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Extra, Extra: Counting on John, and Giving Life Online

Every weekday’s end, Extra, Extra collects just about everything you ought to care about or ought not miss.

A screengrab from Dave Meslin’s blog, showing inconsistencies he and a team of volunteers found in numbers the City is using to guide its John Street redesign.

  • Last June, when the City released the data it was using to guide its John Street Corridor Improvement Study, Dave Meslin wasn’t buying it. He used a tape measure to show that there’s as much room for bike lanes on John Street as there is on St. George. Now, with a group of volunteers, he’s tackled another set of data used in the City’s study: what portion of trips along John Street are completed by walking, cycling, and driving on a typical weekday morning. Their results indicate that the City’s numbers were more than a little off.
  • Project Neutral hopes to make the Junction and Riverdale Canada’s first urban carbon-neutral communities, by analyzing the neighbourhoods’ current carbon footprints and then working with the community to come up with and implement strategies to reduce emissions. The project is being led by members of CivicAction‘s Emerging Leaders Network.
  • Ontarians who want to give their hearts and other parts to help improve the lives of others can now sign up to be organ donors online, thanks to a new Service Ontario website. The site notes that even if people sign a donor card, they still have to register their consent. Before this site enabled online registration, Ontario residents had to visit an Ontario Service centre or download and mail in a form.
  • They operate in very different arenas, but Toronto’s mayors and hockey players are both a big part of the city’s consciousness. Last fall, Tim Falconer wrote a post for All Fired Up in the Big Smoke that matched up former Toronto mayors and Maple Leafs players, based on various attributes: popularity, effectiveness, or, in the case of David Crombie and Ted Kennedy, perfection. Now, Falconer has updated the post on his own blog to include Rob Ford.

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UPDATE: May 15, 2011, 4:24 PMIn the image this post originally contained, the data for pedestrian and car trips was reversed. Dave Meslin emailed us with the above updated version.


  • g026r

    Their results indicate that the City's numbers were more than a little off.

    Or that they aren't comparing like with like. (The city's numbers are rather sparse in detail as to just how they were gathered.) Really, either conclusion is possible without more information on the city's methodology.

  • Meg_Campbell

    I agree with you that it's unclear how the City got its data, but it was their conclusion in the report, that only 2% of trips on John Street are made on bicycles, and not their methodology that Meslin was testing (though he does ask questions about it in his blog post). And 2% is miles away from what Meslin and co. recorded.

  • Anonymous416

    Glib Star article and even glibber Adam Vaughan dismiss all concerns and data without any argument.

  • torontothegreat

    Maybe cause the way the stats were gathered was a joke?  Even Meslin admits that it wasn't really “scientific” at all.

    “We measured from 7:30am to 9:30am, collecting data at 15-minute intervals.” — One day.

    I agree with Vaugan, the stats were gathered amateurishly and not to standards.  Good linkbait for Meslin though I guess…

  • Anonymous416

    Nice glib dismissal without any argument!

    Are you arguing that:
    1) Meslin's counting crew mis-counted?
    2) Sampling from 7:30-9:30am is wrong?
    3) Sampling on Tuesday June 14th is wrong?
    4) Sampling with clickers and traffic counting forms is wrong?


    5) I don't like the numbers, therefore they're wrong?

    As if Meslin needs “linkbait”. He's only leading about 10 different projects.

  • qviri

    I'd go with data being collected on one day only for a start.

    (To be fair, on a three-minute look I couldn't find how the data in… was collected either.)

  • torontothegreat

    No argument?  What's to argue?  There are standards for counting traffic for a reason.  These standards weren't followed.  Standing on a street corner for 2 hours, one day, with a clicker is not “scientific” or a proper way to do measurement.  In fact it shouldn't even be something worth mentioning, publicly.  Especially if the so called data is being used to discredit other data. Due diligence would have went a long way here. 

    At the very least, Meslin could have Google searched Traffic counting standards and used that as a template.  But h e didn't and that's just plain lazy and ignorant.

    Your numbered red-herrings are ridiculous.  If you read my first post, it's pretty clear what I'm saying.

    As far as linkbait goes.  After reading what you wrote, I'm convinced you actually don't know what it means.

  • Anonymous416

    Yep, one morning's count is just one data point.  The fact that 1500% more people were riding bicycles that morning than the John St. design assumptions would throw a red flag to any scientific-minded person.  That's quite the outlier.

    You aren't alone in not finding the data and methods for the John St. design count.  If you find it, please post a quote.

  • Jeff

    As some one who deals with lots of numbers I think I can provide some extra 2 cents.

    For 1) they are in a cyclist group with a motivation for bias.  But I will trust Meslin as he has made a serious effort.  I'd let this pass unless other data shows otherwise

    For 2) I think the sampling time is right.  It's rush hour and that's the time you want to focus your traffic issues on.

    For 3), one day isn't a good idea.  There should be a full week so you have each day of the week covered.  The traffic from day to day can vary and getting more days gets you closer to a standard deviation.  This is a very important point.  If he did this on several days and showed a consistency he's got a solid argument.

    For 4), it's fine and have no complaints.  A better system would be digital camera snapshots every minute or two.  Even better would be an automated video tracking system that automatically counts cars, bikes and people.  But that's a bit beyond one citizens ability.  Clickers are fine.

    I am impressed with what Meslin did I just think there needs to be a lot more of it, on more streets, and on more days on the same street.  He's also open and transparent about it.

  • torontothegreat

    Exactly what I'd like to see.  IMHO, there is no doubt, the city's numbers seem strange, even by simple observation.

    I applaud Meslin (as I often do), I just feel that this didn't help anything at all.

  • Anonymous416

    Update: The city's Manager for Infrastructure Planning has disowned the “2%” statistic, will soon publish figures and methods from an October 2010 re-count:

    So much for 2%!

  • Bryan Cook

    Depends on where on John Street and what consitutes a trip. If you go to John norht of Queen you will get all the traffic to and from Urbane Cyclist which would through off a proper tally (like having a dealership or valet for cars). As you can see in the report cyclists make up 50% of traffic in that area but around 30% everywhere else.