On the TTC: 4

Here’s a photo of the offending billboard – swiped from the TTC News Archive. Let’s take the claims one at a time.

1. “Less Traffic:” We can only assume this means less congestion, and not less cars on the road. Here are some numbers from TSRT‘s website: during the past 25 years, road use in Texas increased 95%, and road capacity 8%; during the next 25 years, road use is expected to increase 214%, and road capacity 6%. Seems really dire, right? But these numbers are essentially meaningless on their own; they look scary, and most people don’t understand statistics, so numbers get tossed around (by lots of folk, not just pro-TTC lobbyists) and people are swayed by “lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
How is ‘road use’ defined? Is it the total number of hours spent by Texans on the road? If so, just drivers, or passengers also? Is the number of cars on the road a factor? Is it merely the number of cars on the road, without respect to how much time those cars spent on the road? What roads are getting used? Only highways? What about Farm-to-Market or Ranch roads? City streets?
How is ‘road capacity’ defined? The total number of cars one road could carry at one time? With or without congestion? How is road capacity measured, and by whom? Are our roads at full capacity now? Obviously this depends on the road: I-35 probably is, and maybe I-45, but there are hundreds of miles of smaller highways and farm roads where I could drive for hours without meeting five cars. If all the roads in Texas have been lumped together to come up wit these numbers, they’re basically useless (because the roads they compare are too dissimilar to be compared profitably; think of the street outside your front door and, say, the huge conflux of interstates (30, 35, 45) in downtown Dallas: are they the same?).
Lastly: How much will the TTC increase our road capacity? Let’s be stupidly generous and say it will double our road capacity – an increase of 100%. If our roads are at full capacity now, a 100% increase in capacity still falls woefully short of meeting the 214% increase in road use. There wight be less traffic, but there will still be traffic, which I’m sure TSRT and TxDot know. So the claim of “less traffic,” which to the average motorist means (or is intended to mean) “no traffic,” is one of those wonderfully misleading half-truths.

2. Faster Emergency Evacuations: There are a number of ways to address this claim. The simplest is to point out that, especially in the wake of hurricanes Rita and Katrina, this is a blatant emotional appeal. It may be true – giant roads might make evacuations faster – but it is calculated to bypass the rational mind and cause the viewer to support the TTC on an emotional (and therefore irrational) level. If the pro-TTC camp can get average people to support it in this way, without thinking, they’ve gone a long way towards selling it. Rational thought is the enemy of all bad ideas.
I could take the Al Gore approach and point out that the TTC is going to produce, both during construction and once in use, obscene amounts of pollution, which will contribute to global warming, which will in turn lead to more hurricanes – in which case we will need to evacuate the coast more often. I could also say that, if disaster relief and prevention are such major goals, there are better ways to spend the time and money: restoring (or constructing) barrier islands off the coast, “hurricane-proofing” coastal cities and towns, improving the speed and quality of disaster response agencies, etc. I could, I suppose, ask how many people died as a result of not being able to evacuate, and if improving evacuation times is really the best way to save lives – but that might seem callous, so perhaps I’ll leave that question unasked.

I’ll leave the third claim – “More Jobs!” – for later.

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