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The Role of Transit in Emergency Evacuation Summary Transit1 can play a vitally important role in an emergency evacuation, as the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, vividly demonstrated. Following the attack on the World Trade Center during the morning rush hour, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority and New Jersey Transit began shuttling passengers out of Lower Manhattan and also rushed employees, buses, and equipment to the World Trade Center site to support emergency responders. In Washington, D.C., shutdown of the federal government following the strike on the Pentagon clogged local roads, and Metrorail became the mode of choice for transport from the area. In 2005, transit could have played an important role in New Orleans in advance of Hurricane Katrina by assisting in the evacuation of an estimated 100,000 to 200,000 vulnerable residents who lacked access to a private vehicle. A plan for the purpose existed, but it failed utterly when few transit drivers reported to work, transit equipment proved inadequate and was left unprotected, and communications and incident control were nonexistent. Emergency plans that inadequately represent transit or are poorly executed risk significant loss of life, particularly among those who are dependent on transit for evacuation out of harm’s way. Study Charge and Scope The purpose of this study, which was requested by Congress2 and funded by the Federal Transit Administration and the Transit Cooperative Research Program, is to evaluate the potential role of transit systems in accommodating 1 The terms transit, public transit, mass transit, and public transportation are frequently used interchangeably. This study uses the term “transit,” which is broadly defined as indicated in the text. 2 The study request originated with Congressman William Pascrell, Jr., who represents northern New Jersey, and was included in the most recent reauthorization of surface transportation legislation—the 2005 Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users.
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The Role of Transit in Emergency Evacuation FIGURE S-1 Scale of emergency incident and appropriate level of response. (Graphic used with permission of the Maryland Department of Transportation.) the evacuation, egress, and ingress of people from or to critical locations in times of emergency. Its focus is on transit systems serving the 38 largest urbanized areas in the United States—a proxy for those systems serving populations larger than 1 million. Transit is defined broadly to include bus and rail systems, paratransit and demand-responsive transit, commuter and intercity rail, and ferries, whether publicly operated or privately contracted. Highways and their capacity are considered as well because many transit systems provide only bus service and must share the highways with private vehicles in an emergency evacuation. The study is also focused on major incidents that could necessitate a partial to full evacuation of the central business district (CBD) or other large portion of an urban area. Meeting the surge requirements and coordination demands of such incidents is likely to strain the capacity of any single jurisdiction or transit agency and exceed local resources. (See Figure S-1 for examples of incidents of this scale.)
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The Role of Transit in Emergency Evacuation Planning for Major Disasters and Evacuation Each year the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reports on the number of major, presidentially declared disasters—between 45 and 75 annually in recent years—both natural and human caused, that exceed local capacity, require state and federal assistance, and may involve an evacuation. The disasters that have had the greatest impact on emergency management and policy—the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001; Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 and Andrew in 1992; and the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake—are low-probability but high-impact events as regards their devastation. Historical data show that severe storms are the most prevalent disasters, but there is considerable variation among the hazards facing different U.S. regions (e.g., hurricanes along the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts, flooding in the Midwest, earthquakes in California and elsewhere). Certain hazards, such as tropical storms, provide advance notice and recur with some regularity, while others, such as earthquakes and terrorist events, strike without warning. Communities can plan for the former—the Gulf Coast states are a good example, with their designated evacuation routes and shelter systems—but planning for the latter is difficult. The general unpredictability of many hazards, combined with uncertainty about the precise location of an incident and the extent of its impact, leads emergency managers and public safety planners to take an all-hazards approach to emergency planning, scalable to the type and magnitude of a particular disaster. Local governments have primary responsibility for responding to an emergency incident and, if necessary, ordering an evacuation. If an incident overwhelms local capability, mutual-aid agreements with neighboring jurisdictions can be invoked, and in a major event or when special equipment is needed (e.g., U.S. Coast Guard vessels, helicopters), state and federal assistance may be requested. Federal law requires that local emergency planning officials develop emergency plans that include provisions for evacuation and mass departure routes and, since 2006, for assisting populations with special needs, primarily persons with disabilities. Following the confusion that marked the response to Hurricane Katrina, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) designated FEMA as having primary responsibility for providing guidance and technical assistance to state, local, and tribal governments on the development of
