Saturday, March 8, 2014

One person can make a difference

So as I drift away from my previous job, I am left wondering whether the improvements in the regional transportation model I made will stick.  On the whole, I think probably so.  The improvements in New York, Columbus, OH and Houston all seem to have "taken," though in all those cases there were larger staff that could keep using the models that the consultants left behind.  It is a lot less clear here, though one potential recruit to the Forecasting team could make quite a difference.  It also depends how frequently and how far into the future they bring me back (as a consultant) to keep the model well-maintained.

In any event, I just heard that because of my advocacy, they are adding an extra bus on the 49 bus route between 9-10 PM on Saturdays, and they will look into doing the same for M-F (or at least try to adjust the schedule to pick up the kids leaving night classes at Langara).  It is a truism that for all the complexities of doing the long-range planning, it is never entirely clear if the modelling work actually makes a real difference when the decision makers hash things out.  My suspicion is that it rarely does, though if the decision-makers include a few engineers and technical people (i.e. the politicians are deferring to their staff) then the model results weigh a bit more heavily.  In Vancouver, it seems absolutely clear that replacing the Massey Tunnel with a bridge is entirely political and not supported by any analysis, the UBC Broadway Line is largely political (not that the models don't support some upgrade in that corridor -- they certainly do) and the Pattullo Bridge replacement is probably the one project that will be shaped the most by strong technical analysis.  But those are just examples.  Toronto has several examples of where transit decisions are made on largely political and emotional grounds and the process is not particularly evidence-based.  So I'm not sure if it is ironic or if it is simply "the way of the world," that my contribution to getting a bit more late night service on the 49 route is likely to be the most tangible benefit I am leaving to the region.  However, it is ironic that the improvement comes in late June, so I will not benefit from it personally.

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