Don’t Fear The Budget Bus

Jim Epstein tears into the National Traffic Safety Board study (pdf) that concluded that curbside bus companies such as Boltbus, Megabus and the various Chinatown companies “were ‘seven times’ more likely to be involved in an accident with at least one fatality than conventional bus operators”:

The study is bogus. Not only is the “seven times” finding incorrect, the entire report is a mangle of inaccurate charts and numbers that tell us virtually nothing meaningful about bus safety. There’s no evidence that curbside or Chinatown buses are any less safe than any other kind of bus.

How did the study authors figure curbside bus companies are “seven times” more prone to fatal accidents? For starters, they counted 37 accidents during the study period involving curbside buses in which there was at least one fatality. When I rebuilt the study data and contacted the companies involved, I found that, in 30 of those 37 accidents, curbside buses were not involved. In fact, 24 of those 30 misclassified cases involved Greyhound’s conventional bus fleet. (Greyhound’s curbside subsidiary BoltBus had no fatal accidents during the study period.) …

“When I first read the NTSB report, I thought this is just terrible statistics,” says [quantitative analyst Aaron] Brown. “But it goes way beyond that. It’s almost as if someone took some random data and shook it together.”

Previous Dish on curbside buses – “the fastest growing [pdf] form of intercity travel in the U.S.” – here, here, here, herehere and here.