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The Role of Transit in Emergency Evacuation Box S-1 Major Elements of Emergency Response and Evacuation Plans and Potential Roles of Transit Emergency plans comprise four major elements: Mitigation: development of measures to reduce the likelihood of damage in the event of a hazard or to lessen its impacts. Preparedness: development of emergency plans and detailed operations plans that provide for a decision-making structure, key agency representation with well-specified roles, communications systems, training and frequent emergency drills, and plan maintenance and revisions. Response: mobilization of first responders, provision of emergency support services at the disaster site, and ordering and carrying out of an evacuation if necessary. Recovery: reestablishment of normal operations and return of evacuees to affected areas. Transit agencies should be part of all four planning elements. Transit has a role to play in mitigation by protecting its own assets (e.g., moving vehicles to higher ground during severe flooding incidents) and establishing redundant communications systems to help ensure continuity of service. Transit agencies should be part of preparedness plans and represented in the emergency command structure. They can also play a vital role during the response phase in both helping to evacuate those without access to a private vehicle and bringing emergency responders and equipment to the incident site. Finally, they can be involved in the recovery phase, reestablishing normal transit operations and bringing evacuees back to the area, if needed. catastrophic mass evacuation plans, and DHS grant funds may now be used for this purpose. What Factors Affect Transit’s Role in Emergency Evacuations? Emergency response and evacuation plans generally comprise four major elements—mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery—and transit has a role to play in each of these areas (see Box S-1). Typically, transportation and transit agencies play a supporting role in an emergency incident. Local emergency managers are responsible for bringing together the right agencies to prepare and plan for the management of a regional incident. Unified
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The Role of Transit in Emergency Evacuation FIGURE S-2 Factors affecting local emergency response capacity. commanders use these plans to manage and coordinate the response to an incident in the field. Police, fire, and emergency medical services—the first responders—generally take the lead in any necessary evacuation. The extent to which transit can be a successful partner in an evacuation depends first on whether a good local emergency response and evacuation plan is in place. As shown in Figure S-2, the major factors affecting a local area’s ability to plan for and respond to an emergency include the type of incident (advance-notice or no-notice); the characteristics of the urban area (e.g., population size and density, socioeconomic characteristics); geographic considerations, in particular any constraints, such as
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The Role of Transit in Emergency Evacuation limited access to a mainland location; institutional and political characteristics (e.g., the number of jurisdictions that must coordinate in an emergency); behavioral characteristics (e.g., the willingness of citizens to heed evacuation orders); and available resources. The participation of transit in an emergency evacuation depends on whether transit agencies are well incorporated into local emergency operational plans, have good working relationships with key local emergency responders and other governmental units, and are well coordinated among themselves and with neighboring transit service providers. The extent of transit involvement also depends on the size and scale of area transit services; the potential demand for those services; and the available supply of transit equipment and personnel at the time of the incident, which could involve the coordinated response of several transit agencies (Figure S-2). How Well Is Transit Incorporated into Local Emergency Evacuation Plans? To address the question of the extent to which transit is incorporated into local emergency evacuation plans, as well as the other parts of its charge, the committee conducted a literature review; performed a summary assessment of publicly available, online emergency response and evacuation plans for the largest urbanized areas; and carried out five in-depth case studies.3 Finding: The majority of the emergency operations plans for large urbanized areas are only partially sufficient in describing in specific and measurable terms how a major evacuation could be conducted successfully, and few focus on the role of transit. Following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, DHS and the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) conducted two comprehensive, peer-reviewed national assessments of emergency preparedness. DHS found that the majority (85 percent) of the emergency operations plans of the 75 largest 3 Site visits were conducted in the Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles–Long Beach–Santa Ana, New York–Newark, and Tampa–St. Petersburg urbanized areas. These sites were selected to represent locations with a high percentage of vulnerable, potentially transit-dependent populations; different regions of the country and types of transit systems; and different local hazards and jurisdictional issues.
