Friday, November 29, 2013

Planetizen: 'How Many Bicycles Can Park In The Space Required By One Car? Don’t Ask PolitiFact'

Though we think PolitiFact unfairly harms conservatives more than liberals, we recognize that PolitiFact's ineptitude can potentially harm anything it touches.  We have a handy example of that from PolitiFact Oregon, courtesy of Todd Littman and the website Planetizen.

Littman wrote a report that undergirded Democrat Earl Blumenauer's claim that 20 bicycles can park in the space required by one car.

PolitiFact pulled its patented methods of misinterpretation and assumed that the "space required by one car" is a parking space.  Littman explained that his report isn't about parking spaces alone but takes into account the total space of a parking lot on a per-car basis.  He then related how he went through the all-too-typical runaround with the PolitiFact gang trying to get them to see his point and change the ruling.

His dealings with PolitiFact culminated in yet another disappointing exchange with the editor of PolitiFact national, this time with new national editor Angie Drobnic Holan:
I then contacted PolitiFact editor Angie Drobnic Holan, who, after several queries finally replied,
I looked at the report and I didn't see anything that wasn't factually accurate. In addition, the report seemed very thorough. I appreciate that you disagree with the rating, but at the end of the day, the rating is the judgment of the editors.
These responses indicate that the PolitiFact organization has little interest in helping their readers understand complex issues. It is news as sport rather than education. They showed no interest in making the column more accurate and fair by explaining the difference between on- and off-street parking facilities, and admitting that the statement would be "True" for the majority of car parking. Most readers will simply look at the Truth-o-Meter rating, few will understand that the conclusion only applies to a subset of total car parking.
The only way we could imagine PolitiFact could justify its stand was if Blumenauer was clearly talking about an individual parking space.  So we looked up the statement from Blumenauer:
Between 6 and 20 bicycles can be parked in the space required by one car.  The average cost of one parking space for a car in a paved lot is $2,200; in parking garages, a single car space averages $12,500. An independent cost-benefit analysis of Portland Oregon’s Bicycle Master Plan concluded that the plan would lower fuel costs by as much as $218 million (depending on the level of final investments) by 2040. (Journal of Physical Activity and Health, Vol 8 Supplement, January, 2011)
The context supports Littman.  Did PolitiFact object to the difference in cost between a parking space in a paved lot and that same space in a parking garage?  There's no excuse for the disparity in price unless one considers the structures as a whole.

This sort of thing is all too normal for PolitiFact.

We recommend Littman's critique.  He's got all the support he needs for some scathing commentary about PolitiFact.

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