5
Enhancing Transit’s Role

The charge to this committee was to evaluate the role that transit systems could play in accommodating the evacuation, egress, and ingress of people from or to critical locations in times of emergency. The focus of the study was on the transit systems serving the 38 largest urbanized areas (UAs) in the United States and on major incidents that could trigger an evacuation of a major portion of a UA and require coordination of multiple jurisdictions and even multiple states.

In this final chapter, the committee presents its consensus findings and recommendations in response to its charge, along with its principal supporting arguments. The committee’s consensus position was informed by a literature review, briefings at its early meetings, an assessment of the role of transit in the publicly available online emergency response and evacuation plans of the 38 largest UAs, five in-depth case studies conducted for this study, and the committee’s own expertise and judgment.

The chapter starts with a summary of the status of emergency evacuation plans and transit’s role in those plans to set the context for the remainder of the discussion. The planning requirements for successfully incorporating transit as a full partner in planning for an emergency evacuation are then presented, and the range of operational roles transit can play in such an evacuation are discussed, including the unique role of transit in evacuating special-needs populations and the limits to transit’s participation. Next, complementary measures needed to enhance transit’s role are considered. The chapter ends with sections on research needs and next steps for moving forward that can be taken by the different levels of government that should be involved in enhancing transit’s role in emergency evacuation.



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5 Enhancing Transit’s Role The charge to this committee was to evaluate the role that transit systems could play in accommodating the evacuation, egress, and ingress of people from or to critical locations in times of emergency. The focus of the study was on the transit systems serving the 38 largest urbanized areas (UAs) in the United States and on major incidents that could trigger an evacuation of a major portion of a UA and require coordination of multiple jurisdic- tions and even multiple states. In this final chapter, the committee presents its consensus findings and recommendations in response to its charge, along with its principal sup- porting arguments. The committee’s consensus position was informed by a literature review, briefings at its early meetings, an assessment of the role of transit in the publicly available online emergency response and evacu- ation plans of the 38 largest UAs, five in-depth case studies conducted for this study, and the committee’s own expertise and judgment. The chapter starts with a summary of the status of emergency evacuation plans and transit’s role in those plans to set the context for the remainder of the discussion. The planning requirements for successfully incorpo- rating transit as a full partner in planning for an emergency evacuation are then presented, and the range of operational roles transit can play in such an evacuation are discussed, including the unique role of transit in evacuating special-needs populations and the limits to transit’s participa- tion. Next, complementary measures needed to enhance transit’s role are considered. The chapter ends with sections on research needs and next steps for moving forward that can be taken by the different levels of gov- ernment that should be involved in enhancing transit’s role in emergency evacuation. 118 37274mvp130_151 118 11/24/08 11:28:23 AM

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119 Enhancing Transit’s Role Setting the Context The extent to which transit can be a successful partner in an evacuation depends first on good local emergency response plans. Emergency man- agers have the primary responsibility for developing such plans, and police, fire, and emergency medical services personnel have the lead role as first responders in any evacuation that results from a major incident. Transporta- tion and transit play a supporting role, responding to requests for logistical assistance in an emergency evacuation. In practice, transit may be a more (or less) integral part of local emergency response and operations plans. At the outset of this study, the committee planned to review the extent to which transit is included in the emergency evacuation plans of the 38 UAs. However, confidentiality issues prevented the committee from accessing UA- and state-specific information in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS’s) Nationwide Plan Review (DHS 2006), and the alterna- tive approach of accessing and reviewing publicly available online docu- ments yielded incomplete results (DHS 2006). Thus, the committee was forced to draw its conclusions about the status of evacuation planning and transit’s role in those plans from summary data on the larger pool of 75 UAs in the DHS study. Finding: The majority of the emergency operations plans for large urban- ized areas are only partially sufficient in describing in specific and measur- able terms how a major evacuation could be conducted successfully, and few focus on the role of transit. DHS found that the majority (85 percent) of the emergency operations plans of the 75 largest UAs it reviewed were only partially sufficient to man- age a catastrophic event (DHS 2006). The report noted significant weak- nesses 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, respec- tively, were rated “sufficient” on these two measures. None of the plans were rated sufficient in either identifying or addressing the requirements of special-needs populations before, during, and immediately after a cata- strophic event. The related U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) 37274mvp130_151 119 11/24/08 11:28:24 AM