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The Role of Transit in Emergency Evacuation urbanized areas it reviewed were only partially sufficient to manage a catastrophic event. The report noted significant weaknesses in evacuation planning. Only a fraction of plans estimated the time required to evacuate those located in different risk zones or incorporated all available modes of transportation; just 8 and 7 percent of plans, respectively, were rated “sufficient” on these two measures. The USDOT study, focused specifically on evacuation plans in the Gulf Coast region, painted a more optimistic picture, perhaps reflecting the recurring hazard—tropical storms—facing that region and recent evacuation experience. USDOT rated state and local emergency plans in the Gulf Coast region “effective” for highway evacuations, and most urban area plans included transit and designated pickup points for carless evacuees. The plan assessment conducted for this study, which was focused specifically on the role of transit in emergency evacuation, found that 11 of the 16 urbanized areas for which emergency evacuation plans were available online mentioned transit, but few provided details about its role. Therefore, the committee was unable to assess reliably from this review the extent to which transit is included in the emergency evacuation plans of the 38 urbanized areas that are the subject of this study. Recommendation 1: Local emergency managers should focus greater attention on evacuation planning as an important element of overall emergency planning and should both determine and incorporate a role for transit and other public transportation providers in meeting evacuation needs. Ensuring that transit is included in evacuation plans is the mutual responsibility of emergency managers and transportation and transit agencies. Finding: Even among localities with evacuation plans, few have provided for a major disaster that could involve multiple jurisdictions or multiple states in a region and necessitate the evacuation of a large fraction of the population. Even in urban areas with comprehensive local emergency response plans, regional evacuation plans are works in progress at best, reflecting
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The Role of Transit in Emergency Evacuation the complexity of planning for large-scale emergencies that cross many jurisdictional and agency boundaries, as well as the questionable feasibility of evacuating major portions of large, highly developed, congested urban areas. The latter point was amply demonstrated during Hurricane Rita, when between 1.5 million and 2.5 million Houstonians took to the road in an attempt to evacuate Harris County with predictable results—massive traffic jams and vehicles that ran out of fuel or broke down for a period of 24 hours or more. Emergency managers recognize that a piecemeal approach of highly localized plans for different emergencies is unlikely to provide for a scalable response should a major disaster occur. Leadership is lacking at the regional level to conduct the requisite planning, however, because no one “owns” the problem. Many transit agencies are regional authorities providing service across jurisdictions and thus have a regional perspective, but their primary mission is not emergency planning or evacuation. Local governments are attempting to fill the gap, but a clear decision-making framework for doing so is lacking, guidance on how to proceed is limited, and funds to defray the costs are insufficient. Thus even when regional initiatives exist, they often lack structure, plans are incomplete, and progress is slow. Recommendation 2a: DHS and FEMA, in conjunction with USDOT, should provide guidance to state and local governments on regional evacuation planning, including the role of transit and other public transportation providers. States should take the lead in ensuring the development of such plans, coordinating with appropriate regional entities. In January 2008, DHS finalized new guidance, including a special mass evacuation annex, as part of the National Response Framework, an update of its guide for all levels of government and the private sector on the conduct of all-hazards incident response. In addition, FEMA released an updated Comprehensive Preparedness Guide (CPG 101) for public comment that provides guidance to state, local, and tribal governments on the preparation of emergency operations plans. Both documents fall short, however, in
