Can Transit Learn From Wade Boggs?

Post by Steven Dale

Professional sports and public transit are two very different things, I admit that.

But contemplate, for a second, the amount of statistical scrutiny we give to the athletic diversions in our lives and how much we attention we pay to the statistics of public transportation.

Now contemplate the robustness of the statistics gathered (and are available) for professional sports – how do they measure up against public transportation statistics?

How is it we have more information about this man than we do about most of our public transit systems?

Some people may find this observation entirely glib, but it’s not. I’m being serious here.

How is it that we can simply and easily access numbers for arcane matters like how many times Wade Boggs was intentionally walked in the 1986 Major League Baseball post season (the answer is once, by the way), but newspapers have to file government appeals in order to ascertain how many suicides occur every year on the Toronto Transit Commission?

Consider that observation in light of this:

The current annual operating budget of New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority is roughly $13 billion US. The combined annual payroll of all 30 Major League Baseball teams, meanwhile, is a little bit less than $3 billion.

Is this not absurd?

Does it really make sense that the general public has a greater number of and greater access to rigorous statistical tools of measurement for baseball than public transit despite a) the public transit industry being infinitely larger than the professional baseball industry and; b) public transit having an infinitely greater impact on our lives than baseball could ever hope to?

I’m sure there are dozens of good reasons this disparity exists. The first that pops to mind is the fact that baseball statistics have been gathered for decades by a dedicated and interested fan base who see this activity as pleasurable and interesting – it’s a hobby aligned with their interest in a game. Public transit likely doesn’t have the necessary fandom to instigate such a casual interest in statistical arcana.

Nevertheless, I can’t help but feel that if a swarm of baseball fans can gather all this information and disseminate it – including during times before the internet – without the help of Major League Baseball, then the same thing can (and should) be done with transit statistics.

Isn’t this something that needs to be remedied?

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  1. Fair points. But not necessarily all true. The stats are out there. See APTA: http://www.apta.com/resources/statistics/Pages/default.aspx And the public can access them (not all, but some). Also: Public transit (especially in North America), is inherently a pretty bland topic (unless you're a transit nerd)... especially in comparison to watching Bonds and Canseco hit a couple of dingers every night after them shoot up. Or maybe there is something here... transit nerds need to unite and create a centralized database of all transit statistics!
  2. maybe transit modes need collectable cards with bubble gum in each packet, and kids aspiring to drive them?
  3. Matt the Engineer
    Away games. For example, ride Chicago's metro trains over to NYC (using train tracks, of course), and race them.
  4. Why not? There's enough transit nerds out there who'd collect them.
  5. I know those reports. And they are no where near as robust and comprehensive as the wealth of information one can get about baseball.
  6. You're idea's not so ridiculous. Play along with me here, Matt . . . . What if we injected an element of competition into public transportation? Not necessarily private sector, but awards and accolades that force us to compare transit agencies against each other?

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