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Old January 9, 2013, 10:52 PM   #1
Aguila Blanca
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I hang my head in abject sorrow. As much as I dislike to admit it, I owe Mayor Bloomberg an apology.

I have written, either on this site or on other sites (or both) that it was safer to attend school in the United States during the month of December than it was to ride a NYC subway. I got curious, and decided to look up some numbers to test the validity of my off-the-cuff statement. And ... I blew it.

According to the ever-reliable Wikipedia, the NYC subway system delivers 5.3 million rides per weekday, 3.0 million per Saturday, and 2.4 million rides per Sunday. Total that all up by the number of days in December of 2012, and we get 138,300,000 rides. There were two murders-by-subway in December, so the probability of being shoved in front of a train during December was 1:69,150,000

For school populations I turned to the U.S. Census data, and the numbers are for October 2011. Best I could do, but probably close enough for comparison purposes. For pre-school through high school, the census data show a total school population of 58,664,000. I admit, that's a LOT lower than I thought it would be, which is perhaps why I was off the mark. And December was a short month, because schools close from Christmas to new Years. So we only had 15 school days during December, rather than a more normal 20 to 21. 15 x 58,664,000 = 879,960,000 kid-school-days. So if 20 kids were killed, the odds were 879,960,000 / 20 which is 1:43,998,000.

So during December the NYC subways were statistically safer than schools across the United States.

But the subway system runs the same ridership (on average) every month, whereas a typical school month has four weeks of classes rather than three. So if we compare to a typical school month, we then get 1,290,608,000 kid-school-days. Divide that by 20 and the odds for being killed change to 1:64,530,400. That's still slightly worse than the probability of being killed by train shoving in a NYC subway, but not by much. The difference is approximately 6 percent.

Is a 6 percent difference enough to justify the Mayor's claim that our schools are unsafe, but his subways ARE safe? I don't think a 6 percent difference, when you're looking at odds such as those, makes any difference at all. Either both are safe, or neither is safe. Hizzoner can't have it both ways.
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Old January 9, 2013, 11:22 PM   #2
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I suspect the subway number would come out to a different number, when applied to the actual ridership statistics(I dont know if closer or further from the school statistic though) . For example, you know the number of rides, but not the actual number of riders. A single trip could wind up being multiple swipes(rides) of the metro card. Or another example would be someone who needed to make multiple transfers would spend more time on the platform than someone riding a single line from point A to B. Some people might take 5 trips, while others 1 etc. But then the probabilities likely get pretty complex to factor in these things.

Also getting pushed off the platform is not the only bad thing that can happen on the subway or platform. The subways are so safe that they wanted a special prosecutor just for crimes on the subway. Granted that's mostly theft, but violent crimes do also occur.
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Old January 10, 2013, 12:03 AM   #3
Aguila Blanca
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Thanks for picking up on that. It just occurred to me that the statistic was for "rides" per day, not "riders." I have no idea what the typical subway rider's itinerary is, or even if there is such a thing as a "typical" subway rider.

I was going to simplify it, since I have nothing better to go on, and this is all based on orders of magnitude rather than an exacting analysis. Let's say "a lot" of NYC subway riders use the subway to get to and from work. For them, that's 2 rides per day ... thus doubling their exposure to being "offed" on the platform. Some people may take only one trip per day, others might take three, or even four or more.

Would anyone object strenuously if I just rounded it to an assumed average of two rides per day per rider?

That would double the probability of being shoved into the path os a train, from 1:69,150,000 to 1:34,575,000. And that's significantly worse than the 1:43,998,000 for school attendance in December.

So my off-the-cuff statement wasn't totally incorrect, and I get to retract my apology to Hizzoner. (Don't I?) Like my very favorite Peanuts cartoon of all time -- the one in which the lovely Lucy VanPelt says, "I'm perfect. I thought I made a mistake once. But I was wrong."

Yes, I certainly know that other crimes occur in the subways, but there are other types of violence and crimes in schools, too. What I was picking up on was the mayor's hypocrisy when, having declared before the Sandy Hook bodies were even cold that America's schools would not be safe until we ban guns, after the second subway shove murder Mr. Bloomberg declared that the subway killings were "isolated instances" and that the subways are safe.

Which, compared to school safety, is simply not true by statistical analysis.
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Old January 10, 2013, 12:21 AM   #4
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Excellent post, great mathematics, and remember, Bloomberg is a rich politician, he needs no one, doesn't care about facts, and the only numbers he worries about is his bank account. BTW, he has three personal body guards and an alert team assigned to him for protection.
The liberties of our country, the freedoms of our civil Constitution are worth defending at all hazards; it is our duty to defend them against all attacks. ~ Samuel Adams ~
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Old January 10, 2013, 12:26 AM   #5
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Of course, it's not just math. Anyone who's ridden an NYC subway in the last few years can tell you why they're so safe.

Because Guiliani did the same thing there that the NRA wants to do to our schools.
Sometimes it’s nice not to destroy the world for a change.
--Randall Munroe
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Old January 10, 2013, 08:21 AM   #6
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Because Guiliani did the same thing there that the NRA wants to do to our schools.
That and the whole creeping incrementalism ideology. I think armed guards are a great idea and will help but we need more than that.
Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It's perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we've learned something from yesterday.
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Old January 10, 2013, 09:51 AM   #7
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You're also not allowing for home schooled kids and dropouts who would be school age, but not school-kids-days attendees.
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Old January 10, 2013, 10:07 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Xaak
No. Let's just have reasonable restrictions on the high capacity trains.
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