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The Role of Transit in Emergency Evacuation providing sufficient detail on the development of mass evacuation plans, such as failing to include a template for a regional plan and the key agencies that should be involved. Greater clarity on the roles and responsibilities of those within DHS who work with state and local governments is also needed. State governments are in the best position to ensure the development of regional plans, working through appropriate regional entities such as metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) and FEMA regional offices. In Florida, for example, the state is working with MPOs to develop an all-hazards, statewide emergency evacuation plan that would link individual county plans. States should also coordinate emergency evacuation plans with neighboring states through state-to-state mutual-aid emergency management assistance compacts that have been in place since 1993, following Hurricane Andrew. Recommendation 2b: Federal funding should be provided for the development of regional evacuation plans that include transit and other public transportation providers. Grant recipients should be required to report on their progress and meet milestones and timetables. DHS has created a new Regional Catastrophic Preparedness Grant Program, funded at $69 million over two years, to support regional allhazards planning for catastrophic events. Grant recipients must contribute 25 percent of the cost, either in cash or in kind, and set milestones, including starting and completion dates for projects. Some of the nation’s largest urban areas are eligible for funding. Such funding should continue to be made available, expanded to include all urbanized areas with populations of more than 1 million, and directed toward regional evacuation planning.4 DHS should track the performance of the first round of grant recipients, report on their progress in meeting milestones and timetables, 4 Other DHS grants (e.g., Urban Area Security Initiative grants) can be used for regional evacuation planning, but they have tended to be focused on other priorities (e.g., counterterrorism) and used for other purposes (e.g., equipment purchases).
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The Role of Transit in Emergency Evacuation and develop a compendium of promising regional evacuation strategies that can be shared with other urbanized areas. How Can Transit Be Better Incorporated into Emergency Evacuation Plans? Finding: In those areas where transit is a full partner in local emergency evacuation plans, transit agencies have been involved in the development of such plans and are part of the designated emergency command structure. The case studies conducted by the committee revealed that those transit agencies most involved in emergency evacuation are an integral part of local emergency evacuation plans and the decision-making structure in an emergency. For example, the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra (commuter rail), and Amtrak are identified as key support agencies in the CBD evacuation plan for the City of Chicago. Each agency has its own detailed emergency evacuation plan, but those plans are consistent with the graduated emergency activation levels of the broader CBD plan—ranging from a minor incident that can be handled locally to a major evacuation that requires extensive support and resources from outside agencies. Transit agencies also coordinate closely with the Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications. In New York, with its heavy reliance on transit, New York City Transit (NYCT) is well integrated into the areawide evacuation plan developed by the NYC Office of Emergency Management. For example, hurricanes represent one of the major threats to the New York metropolitan area. NYCT has developed detailed operating plans for the evacuation of residents in vulnerable storm surge areas for hurricanes of different intensities on the basis of geographically based population estimates provided by the NYC Office of Emergency Management. Another requirement for the successful integration of transit into emergency evacuation plans is providing for transit agencies to be part of the command structure. Under area command and unified area command, a number of incident command posts function to mitigate an incident, direct evacuations, and command responses. Area command communicates with the
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The Role of Transit in Emergency Evacuation emergency operations centers (EOCs) for resource support; transit agencies should report to incident command posts and to the EOCs when they are activated in an emergency incident. All of the sites visited by the committee met this requirement. Finally, in those locations where transit has the most active role in evacuation planning, transit agencies typically have a long history of close working relationships with key local emergency responders. Recommendation 3: Transit agencies should participate with emergency management agencies and departments of transportation when evacuation plans are developed and should be full partners in the command structure established to handle emergency response and evacuation. Box S-2 details the planning requirements for fully incorporating transit into emergency evacuation plans; none of the sites visited by the committee meet all these requirements. To the extent that transit agencies are recognized as full partners in emergency evacuation plans, they will have to shoulder new responsibilities and costs (e.g., training of personnel in emergency response, development of interoperable communications systems) and should therefore be eligible for cost reimbursement along with other first responders. Transit agency personnel should be considered essential personnel, along with representatives of police, fire, and emergency medical services, when asked to assume a major role in an emergency evacuation. What Roles Can Transit Play in an Emergency Evacuation? Finding: Transit can play multiple roles in an emergency evacuation, but these roles depend on the nature of the incident and its location in a region; the availability of transit operators and equipment at the time of the incident; and the extent of damage, if any, to transit equipment and facilities. The case studies conducted by the committee illustrate the breadth of roles that transit can play in an emergency evacuation—the primary focus of this study. For example, transit can play a critical role in evacuating those who lack access to a private vehicle, transporting them either to area
