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Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Stop Rail Appeal Hearing Set for August 15
By Honolulu Traffic @ 7:48 PM :: 4003 Views :: Rail

Appeal hearing set for Thursday, August 15 in San Francisco

From HonoluluTraffic June 16, 2013

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has set August 15, 2013 as the date for oral arguments in our appeal of Judge A. Wallace Tashima's rulings in our federal case against the City and the Federal Transit Administration. While the time is set for 9:30 AM, there are five other cases being heard ahead of ours. Three of these have maximum argument times of 10 minutes per side, and the other three have limits of 15 minutes per side, and that includes our case. To put these times in perspective, of the 32 appeals being heard during that week only 3 have maximum argument times of 30 minutes per side. Most cases are limited to 10 minutes each side.

The Court does not release the identity of the Judges hearing our appeal until no more than a week before the hearing date. We will post their names as soon as we hear from the Court.

Reason: "Bogus 'Chinatown Bus' Study Exposed"

June 14, 2013

Alert readers of this publication will remember that we have often discussed governments' (City, State, & Federal) wars against privately- provided public transportation (public in this sense used to mean publicly-provided until they had their chance in the 1970s and socialized virtually all of it). The latest war is that against the profitable Inter-City buses, which pose a threat to High-Speed Rail.

Here's the first two paragraphs of what Reason's Robert Poole wrote on the bogus study together with a link to the article he refers to:

"Regular readers know I've been very impressed by the rapid growth of curbside intercity bus companies. The phenomenon started in the late 1990s as entrepreneurs began offering very inexpensive bus service from curbside locations in Chinatown in New York to destinations such as Philadelphia and Washington. Major bus companies responded to these upstarts by creating well-funded competitors such as Megabus (Coach USA) and BoltBus (Greyhound and Peter Pan). Overall, these companies have grown by leaps and bounds over the past decade, becoming the fastest-growing segment of intercity passenger travel.

"But then came a 2011 study by the National Transportation Safety Board that claimed to find that curbside buses were unsafe. The headline number featured in dozens of news stories was that curbside bus companies were "seven times more likely" to be involved in a fatal accident than conventional bus operators. But that study has now been exposed as bogus by Jim Epstein, a producer at Reason.TV (a division of Reason Foundation)."

"NTSB stonewalled Epstein's request for the data on which its conclusion had been based. But after a fruitless six-month wait for the data via a Freedom of Information request, he managed to re-create the data from other sources (including a federal contractor whose accident database included a list of the 37 fatal crashes in the NTSB report). He received assistance in data analysis from Aaron Brown, a quantitative analyst at a hedge fund and also from a statistics professor at Wharton.

"Epstein also obtained a list of the 71 bus companies NTSB classified as curbside and another 51 it classified as conventional. NTSB counted as "curbside" both Greyhound and Peter Pan, as well as several Trailways affiliates—all as conventional as they could be. Its conventional list included a large public transit provider, New Jersey Transit. Of the 37 fatal accidents allegedly occurring on curbside carriers, 24 were actually on conventional Greyhound. Overall, Epstein verified that 30 of the 37 accidents had actually occurred on buses operated by conventional carriers.

"But it gets even worse. When the NTSB analysts calculated accident rates, instead of adding up all the fatal accidents in each category of bus provider and dividing by some kind of normalization factor such as bus miles, NTSB calculated a fatal accident rate for each company—large or small—and then averaged those rates! So not only were the buses mis-categorized, as noted above, but the rate calculations would have been meaningless even had the categories been correct. I have always had high respect for NTSB as a scientifically literate accident investigator. So this bizarre "study" must have some kind of explanation. Epstein speculates that political pressure led NTSB to come up with findings damning the curbside bus industry. He cites a long-running verbal campaign against curbside buses by Sen. Charles Schumer (D, NY), culminating in a letter that he and Rep Nydia Velazquez (D, NY) sent to NTSB demanding a safety study, alleging that it is "an industry that, in many cases, is operating outside the bounds of city, state, and federal transportation guidelines." Needless to say, when the agency's report was released in October 2011, Schumer immediately publicized the bogus "seven times" statistic. It's a sad d ay for transportation when even a well-regarded safety agency can be pushed into supporting a politician's agenda."

You can read a lot more of the gory details in Epstein's account at www.reason.com/archives/2013/05/07/government-assault-on-Chinatown-bus-indu

"The Great Streetcar Scandal that Wasn't"

Reason Foundation wrote the following in their current newsletter

"Despite repeated debunkings, the myth persists that U.S. streetcar systems were dismantled by a conspiracy of auto and oil companies that bought up streetcar companies and replaced the rail vehicles with buses after World War II. In fact, ever since World War I, buses were less costly to operate, and far more flexible, than streetcars, and transit companies were replacing streetcars with buses all during the Depression years. Eric Jaffe does a good job of debunking the myth, drawing extensively on a first-rate article by Cliff Slater in Transportation Quarterly in 1997. You can read Jaffe's excellent overview in The Atlantic Cities, June 3, 2013.

Washington Post slams DC Metrorail as riders abandon it  June 12, 2013

Finally, the Washington Post editorial on Friday describes the DC Metro as "a slow-rolling embarrassment." Here's two paragraphs and a link to the entire editorial:

"Metrorail is a slow-rolling embarrassment whose creeping obsolescence is so pervasive, and so corrosive, that Washingtonians are increasingly abandoning it. Even as ridership climbs on MARC and VRE commuter trains, and holds steady on Metro buses, passengers are deserting Metrorail in droves.

"Over the nine months ending in March,ridership slumped by almost 5 percent, or about 8,000 trips, compared with the same period a year ago. Officially, Metro blames the effects of sequestration. But in a region whose population continues to grow, the exasperations of using Metrorail are undoubtedly a factor prompting passengers to flee — in some cases to bike shares."

The complete Washington Post editorial

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