ONLY ON 3: Wave’s beach bus numbers fuzzy math


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — You have probably heard about Wave Transit’s proposal for bus routes to the beach. But some claims made by Wave and even county commissioners in support of the plan may be a bit misleading.

In 2008 the UNCW Survey Research Laboratory asked 1,300 people various questions about Wave Transit. Two of the questions asked people whether they approved of bus routes to county beaches. But the results of the survey may not tell the whole story.

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“We did a survey a couple years ago with UNCW,” Eby told WWAY in July. “It was a scientific survey. Eighty-seven percent of folks wanted to see service to the beaches.”

But if you take a closer look at the survey results, that claim is not all it’s cracked up to be.

“It’s simply not true,” blogger and government watchdog Chad O’Shields said. “The community support is not there.”

According to Wave documents, about 1,300 people took the survey, but only 150 responded to the question about the bus routes to beaches, and 130 of those wanted the service.

“To try and say that 130 people some how represent and community of 200,000 is intellectually dishonest at best,” O’Shields said.

New Hanover County resident Tony Mason agrees.

“For anyone who has been to high school or college, that’s an insignificant base to form an opinion on anything,” Mason said.

Eby has used the 87 percent figure in presentations to county and beach town leaders asking for a seven-dollar tax per car registered in New Hanover County to pay for the beach routes.

New Hanover County Commission Chair Jonathan Barfield used the statistic as well. He says he trusted the information that Eby gave him. After looking at the survey results, Barfield admits he was misinformed.

“I don’t think it’s exactly accurate at all,” Barfield said. “And I will tell you from what I’ve heard from the public with the e-mails and the phone calls myself and other commissioners received as well as the beach communities is that at this point in time, bus service to the beaches is not what the public wants.”

We spoke with Eby on the phone today. He admitted that the figure represents just 87 percent of people who answered the question. We asked if we could sit down and talk about it, but he said he was too busy with meetings.

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