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The Role of Transit in Emergency Evacuation Box S-2 Planning Requirements for Enhancing the Role of Transit in Emergency Evacuation Mitigation Provide for the protection of vulnerable transit equipment and assets in the event of an emergency incident. Provide for redundant transit communications systems. Provide for continuity of transit operations. Preparedness Develop transit emergency evacuation plans consistent with areawide plans. Identify populations likely to depend on transit in an emergency evacuation, and work with area planners to model and estimate the maximum number that could be served. Inventory available transit equipment to determine its capacity for meeting the surge demands of an emergency evacuation. Enter into reciprocal mutual-aid agreements with neighboring transit agencies to help meet capacity shortfalls, including indemnification and funding agreements. Consider the potential for school buses and drivers to meet evacuation transport requirements. Develop a plan for evacuating special-needs populations (see the text for details). Designate assembly points where those special-needs populations who are ambulatory can access transit. Make maps or other information available well in advance of an incident. Consider the destinations of those who will be transported by transit, whether to public shelters or to assembly points outside the affected area for further pickup and transport to final destinations. Consider standby emergency service contracts (including those with the private sector) to fill remaining transit service gaps and help provide for refueling of vehicles operating away from transit agency facilities. Include transit agencies and school districts and private school bus transportation providers in area tabletop exercises and drills for emergency evacuation plans. Response Ensure that transit agencies are represented in the chain of command at incident command posts and report to EoCs when the latter are activated to provide resource support. Ensure that school districts are represented in the chain of command at incident command posts and report to EoCs when the latter are activated to provide resource support.
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The Role of Transit in Emergency Evacuation Provide for real-time communication with transit operators and emergency managers, as well as the public, both in advance of and during an emergency incident. Provide for evacuation of families of transit drivers to ensure the drivers’ availability to transport others in an emergency. Negotiate similar provisions for contracted transit services. Establish a protocol for suspending service in an emergency to protect transit operators and equipment. Coordinate with state and local departments of transportation to provide dedicated lanes to handle return bus trips in an emergency evacuation. Use transit to bring emergency responders and equipment to the incident site. Consider transit agency employees, who are being asked to play a major role in an emergency evacuation, as essential personnel, along with personnel who provide police, fire, and emergency medical services. Recovery Coordinate with emergency managers, public safety planners, and other transit providers to return carless evacuees to their original locations or destinations if possible. Use transit operators and equipment as “eyes and ears” to provide real-time damage assessments. Restart normal transit operation as soon as possible following an emergency, particularly if transport by private vehicles is limited. shelters or to other destinations outside the affected area. Indeed, transit is often the only means of evacuation for vulnerable, carless populations, many of whom may need assistance (see the discussion of this issue below). Transit operators can also transport emergency personnel and equipment to an incident site. After the emergency has passed, transit providers can return carless evacuees to their original destinations, help supply real-time information on the extent of any damage, and resume normal service as quickly as possible to provide transport for area residents. Finding: Emergency managers, elected officials, and the general public should be realistic in their expectations regarding the role transit can play in an emergency evacuation, particularly for a no-notice incident that occurs during a peak service period.
