See the redesigned Metro maps and vote for your favorite!

Greater Greater Washington is running a redesign the DC Metro Map contest: See the redesigned Metro maps and vote for your favorite!

Mind the map! The impact of transit maps on path choice in public transit

Zhan Guo at NYU has a very nice paper in TR part A about the distortionary effects of Harry Beck‘s London Underground Map: Mind the map! The impact of transit maps on path choice in public transit:
The conclusions (the paper is behind a paywall) Emphasis Added:

“This paper investigates the effect of schematic transit maps on travel decisions in public transit systems. The relationship might have significant implications for public transit operation and planning, but so far it has been largely overlooked by both academics and practitioners. The paper first defines four types of information delivered from a transit map: distortion, restoration, codification, and cognition, and then discusses their potential influence on travel location, mode, and path choices.
The case study on the London Underground confirms that a schematic transit map indeed affects passengers’ path choices. Moreover, the map effect is almost two times more influential than the actual travel time. In other words, underground passengers trust the tube map (two times) more than their own travel experience with the system. The map effect decreases when passengers become more familiar with the system but is still greater than the effect of the actual experience, even for passengers who use the underground 5 days or more per week.
The paper also shows that the codification of transfer connections is also important. Different codification can make a transfer look more or less convenient on a transit map than in reality, which will either decrease or increase the perceived transfer inconvenience for the corresponding stations. This paper observes both situations in the underground case study and quantifies this codification effect, in terms of the number of attracted or precluded transfers, for four major transfer stations: Baker St., Bank/Monument, Victoria, and Oxford Circus.
Of course, these results are only based on the London Underground, a unique case in many aspects. Few transit maps enjoy such public popularity as the tube map in London. Many transit maps include prominent geographical features, which dilute the map effect. Other systems have different past or present versions of their transit map, which precludes a lasting and stable map effect. Many metropolitan regions possess an easier-to-comprehend urban form than London, which could weaken the role of a transit map in the formation of a cognitive map. The subway map effect in New York City is probably different from that in London. Therefore, readers should be cautious about making generalizations.
If a transit map has an impact on travel decisions, what are the implications for transit operation and planning? First, if passengers trust a schematic map more than their own experience, all planning efforts aimed at changing travel behavior need to consider the map effect; otherwise, the effectiveness of those efforts might be weakened. For example, this map effect might partially explain why Advanced Traveler Information Systems (ATIS) often yields modest improvements in terms of travel time savings in public transit ([Hickman and Wilson, 1995], [Avineri and Prashker, 2006] and [Ben-Elia et al., 2008]). Secondly, a transit map might cause certain operational problems. For example, it might unintentionally shift more passengers to a congested segment in the network and thus form a bottleneck. The overcrowding at the Victoria and Oxford stations and on the link between the King’s Cross and Old Street stations, which is much shorter on the tube map than in reality, are possible examples.
Accordingly, a transit map could potentially become a planning tool to solve operational problems and improve system efficiency. For example, link lengths could be revised, and transfer stations could be re-coded on a transit map in order to change passenger behavior and mitigate platform and train crowding. Annotations of waiting time or crowding for selected stations on the map might also be important (Hochmair, 2009). Clearly, this approach has its own limits: we could not redraw a transit map however we pleased.
In terms of future trends, ATIS and alternative travel information channels, such as smart phones and the internet, might change the role of a transit map in mixed ways. On the one hand, they may weaken the transit map effect. For example, internet-based trip planners may recommend specific travel paths based on their actual attributes. On the other hand, they may strength the map influence as well. For example, a transit map might become more accessible to passengers through, for instance, smart phones or the internet. Travel information, such as crowding and delays, delivered in a map format could be more effective than other media ([Hato et al., 1999] and [Talaat, 2011]). Conventional media like the transit map will still likely be critical and indispensible for trip planning despite the prevalence of real time information (Cluett et al., 2003).
In summary, transit maps can have a profound impact on passengers’ travel decisions and system performance. Both individual passengers and transit agencies should ‘mind the map’ in order to make their best planning decisions.

Homeland Security Doesn’t Do Cost/Benefit Analysis; They Just Do Fear And Bluster | Techdirt

Techdirt is outraged, but this isn’t just Homeland Security, it is the whole damn government which doesn’t systematically compare benefits to costs.


