“Most romantic ‘L’ station” analysis with faulty generalization

Among other features, Craigslist offers a “missed connections” page where people can try to identify and track down people they ran into in public life. Based on this data, Craigslist recently released a list of the “most romantic” spots in Chicago’s CTA system:

Turns out it’s Belmont. The stop on the CTA’s Red, Brown and Purple lines won the title of Chicago’s most romantic ‘L’ station in a report the Web site released Thursday. The crown for most romantic train line went to the Red Line.

The site did a four-week study this summer of more than 250 missed connections postings (read, “potential hookups”) in Chicago and ranked stations based on a scale called the Train Romance Index Score Total — or TRIST for short.

The TRIST is calculated by dividing the number of missed connections that mention a CTA station or line by the number of riders a year who use that station or line. Then, that number is multiplied by 10 to get a whole number and rounded to two decimal places.

The romantic train line is defined as having the best odds of a passenger spotting another rider across a crowded train or platform and then posting a missed connections listing to get in touch.

The data is limited (a pretty small sample) but the generalization is the biggest issue: does this really reveal what is the most romantic spot on the CTA rail system? It is probably much more indicative of who uses Craigslist (young North-siders?).

My guess is that this was simply meant to be fun and promote Craigslist. But sometimes statistics and arguments like this take on a life of their own…