage of the percent that were late, is 30%, that means that you and I, on average, are experiencing gaps 30% less than we did.

The accuracy of Huberman's numbers seems to be reinforced by some other data:
1) improvement in buses dying less often mid-route because of repair issues.
2) improvement in "on-time terminal departure"
3) most important, improvement in the experience of riders as reflected by reports here.

Against that background, Rusty offers nothing but his no-evidence assertion that there can't be any improvement, because he doesn't understand that percentages always rely on underlying numbers. He says he doesn't challenge the accuracy of the percentages, but merely believes they're "meaningless."

How can one prove progress to someone who doesn't understand math, has a radically different anecdotal experience from everyone else, and calls everyone who disagrees with him a fanboy? I don't see the point. If there was an ignore function here, I'd use it.

"If there was an ignore function here, I'd use it."

That's not surprising. You did, after all, ignore my post around a week ago in which I called you out for making an allegation about me that wasn't correct. You stated "some people wouldn't understand intellectual consistency if it consistently hit them in the head" after complaining that I called someone a socialist for something I didn't actually call him a socialist about. In fact, that person had already admitted that he was a socialist. But instead of assuming that not everything people were referencing was directly on that thread, you misinterpreted my post in a manner that would never have been minterpretated if you had been careful. You also misinterpreted other things on my post. And it is increadibly rude and reckless to make a comment like "some people wouldn't understand intellectual consistency if it consistently hit them in the head" without first being careful that you know what you are talking about.

You also don't know what you are talking about here. Rusty does not call "everyone who (agrees) with Huberman a fanboy"(I assume the word "disagree" was a typo). He has called some people fanboys when he believes they are too quick to praise him. And, from my recollection, he is often correct. On this thread, he brings up some good points. I don't agree with all of them but to call him a troll simply because you disagree with his arguments is absurd. And to have the nerve to do that after the way you have bahaved is unbelievable. If anyone is the troll here it is you.

Perhaps a final thought on this. Of course there was an improvement, we see that out there in a more reliable system. Percentages of percentages are only suspect in the fact that they don't get at the true magnitude of the drop. How many so-called "big gaps" are actually out there on average now, for say a month, and out of how many total big gaps? Sure the schedules change but as one post notes not that much such the denominator is essentially the same (total gaps). Sure, they might have reduced big gaps by 31% but just how many big gaps is that? The system is improved numerically or empirically and that is what matters. However, it was also destined to change by the shear fact that it was bad before and now they are able to measure it. Some of the current numerical improvement might even be due to increased attention on so-called "ghost buses". Those buses probably don't give them data and therefore look like a "big gap".

MK,

I didn't call you out for calling the guy a socialist. I called you out because you called him a socialist even as you complained that they were taking away your government-provided free parking.

If I ignored a reply from you, I don't know where that reply would be. It's not at the end of that thread.

They did away with the train schedules - of course 'on-time' performance would show an improvement!

Ryan,

1. My post was very clear. I did not get anywhere close to complaining about any parking inconveinences for me. I was discussing the adverse consequences that a lack of parking would have on the neighberhood as a result of the loss of businesses.

2. My reply would be towards the top of the second page of that thread. There is a small jump button on the bottom of the first page directly after your post. It would not be surprising if you didn't notice it. You are having a difficult time understanding simple things about what people are saying so it makes sense that you wouldn't even see that a thread is more than one page long.

So MK's arguing that since Huberman made the right calls, he shouldn't get any credit for making the right calls. That makes sense.

