Huh?

Okay, so I agree that Atlanta has very bad traffic and long commute times, but something isn’t quite adding up in this story:

Harried commuters, file this bombshell away to stun your neighbors: Metro Atlanta’s counties have some of the worst commuting times among the nation’s major metropolitan areas…

In a survey of 68 cities, Atlanta ranked No. 27, with an average commute of 24.2 minutes.

New York led all categories ó state, county and city ó with the longest commuting times. The national commuting average was 24.3 minutes.

So, essentially, metro Atlanta’s commute time is less than the national average. Wouldn’t that contradict the headline (and first line) claim of the article that “Metro driving times [are] among [the] longest?” Doesn’t that, in fact, put us on the complete other side of the equation – just barely in company with the shorter commute times? (Unless we are looking at the median value – at No. 27 of 68 we are on the longer side of the median – but hardly “among the longest”).

I think that it is just a case of missing information. What I suspect happens in Atlanta is that while there are plenty of people (like me – nyah!) that have 3-5 minute commutes to work, there are also the Gwinnetters and such that have hours upon hours of a commute. And poor Gwinnett. At 31 minutes, they are 18th in the country out of 233 counties. So, what we would want to look at is the standard deviation around the average in order to make claims about long commute times, etc. But the article doesn’t give us that. And by leaving out that sort of information, we are left with hard data (an average) that implies the opposite of what the article is attempting to imply.

Or, we are at least confused. The article, giving it the benefit of the doubt, is saying that some people in Atlanta have really long commute times. But it also tells us that Atlanta as a whole is under the national average. So, on average, Atlantans have a smaller commute time than average.

I don’t know… it’s all very confusing. Maybe they just need to hurry up and build those lanes on 400. Or, even better, fix our public transit system.

4 Comments so far

  1. Tony Simon (unregistered) on March 31st, 2005 @ 8:44 am

    95% of all statistics are meaningless.


  2. Jen (unregistered) on March 31st, 2005 @ 9:41 am

    24.2 is not a long commute time. It takes me a little bit less than that to get from Peachtree Hills to downtown by 9am. The people who whine about their communte are those that live in bumblefuck and have an hour commute. Maybe they should have thought about that before they decided to buy a house in the burbs.


  3. Jessica (unregistered) on March 31st, 2005 @ 11:00 am

    For anyone who wants it, here’s the raw data.

    For the record, when I lived full-time in Park Slope, Brooklyn (Kings County, NY) my commute to mid-Manhattan averaged 50 minutes each way.


  4. Amber (unregistered) on March 31st, 2005 @ 11:05 am

    Amen, Jen!



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