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120 The Role of Transit in Emergency Evacuation study (USDOT 2006), 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 evacu- ation experience. USDOT rated state and local emergency plans in the Gulf Coast region “effective” for highway evacuations, and most UA plans included transit and designated pickup points for carless evacuees. The plan assessment conducted for this study was focused specifically on the role of transit in emergency evacuation in the 33 non–case study UAs. The review found emergency response and evacuation plans for only 16 of the UAs; 11 of these mentioned transit (see Appendix C). However, only seven plans pro- vided sufficient detail to lend credibility to the role of transit in emergency evacuation (see the discussion in Chapter 4). Recommendation 1: Local emergency managers should focus greater attention on evacuation planning as an important ele- ment of overall emergency planning and should both determine and incorporate a role for transit and other public transportation providers in meeting evacuation needs. While recognizing that transit plays a supporting role in emergency response, the committee believes it is the mutual responsibility of transit agencies, as well as emergency managers, to ensure that transit is included in evacuation plans. 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. DHS’s Nationwide Plan Review noted significant weaknesses in evacua- tion planning as an area of profound concern (DHS 2006). Even in UAs with comprehensive local emergency response plans, regional evacuation plans are works in progress at best, reflecting the low probability of a major incident requiring a regional evacuation and the challenges of planning for large-scale emergencies that cross many jurisdictional and agency bound- aries (see Box 5-1). Leadership is lacking at the regional level to conduct 37274mvp130_151 120 11/24/08 11:28:24 AM

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121 Enhancing Transit’s Role Box 5-1 Challenges Posed by Regional Emergency Evacuations Planning and executing a regional emergency evacuation is one of the most chal- lenging tasks facing major urban areas. By definition, a regional evacuation involves multiple jurisdictions and agencies and could even cross state lines. It could be triggered by a major human-caused incident, such as a terrorist attack, or a natural catastrophe, such as a Category 4 or 5 hurricane. These are low-probability but high-impact events. Planning for such incidents poses difficult problems for local emergency plan- ners, and thus it is not surprising that little progress has been made to date. First and foremost, leadership is lacking at the regional level to conduct the requisite plan- ning because, in the absence of a regional governance structure, no one “owns” the problem. Issues that need to be resolved include defining a command structure in the event of a major incident with regional impacts, coordinating an evacuation that seamlessly crosses jurisdictional and sometimes state boundaries, and provid- ing for a parallel real-time regional communications capability. Several of the local emergency managers interviewed for the case studies con- ducted for this report questioned the feasibility of evacuating major portions of large, highly developed, congested urban areas. The difficulty was amply demon- strated during Hurricane Rita, when between 1.5 million and 2.5 million Housto- nians took to the roads in an attempt to evacuate Harris County, with predictable results—massive traffic jams and vehicles that ran out of fuel or broke down for 24 hours or more. In many urban areas, severe congestion at peak periods lasts for several hours each morning and evening, straining the system under normal condi- tions. Thus, emergency managers are attempting to reduce demand for evacuation— for example, by confining the numbers of potential evacuees to those in high-risk areas, such as storm surge zones in a hurricane. Sheltering in place is also being encouraged and may be a safer response in some incidents (e.g., a chemical or radiological release). Nevertheless, emergency managers also recognize that a major disaster requir- ing extensive evacuation could occur and that a shadow evacuation (an over- response or spontaneous evacuation of large numbers of individuals) in response to a major incident could be large. Thus, many emergency managers are attempting to develop scalable emergency response and evacuation plans that could be ramped up in the event of a major disaster. They are also looking to states to help resolve regional coordination issues (e.g., through mutual-aid agreements) and address transportation capacity shortfalls at regional chokepoints through infrastructure improvements (e.g., interchange upgrades) or operational measures (e.g., contra- flow plans). Finally, they are looking to DHS for guidance on regional evacuation planning and funding to help defray the costs. 37274mvp130_151 121 11/24/08 11:28:24 AM