“Homeland Security Doesn’t Do Cost/Benefit Analysis; They Just Do Fear And Bluster

from the you-might-die!!!!!! dept

This should hardly come as a surprise, but a new paper that analyzes money being spent on Homeland Security finds that it’s incredibly wasteful (found via Julian Sanchez). You can read the full report (pdf) by John Mueller and Mark G. Stewart, which probably confirms what most people were already thinking. Basically, Homeland Security has ratcheted up spending at a massive rate, and there’s little to no effort to judge that spending against the actual risk reduction. That is, there’s simply no one doing any sort of real cost-benefit analysis on this spending. The report seeks to do some of that, and what it finds isn’t pretty. From the abstract (with my emphasis):

The cumulative increase in expenditures on US domestic homeland security over the decade since 9/11 exceeds one trillion dollars. It is clearly time to examine these massive expenditures applying risk assessment and cost-benefit approaches that have been standard for decades. Thus far, officials do not seem to have done so and have engaged in various forms of probability neglect by focusing on worst case scenarios; adding, rather than multiplying, the probabilities; assessing relative, rather than absolute, risk; and inflating terrorist capacities and the importance of potential terrorist targets. We find that enhanced expenditures have been excessive: to be deemed cost-effective in analyses that substantially bias the consideration toward the opposite conclusion, they would have to deter, prevent, foil, or protect against 1,667 otherwise successful Times-Square type attacks per year, or more than four per day. Although there are emotional and political pressures on the terrorism issue, this does not relieve politicians and bureaucrats of the fundamental responsibility of informing the public of the limited risk that terrorism presents and of seeking to expend funds wisely. Moreover, political concerns may be over-wrought: restrained reaction has often proved to be entirely acceptable politically. 

In seeking to evaluate the effectiveness of the massive increases in homeland security expenditures since the terrorist attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001, the common and urgent query has been “are we safer?” This, however, is the wrong question. Of course we are “safer”–the posting of a single security guard at one building’s entrance enhances safety, however microscopically. The correct question is “are the gains in security worth the funds expended?” Or as this absolutely central question was posed shortly after 9/11 by risk analyst Howard Kunreuther, “How much should we be willing to pay for a small reduction in probabilities that are already extremely low?”

Among other things, the report looks at everyone’s favorite DHS boondoggle, the naked radiation scanners at the airport by the TSA. Apparently, DHS was directly told by the GAO to study the cost-benefit and it refused to do so. The same is true of other DHS expenditures:

Indeed, at times DHS has ignored specific calls by other government agencies to conduct risk assessments. In 2010, the Department began deploying full-body scanners at airports, a technology that will cost $1.2 billion per year. The Government Accountability Office specifically declared that conducting a cost-benefit analysis of this new technology to be “important.”12 As far as we can see, no such study was conducted. Or there was GAO’s request that DHS conduct a full cost/benefit analysis of the extremely costly process of scanning 100 percent of U.S.-bound containers. To do so would require the dedicated work of a few skilled analysts for a few months or possibly a year. Yet, DHS replied that, although it agreed that such a study would help to “frame the discussion and better inform Congress,” to actually carry it out “would place significant burdens on agency resources.”

Of course, from a political perspective, this makes perfect sense. It’s all game theory. You don’t get praised and promoted for doing a cost-benefit analysis that saves taxpayer money from wasteful and useless projects if a terrorist attack happens. So the end result is that the incentives for everyone at DHS to just spend as much as possible in the hopes that it stops something, knowing that if anything bad happens (as it inevitably will), all of the blame will go towards anyone who said “we shouldn’t do project x that would have prevented attack y.” 

Of course, the real problem is that this is exactly what our enemies would like. They don’t care about “terror” for the sake of terror. They want the US to spend itself silly to completely bankrupt the country. And it appears to be working. That doesn’t make me feel any safer at all, no matter what the cost.”

Washington Ave. Closure Prompts Increased Taxi Cab Fares

KSTP’s angle: Washington Ave. Closure Prompts Increased Taxi Cab Fares

I get my 8 seconds of fame on the video (available at the link above).

Washington Ave. Closure Prompts Increased Taxi Cab Fares
The permanent closure of Washington Avenue near the University of Minnesota is prompting higher taxi cab fares.
“Red & White Taxi” figures customers needing rides to University hospitals, hotels, or athletic events will likely pay several more dollars per cab ride.
Drivers say Washington was the shortest route to campus and will now have to find longer alternatives.
Analysts say ultimately if driving in the area becomes too cumbersome it may prompt more people to use light rail and rely less on vehicles.