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The Role of Transit in Emergency Evacuation In an evacuation, the vast majority of residents will leave by private vehicle. Providing transit service for the carless or those who do not choose to use their vehicles will require considerable advance planning and coordination with local emergency managers. Meeting these surge requirements will also depend on the availability of transit drivers and the readiness of equipment, especially problematic at off-peak times; prearranged provisions for continuity of contracted transit services; and mutual-aid agreements with other providers to fill service gaps. Even in normal conditions, many urban areas experience severe congestion at peak periods that lasts for several hours each morning and evening during the workweek. Were a major no-notice emergency to occur at these times, the capacity of the transportation system, including transit, would be severely taxed. Finally, the capacity of transit to assist in an emergency evacuation depends on the integrity of the system itself during an incident and the safety of employees and equipment, any of which, if compromised, may necessitate curtailing service. Good planning can eliminate some, but not all, of these limitations. Recommendation 4: To ensure that transit is used to its maximum potential in an emergency evacuation, the EOCs of transit agencies should be linked with those of emergency management agencies. Transit should have the capability for real-time interoperable communications (both voice and data), be part of the decision-making team for emergency operations, develop effective ways of communicating with transit passengers both in advance of and during an emergency, and participate in annual exercises and drills that involve multiple agencies and jurisdictions. Some urban areas have transportation management centers (e.g., Transtar in Houston, TRANSCOM in New York) that play an important role in managing daily traffic and incidents. These centers are a valuable resource in an emergency and should be linked with EOCs if they are not already. Finding: Transit has a unique role to play in evacuating the carless and people with special needs (e.g., the disabled, the elderly, special-needs populations with pets) during an emergency. However, these groups are inadequately addressed in most local emergency evacuation plans.
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The Role of Transit in Emergency Evacuation Both the DHS and USDOT studies previously discussed identified a lack of adequate planning for the evacuation of special-needs populations as a critical shortcoming of emergency operations plans—a finding echoed in numerous other reports, as well as the plan assessment conducted for this study. The definition of special needs itself is problematic, reflecting the diversity of different population groups. Some locations, such as Florida, define special-needs populations as those requiring medical assistance; others use the term more broadly to refer to all those who lack access to a private vehicle. Special-needs populations may also differ in the types of transit service they require in an emergency evacuation. Ambulatory but carless low-income populations can use fixed-route transit service, whereas the elderly, disabled, or medically homebound are likely to require the use of sparsely available paratransit service with accessible equipment and trained operators. Finally, many of these groups may be widely dispersed across an urbanized area, further straining limited transit resources. Among the main problems involved in assisting special-needs populations are (a) identification of their geographic locations and transit needs, and the currency of that information; (b) perceived privacy issues associated with obtaining the information; (c) the availability of adequate equipment to meet special transportation needs at the time of an incident; and (d) the potential for conflicts and shortfalls in service because institutions serving special-needs populations (e.g., nursing homes) frequently contract with the same providers responsible for handling the homebound in an emergency evacuation. Recommendation 5: Evacuation of the carless and those with special needs must be an integral part of evacuation planning, operations, and funding. A public information campaign and sheltering strategy specifically targeting these populations should be developed. The Tampa urbanized area, one of the committee’s case study sites, is notable for its use of transit in the evacuation of special-needs populations and could serve as a model for other areas. Transit service providers, as well as school bus operators, have focused their resources primarily on transporting special-needs populations in an evacuation. The State of
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The Role of Transit in Emergency Evacuation Florida requires that county emergency managers establish voluntary special registries to help identify the medically impaired who need evacuation assistance and that they provide special-needs shelters. Shelter staffing and medical management are the responsibility of county health departments, whose services are reimbursed by the state health department. There have been extensive outreach efforts to inform special-needs populations, as well as the homeless and the disadvantaged, about transportation and shelter resources in an emergency evacuation (e.g., annual multilingual hurricane guides, utility bill flyers, door-to-door contact). Larger urbanized areas, where it is difficult to identify and maintain current information on special-needs populations, have adopted different approaches. In New York, for example, emergency managers encourage special-needs