another acknowledgement after many others

Created by mark 10 months ago

I have known Dr Jeremy Toner for around 35 years; he followed three years after me in also graduating from the University of Birmingham’s Economics Department to the MA in Transport Economics at ITS Leeds and then to a PhD at ITS.  I worked with Jeremy on numerous research projects and jointly delivered many editions of successful CPD courses. Undertaking research with Jeremy could be challenging but was often rewarding, as evidenced in my revealed preferences! l learned/benefitted so much from these collaborations - an embarrassingly extensive amount of transport economics and analysis that I should have known or had forgotten - which had a profound and much appreciated impact on my career.

Jeremy often took on a background role in research projects, content to provide technical advice and specialist input without any need for the glory. But there is one particular exception where he took the lead that I believe to be his most significant research contribution.  I was PI and Jeremy was CI on a research council project on SP experimental design in the early 1990s. As was often the case in those days, the ‘balancing act’ of the competing distractions of contract research and the timing flexibilities on research council projects meant it was not making much progress and in serious danger of ending up with nothing much to show for 18 months of funding. Jeremy then took it upon himself to investigate and, what seemed like overnight, he came up with a means of optimising SP designs. Others had developed 'efficient' designs but not the 'optimal' designs of Jeremy.  There is a formula for what Jeremy termed “Magic P” which he did not solve mathematically but quite amazingly just looked at the emerging numbers and came up with it! But it was exactly correct, as he subsequently proved, as the expression for the probabilities in a logit model which maximise the t ratios of estimated coefficients. He then developed a piece of software to implement his optimised method and we used it in the SP course we offered. Jeremy presented the method and the results of some practical applications at a conference. The leading SP practitioner in the world at the time was heard to comment “That Toner is a very clever chap".

In recent years, I published with Jeremy three papers in leading international journals of which I am very proud. All of them to me characterise things I had learned from him. The most significant paper questions the key place of generalised cost within transport demand forecasting, the result of many years of discussions, and the other two cover the challenging and under-researched areas of cross-elasticities between modes and particularly between different ticket types.

In addition to his transport economics expertise, Jeremy had many other notable attributes. He was  a master of the English language, a highly competent musician most notably on the Oboe and Recorder, a fine cook, a connoisseur of cheese, coffee, real ale and obscure pipe tobacco, and someone whose very nature was to help others whether it be union colleagues, refugees at Calais or those less fortunate in life who he came across through his church.  

On a personal level, I have so many, many happy memories of Jeremy. His Christmas cakes were legendary (even to someone who does not like Christmas cake), his home-made Manchester Sausage (yes there is such a thing) had to be treated with culinary respect, the Mackie, May, Preston, Nash and Wardman impersonations would be worthy of inclusion in a Channel 4 comedy programme (well at least for an ITS audience).  We even managed to find Belgian Beer Bars in Taipei and Cape Town long before’t’internet made it all too easy and I enjoyed many happy evenings being introduced to the  delights of real ale in hostelries in Bradford, Leeds and Manchester.  I recall Jeremy debating with KLM staff at Schiphol Airport about the use of the word alstublieft, all with Sir Alan Wilson waiting patiently in the queue behind us, and Jeremy’s ‘enthusiastic’ welcome for the Manchester City team on a very cold November Tuesday night at Valley Parade in 1987 (and the day out to Maine Road later the same season – next to where he was brought up – where I think he was more upset than me and my lads that we had lost). He memorably livened up an ITS Christmas party circa 1990 by getting Tony May to, amongst other things, fish apples out of a bowl of custard with his mouth (well it didn’t do Tony’s career much harm). That after Jeremy had turned up as some obscure super-hero  wearing large green Y fronts over his trousers.  Last but not least, the surreal experience of him examining Nigel Tapley’s PhD dressed in a somewhat ill-fitting Irish tricolour waistcoat whilst standing up and down against a wall because of a back problem and the ITS floorboards squeaking very loudly beneath him – Jeremy completely oblivious of course and the rest of us trying to keep a straight face in the light of his incisive questions!  

In summary, a thoroughly lovable guy and wonderful friend!