I just read an article which described congestion on a particular line in Japan. Currently the trains are running at 200% capacity, but larger trains were introduced and "the crowding was reduced by ten percent". Later they say that "the trains are now crammed to just 190% capacity".

My question is: shouldn't reducing 200 percent by 10 percent yield 180 percent?

EDIT: Apparently the question is being treated as a math question. I don't really see it this way. Unless the original value is known, both answers (190% and 180%) could be correct. But, for some reason in case of this article it is obvious to the commenters that the correct answer os 190%.

EDIT2: Below is an excerpt from the article:

...trains were introduced to the line, and officials are hoping the new carriages, which are a whole 15cm wider, will reduce crowding by ten percent.

  • No. All percentages are on the basis of 'percent of carrying capacity'. – Kris Jul 3 '13 at 6:03
  • Why the downvote? – buskila Jul 3 '13 at 6:06
  • The question is not about the English language, but probably math. See my comment above. – Kris Jul 3 '13 at 6:07
  • The question is about the English language and your comment only proves it. How did you come to the conclusion that "all percentages" are on the bases of 'percent of carrying capacity'? Mathwise it could be either. – buskila Jul 3 '13 at 6:16

[This is likely to be too long for a comment...]

Either the question is about maths, or it's about English. You have asked about the maths; how they get to a result of 190%. That's off-topic.

So if we ignore that and assume it is about English, you can't apply the maths to get 180%.

Trains were 200% loaded; larger trains allowed that to get down to 190%. The difference is 10% of the current carrying capacity, not the original carrying capacity. It's not how one would normally do the maths, but then we're not discussing maths here, are we?

What they are actually describing is the effect on the passengers: overcrowding has reduced from 200% loading to 190% loading.

The use of English is fine: it's all perfectly grammatical.

  • I think the point that about effect on the passengers is the thing here. – buskila Jul 3 '13 at 6:40
  • The difference is not 10% of the current carrying capacity. Let's say the original capacity was 1000 people, & trains are currently carrying 2000 people. Reducing the current 'capacity' by 10% gives 2000-200=1800, which is 180% of the design capacity. – TrevorD Jul 3 '13 at 12:11
  • Original capacity 1000, carrying 2000 (200% loading). Larger capacity 1052, carrying 2000 (190% loading). – Andrew Leach Jul 3 '13 at 12:19
  • Where does "1052" come from. "10% of current capacity" (2000) = reduction of 200 = now carrying 1800 = 180% of design capacity (not 190% as quoted). Also see my answer. – TrevorD Jul 3 '13 at 12:28
  • The article doesn't say how much larger the new trains were. I say they were increased from 1000 to 1052; who's to say that's wrong? And the number they are actually carrying is unlikely to go down. – Andrew Leach Jul 3 '13 at 12:32

What you're running into is a collision between mathematically precise language and everyday language. The authors of the news report are using the % capacity for illustrative purposes, so it probably doesn't matter whether the "real answer" is 180% capacity or 190% capacity. I would guess that what they probably mean is that the bigger trains added 10% more seats and they were fumbling around the appropriate way to describe that.

If you're writing an engineering specification around how big to make the trains, it's important to use more precise language. In a news article? Not so much.

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