by Brian DuBreuilPosted: Jan 31, 2012 7:37 AM ETLast Updated: Jan 31, 2012 7:37 AM ET
News stories often start with a simple question. More often than not, the answers are far from straightforward.
Take our stories on the high number of accidents involving Metro Transit buses.
Last summer, Bob Murphy did a story revealing that some Metro Transit ferry captains did not meet Transport Canada certification standards. That led to a story about bus drivers texting while driving. And then the question - what is Metro Transit's accident record?
To get that information Bob filed a Freedom of Information request with the city. The question was simple - how many accident reports were filed from Nov. 1, 2010 - Oct. 31, 2011? What he got was a large electronic file, a CD full of accident reports. 663 to be exact.
That's when the hard work began. Every single incident had to be catalogued, reviewed and analyzed. Bob looked for trends in types of accidents, routes, even drivers (for example he found 10 drivers had 5 or more accidents over that one year period).
All that information was then given to our web developer, Dean Gallant, who turned it into an interactive map. If you haven't seen it yet, check it out here. You can search accidents by neighbourhood, bus number, even the days of the week.
But anyone who works with numbers knows raw data needs context, so Bob gathered accident information from five other Canadian transit and compared it to Metro Transit's accident rate. Of those cities, Halifax has one of the worst accident records, in fact, it's almost three times higher than St.Catharines, Ontario.
So why should we care about all this data?
Accidents cost money. Thousands of dollars spent every year on repairs and settlements.
If Metro Transit, and its union, can take steps to reduce those numbers, the money saved could be spent on new bus routes, or expanding service on existing routes, or even keep fare hikes to a minimum.
Here's Bob speaking about the project and his findings on Information Morning.
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