populations to arrange for their own transport in an emergency or to call the citywide 311 number in the event of a major incident, when a last-resort homebound evacuation plan will go into effect. The City of Los Angeles is attempting to create a database using information from social service agencies that serve special-needs populations, but the project is moving slowly because there is no funding to support dedicated, full-time staff to carry it out. Recognizing the limits of paratransit services, emergency managers in Chicago have encouraged complementary self-help measures, including an innovative program involving building managers in the CBD to identify disabled workers and plan for how they would be evacuated in an emergency. How Can the Potential Role of Transit in Emergency Evacuation Be Enhanced? Finding: The capacity and resilience of transit and highway systems as they affect evacuation capability in an emergency incident are poorly addressed in current funding programs. Both the capacity and the resilience of transit and highway infrastructure affect how successfully transit can be used in an emergency evacuation. For example, commuter rail transit can provide rapid transport for large numbers of transit-dependent evacuees; in many urban areas, however, it shares the track with freight and passenger railroads
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The Role of Transit in Emergency Evacuation (e.g., Amtrak), which may limit evacuation capacity. NYCT was recently forced to suspend rail operations when drainage systems were flooded after an intense rainstorm. Although no evacuation was planned, this incident illustrates the vulnerability of an older transit system. At the same time, the redundancy provided by New York’s extensive transit network enabled it to play an important role in the evacuation of Lower Manhattan following the attacks of September 11, 2001. Even in newer areas, such as Houston, with a large bus transit system, capacity constraints can hamper evacuation. This is a particular problem when an evacuation extends to involve suburban and exurban areas, as it did during Hurricane Rita; where highway networks are less well developed; and where intelligent transportation systems (ITS) technologies for managing traffic flows are lacking. Recommendation 6: In the reauthorization of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users, Congress should authorize the Federal Transit Administration and the Federal Highway Administration to make eligible and to fund evacuation-related capacity-enhancement projects aimed at adding redundancy to critical transit and highway infrastructure, respectively, and increase funding for ITS technologies that can enhance network resilience in an emergency. State funds should also be directed to these purposes. “Bricks and mortar” capacity enhancements might include not only adding redundancy to both transit and highway systems but also removing critical traffic bottlenecks on major evacuation routes. Such projects are sometimes controversial and must compete with other budgetary priorities for funding. They stand a greater chance of being funded when they meet multiple objectives (e.g., improve safety and reduce congestion, as well as serve evacuation needs). Operational measures, such as investments in ITS (e.g., cameras, interactive signs), traffic control measures (e.g., contraflow to expedite traffic in an evacuation), and interoperable communications systems to improve situational awareness, can help increase the efficiency and enhance the resilience of existing transit and highway networks in an emergency and should also be funded. Finally, a great deal can be accom-
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The Role of Transit in Emergency Evacuation plished through mutual-aid agreements designed to maximize existing resources. For example, emergency managers in Chicago, a major rail hub, are working with a freight rail carrier group organized to alleviate rail congestion. In the event of an emergency, this group could help clear the tracks for commuter rail through use of the alert system now used to communicate with freight carriers when congestion is heavy. Other examples include mutual-aid agreements among transit providers, particularly in neighboring jurisdictions. These agreements are illustrated by Houston’s arrangement to assist in the evacuation of the residents of nearby Galveston and by Tampa’s coordination with local school districts to evacuate the carless and special-needs populations. Both of these arrangements can help stretch existing resources during periods of surge demand in an emergency evacuation. Research Needs Research is needed to support many of the committee’s recommendations. Network simulation models have been developed and are used by MPOs in some urban areas to model evacuation times and road capacity. Such models should be extended to include transit buses in traffic projections and developed for use in more urban areas. Research is also needed to enhance understanding of the spatial dimensions of the demand for and supply of transit services in an evacuation. Projects could include effective ways to identify general and special-needs populations who are likely to use transit in an emergency evacuation, optimum methods for communicating with these groups both before and during an event, methods for assessing the availability and inventorying the allocation of transit equipment and drivers, and ways to tap the private sector (e.g., rental car and private bus fleets) to assist in evacuation efforts. The conduct of this research, together with implementation of the committee’s recommendations, should go a long way toward ensuring that transit can play a more central role in an emergency evacuation.