It's been a while since I've posted a pet peeve so here's the one for the month: Why do studies have to exaggerate?
Journalists and regular people too. I read a puff piece in the paper today about how you can save money and oil by using mass transit to commute. That's an obvious truth and well worth an article in the paper from time to time, I guess. Though it's so obvious who's it going to inform?
But my peeve is the exaggeration they use in these things. According to the article people typically save $7,000 a year in gas by using mass transit and they use several people as illustrations and they claim to save $6,000 to $8,000. Then the article goes on to quote a $9,000 annual savings from the American public Transportation Association (who obviously has a vested interest in quoting a high number).
Well... what in hell are these people driving? I get around 30 miles per gallon (actually 33.2 recently) and with gas costing in the $2.40 - 2.65 range, that's roughly 8 cents a mile. So to save the lowest amount, $6,000, I'd have to "not drive" 72,000 miles a year. How many people commute that much?
Given a 5 day work week, 2 weeks off, you have 250 work days a year. That means I'd have to use mass trans 288 miles a day to save that much on gas. And while a lot of people drive big SUVs (shame on you!) which block my view (shame on you again!) they still get at least in the mid teens for gas mileage. That would mean they'd need to avoid driving 145 miles a day to make that $6,000.
So the official estimate of $9,000 savings? Wow. Are those people driving across the state every day?
Making this even sillier, I drive about 12,000 miles a year. At 30+ miles per gallon that means I use about 400 gallons of gasoline annually. That's a cost of roughly $1,200 a year (assuming gas averages 3 bucks a gallon). How in the world can I save multiple thousands a year? Even if you're one of those people always on the road, it's not easy to accumulate that kind of savings---and if you drive that much, a bus probably isn't going to work out for you.
BTW, that's a Red River Hog up there, not a gas hog. Potamochoerus porcus if you want the Latin. Courtesy of the NC Zoo.