Bondada-Neumann Study, Part 2

Post by Steven Dale

(This is Part 2 of a 2-Part piece on the Bondada-Neumann Study from the late 1980’s. In Part 1, I focused on the issue of Familiarity. In Part 2, I discuss the differences in perceptions between planners with cable experience and those without.)

Bondada and Neumann’s discovery that transit planners and engineers had little familiarity with cable propelled transit technology is not much of a surprise. It’s a little bit like discovering that most college freshmen know very little about quantum physics. It’s such an on-the-nose observation, it’s basically a non-discovery.

In the second half of the Bondada-Neumann study, however, real insight was gained.

On average, planners and engineers knew little about cable. But that was on average. Looking at discreet individual responses, however, Bondada and Neumann noticed that a 24% minority of respondents had significant experience with cable whereas the 76% majority had virtually no experience with cable. As such, the pair analyzed their data according to those two different cohorts.

Respondents were asked to rate on a scale of 1 to 10 (1o being more favourable) aerial tramways and gondolas based upon 32 different physical characteristics. These included such things as operating and capital costs, procurement process, headways, accessibility, etc. The results were overwhelming.

For each and every one of the 32 physical characteristics, the respondents with cable experience rated cable higher on the scale than the respondents with absolutely no cable experience whatsoever. Every single time.

What’s more, the difference was not slight. Those with cable experience gave cable scores 1.5 – 3.3 points greater than those with no cable experience. The average was 1.7 points, which on a scale of 10 is more than statistically significant. It’s a huge difference. To draw a loose analogy, it’s the difference between having a university essay graded B+ or C-. Now imagine the C- scores were being given by a professor who knew absolutely nothing about the subject the essays covered.

You see the problem immediately.

The implications of this study are still felt today. The vast majority of planners and engineers know little or nothing about cable transit. Those that do, view it favorably while those that don’t, view it less so. Bondada and Neumann suggest that as the majority of planners have no experience with cable, they may not even include it in an alternatives analysis thinking (incorrectly) that it is poorly suited to the needs of public transit.

It’s similar to being in a restaurant (please excuse the second analogy).

Imagine you’re trying to decide between two specials: A chicken and a fish. Problem is, only one out of the restaurant’s four servers have tried the night’s fish special. She thinks it’s great, but what if you’re not sitting in her section?

What if you’re sitting in one of the three other servers sections? They all have tried the night’s chicken special but not the fish. What happens then? What happens when you ask How’s the fish? What’s he going to say? You know exactly what he’s going to say. He’s going to hedge his bets. He’s going to say It’s okay. It’s fine. I don’t know but one of the other servers says its good.

But he’s not going to rave because he doesn’t know. He’d probably be happier if you forgot about the fish altogether. In fact, you probably wouldn’t even know there is a fish special because he didn’t even bother mentioning it in the first place. Why bother mentioning something he knows nothing about? Problem is, you really like fish but you were never even given the chance to choose.

Chicken it is then.

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Want more? Purchase Cable Car Confidential: The Essential Guide to Cable Cars, Urban Gondolas & Cable Propelled Transit and start learning about the world's fastest growing transportation technologies.


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