Oh come on, Adam. I think you know very well that is not what I am arguing. The fact of the matter is that anybody who is the leader of anything, whether they are football coaches, CEOs, government officials, or heads of government agencies usually get too much credit when things go well and too much blame when they go poorly. To illustrate, take a look at this list: http://football.about.com/od/nflhistory/l/bl_awardscoach.htm
These are the coaches voted Coach of the Year directly after (or towards the end of) each season. They are the people who everybody at the time thought did wonders to improve their team. As you notice, roughly half of them are now considered to be mediocore or poor coaches. When something improves it is not always the result of excellent decision making from the person in charge. When a change in management is made anywhere it is normally because things are at a low point. When things are at a low point the natural course of events causes everything to be analyzed and many things to be singled out for a change in direction. So when a person takes over he always has that advantage. There are easy decisions to make because there is going obvious changes that need to be made. Those, after all, would likely be what caused the need to change management. And yet, people assume that every decision is the result of an excellent ability that the person had that the predecessor didn't. That doesn't mean that Huberman didn't also do a very good job with some things that helped the CTA improve. But it is a fallacy to assume that just because something improved (and even just because Huberman made a decision and then something improved) that he is some sort of great leader as a result.

I wish Ron with his charts and stats had been on my Red Line this eve:

1. 5:40 p.m. Wait 10 minutes at Jackson with no headlights in sight all the way past Harrison. Based on the crowd, a train has not come for a while. Hop on a southbound Red. Exit at Harrison.

2. Northbound train arrives at 5:45. Get a seat.

3. By Monroe, the train is stuffed. The train is not run express, despite the operator's pleas to stand clear, there are four immediate followers. A minute of opening and closing doors.

4. Lake. Again, despite the operator's pleas to stand clear, there are four immediate followers, a minute of opening and closing doors.

5. Grand. The first station with right side door exiting reveals that the right side doors are not working. People pull the cherry with no success. Yet again, despite the operator's pleas to stand clear, there are four immediate followers, a minute of opening and closing doors. The train leaves the station with several passengers who could not exit due to inoperable doors. People start making comments ... "pathetic," "New York," and "Olympics" are heard.

6. Chicago. Repeat #5. Add in morons who call the operator and tell him the rear right doors on car 7 are not working. Say "idiot" to the laughter of knowing nearby passengers who know all to well that one person's backtrack just turned into a 10-minute delay for roughly 600 people. Operator exits car, walks around (never enters car 7), disappears for 10 minutes, then the train takes off with no warning, causing passengers (who've been standing around for 10 minutes with no communication from the T.O.) to stumble around. Doors still broken.

7. Clark/Division: Several stops too late, the T.O. finally announces this train will run express to Fullerton. A smattering of people exit. Then we stand for 10 more minutes. Then again take off with no warning.

8. North/Clyborn: whizz briskly by gobs of poor bastards at N/C who've been waiting 30 minutes for a train. No beeps. No express signage scroll. Fear not N/C'ers, there must be seven immediate followers at this point. Subtlely, the familiar "CTA burning plastic smell" begins to waft through the car. Several people begin to remark on it -- joking, nervous.

9. Fullerton: crowds of confused platform people at the busted doors. Burning plastic smell begins to wane, luckily. This time you stay on. When it reaches a certain pungency, smoke usually develops and then the whole train gets emptied. "Is it like this frequently?" and "Good thing we're not in a hurry" are heard. Numerous non-US Cellular customer whip out cell phones to explain their tardiness.

10. Belmont: this train will run express to Wilson. Half the car frantically tries to exit through one door. Miraculously they all make it off, due mostly to the fact that we stand for 3 or 4 minutes.

11. Slow crawl allllll the way to Wilson. Pass Sheridan so slow the train might as well have stopped. People on the platform look unbelievably cold and, like most voting Chicagoans whose spirit was crushed long ago, resigned to their fate.

12. Wilson: this train will run express to Granville (Thank God not Loyola).

13. Exit at Granville. The CTA thanks you profusely for your patience and sincerely regrets this inconvenience and hey, let's all do this again in a week or two.

14. Walk to Dominick's, buy some Chianti. Dream about living somewhere else. Door-to-door, Jackson to Thorndale (nee Granville): 85 minutes. Living 9 miles from work: priceless.

Put that on one of yer charts Ron.

What is the cost associated with each percentage point improvement? I don't care if the system improved 20% if it cost 50% more in overtime! Show us those numbers in a press release! Really! I will offer congratulations when "performance" is tied to operating improvement AND budget improvement! If I throw money at a problem, it better improve! Wasn't the CTA way overbudge for much of 2008? was it in part due to the "performance improvement"?

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