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#1 2005-03-29 13:25:13

Anne
Moderator
Registered: 2004-09-08
Posts: 3,833

SAFEclear success?

This morning the Chronicle ran a story that said Mayor White was going to announce some SAFEclear statistics. 

Matt Bramanti at Lone Star Times has some thoughts on the story that was running earlier this morning.

Now the Chronicle's story includes the details of the mayor's announcement:

Collisions on Houston freeways dropped 12 percent in the first two months of this year compared with the same period in 2003 and 2004, Mayor Bill White announced today, attributing the improvement at least partly to a mandatory towing program that took effect Jan. 1.

The mayor reported 2,177 freeway crashes in January and February of this year, down from 2,489 in the first two months of 2003 and 2,469 last year.

Um, okay.  That's our SAFEclear success?  I was hoping for more.  Can a reduction in collisions really be attributed to SAFEclear?  Apparently so.

And there's this:

"It's easier to get around Houston," said White, who previewed his announcement last week in a meeting with the Houston Chronicle Editorial Board. "Every day people come up to me and other members of council ... and say, 'I notice a difference.' "

Does that seem odd to anyone else?  The statistics are what they are -- why did he need to preview them for the Chronicle's editorial board?  I find that really strange.

Of course, if the Chronicle took one of our suggestions and put editorial meetings on the record, we'd know the answer to those questions.  But as it stands now, it was an exclusive meeting between some very influential people in Houston. 

What was it that the Chronicle was touting recently?  Oh yes -- Sunshine Week for open government.

Let's cut to the chase:  Mayor White desperately needs to sell SAFEclear as a successful program.  We know that other cities are looking at SAFEclear as a model for their own traffic problems, and the mayor may have further political aspirations.  He needs to be able to point to SAFEclear as an example of his innovative and bold thinking, in order to get things done.

I hope the Chronicle won't blindly accept the mayor's announcement without asking some hard questions and doing some thorough checking.  Sunshine Week should also extend to city government.

UPDATE: I've had some time to ponder this and I am completely underwhelmed with the mayor's announcement. Well, guess what? I'm not the only one. Matt Bramanti dissects it:

The Mayor’s office has unveiled statistics "proving" that the Safe Clear program has been an unbridled success. The lack of consistency and detail in these numbers is simply stunning

Follow the link to see his full take.

Also, Chris Baker is talking about the mayor's announcement and he's doing "redneck math." He sounds underwhelmed, too.

UPDATE (03-30-2005) Don't miss commenter Bill F's analysis of the mayor's numbers.







Link to post: http://www.bloghouston.net/item/946

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#2 2005-03-29 17:09:14

Writeacher
Member
From: Spring, TX
Registered: 2004-12-11
Posts: 514
Website

Re: SAFEclear success?

What happened to $AFEclear? It's not a money-maker? One thing it has been is responsible at some level for the death of one man. That's dreadful.

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#3 2005-03-29 17:21:05

Anne
Moderator
Registered: 2004-09-08
Posts: 3,833

Re: SAFEclear success?

Writeacher wrote:

What happened to $AFEclear? It's not a money-maker?

I think that the money-making aspect of it is in doubt.  All the changes that have been made have turned it into a money-loser for the city, I would suspect.

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#4 2005-03-29 19:01:31

Bill F
Member
From: Houston
Registered: 2005-01-07
Posts: 634

Re: SAFEclear success?

I would be willing to bet that the number one cause of accidents declining on the freeways is people having minor accidents, getting out of their car and telling the other driver "let's get the hell off this freeway before the tow trucks get here", and settling up their insurance paperwork somewhere in a parking lot instead.  I also would be willing to bet that there are other factors involved, such as significant construction completions on 45 north and 59 south, which led to the largest reductions on those roads.  I don't believe it is any coincidence at all that the numbers have gone up on 610 North, since major construction has recently started there.  However, until the mayor is willing to release the actual data, it is just speculation on our part.  One part of his cute little hotdog with mustard graphs that I loved was the notation that the data came from HPD and was checked by the finance department.  This is the same finance department that has managed to overestimate sale tax revenue for the last 8 years in a row or something like that isn't it?  Isn't that also the department White used to be a part of during the Brown administration?  Isn't that kind of like asking the fox to guard the hen house?


"Common Sense" is not nearly as common as the name would tend to indicate...

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#5 2005-03-30 16:41:37

Bill F
Member
From: Houston
Registered: 2005-01-07
Posts: 634

Re: SAFEclear success?

Upon further review, the new comical story has a graphic that lets the cat at least partially out of the bag:

http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/front/3108716#

It would appear that the three freeway segments showing dramatic increases in accidents must have been mistakenly left off of the Mayor’s little dog and pony show bar graphs.  Two of the three segments left off of the map include the two segments with the largest percentage changes in number of accidents (610E with an 89% INCREASE and 225 with a 31% INCREASE).  If the Mayor is going to let SafeClear take all of the credit for the decreases in accidents on the other nine segments, he needs to let us know what SafeClear is going to do to correct the accident rates on the other four segments where the number of accidents WENT UP!  If you only look at the percentages, the four segments that went up had a combined increase of 139%, while the 9 segments that decreased had a total decrease of 142%.  Obviously, that isn’t a really valid statistical comparison to make, but isn’t it amazing how good or bad you can make things look when you manipulate the statistics to produce the result you want to show?  I still want to see the raw data, the methodology of what constituted a “freeway accident”, etc.  But somehow, given the regime’s track record with raw data, I doubt anybody outside of the Politburo…err, I mean Chronicle Editorial Board…will ever see that data.


"Common Sense" is not nearly as common as the name would tend to indicate...

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#6 2005-03-30 16:51:04

Anne
Moderator
Registered: 2004-09-08
Posts: 3,833

Re: SAFEclear success?

Thanks for digging through all that, Bill.   You have actually explained it much more clearly than anyone else I've come across.  Too bad you aren't working this story for the Chron.  smile

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