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122 The Role of Transit in Emergency Evacuation the requisite planning because, in the absence of a regional governance structure, no one “owns” the problem. Emergency managers in some of the nation’s largest UAs are also ques- tioning the feasibility of evacuating major segments of highly developed, congested locations, and they are attempting to reduce demand for evacu- ation and encouraging sheltering in place for all but the highest-risk popu- lations. Nevertheless, they recognize that a patchwork of highly localized plans for different emergencies is unlikely to produce a scalable response should a major disaster occur and are attempting to fill the planning gap. Yet 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 planning initiatives exist, they often lack struc- ture, plans are incomplete, and progress is slow. Recommendation 2a: DHS and the Federal Emergency Man- agement Agency (FEMA), in conjunction with USDOT, should provide guidance to state and local governments on regional evacuation planning, including the role of transit and other pub- lic transportation providers. States should take the lead in ensur- ing the development of such plans, coordinating with appropriate regional entities. In January 2008, DHS finalized new guidance and a special mass evacu- ation 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 Com- prehensive Preparedness Guide (CPG 101) for public comment that provides guidance to state, local, and tribal governments on the preparation of emer- gency operations plans. Both documents fall short, however, in providing sufficient detail on the development of mass evacuation plans, such as fail- ing 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. 37274mvp130_151 122 11/24/08 11:28:24 AM

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123 Enhancing Transit’s Role 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, fol- lowing 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 Pro- gram, funded at $69 million over 2 years (fiscal years 2007 and 2008), to support regional all-hazards planning for catastrophic events. Grant recipi- ents 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 UAs with populations of more than 1 million, and directed toward regional evacuation planning.1 DHS should track the performance of the first round of grant recipients, report on their progress in meeting milestones and timetables, and develop a compendium of promising regional evacuation strategies that can be shared with other UAs. Incorporating Transit as a Full Partner in Emergency Evacuation Many transit agencies are regional authorities, providing service across juris- dictions, and thus have a regional perspective that could be useful in develop- ing regional evacuation plans. However, this expertise is not always tapped. Because transit has a supporting role in emergency plans, local emergency managers may not consider the expertise of transit agencies when developing Other DHS grants (e.g., Urban Area Security Initiative grants) can be used for regional evacuation 1 planning, but they have tended to be focused on other priorities (e.g., counterterrorism) and used for other purposes (e.g., equipment purchases). 37274mvp130_151 123 11/24/08 11:28:24 AM

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124 The Role of Transit in Emergency Evacuation those plans. Transit agencies themselves may not view emergency response and evacuation as an important part of their mission. Nevertheless, the case studies conducted for this study provide a number of examples of locations where transit is a full partner in local emergency evacuation plans, and these examples could be instructive for other UAs. 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 for this study revealed that the transit agen- cies most involved in emergency evacuation were an integral part of local emergency evacuation plans and the decision-making structure in an emergency. This was perhaps most evident in Houston, where METRO is an integral partner along with other local emergency response person- nel in local emergency plans. The agency had an opportunity to perform that role in advance of and during Hurricane Rita, evacuating those from Galveston and Houston who chose to use bus transport or lacked access to a vehicle and performing numerous other functions (see Chapter 4 and Appendix D). Some of the most detailed roles for transit are found in the emergency evacuation plans of New York and Tampa for advance-notice hurricane events. At those sites where no-notice incidents are more likely— Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles—emergency plans are more process oriented, focused on clear organization and assignment of responsibilities; mechanisms for coordination of agency personnel and assets; and scalable responses, depending on the magnitude of the incident. Transit agencies have their own detailed emergency evacuation plans, but these plans are consistent with the emergency activation framework of the areawide plan (Chicago), or the areawide plan itself contains a separate transit agency coordination document (New York). Another requirement for the successful integration of transit into emer- gency 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 emergency operations centers (EOCs) for resource support; transit 37274mvp130_151 124 11/24/08 11:28:24 AM

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125 Enhancing Transit’s Role 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. This close collaboration is particularly evident in Houston and Tampa, areas where transit’s role in emergency evacuation has been tested and lessons have been learned. Recommendation 3: Transit agencies should participate with emergency management agencies and departments of transporta- tion when evacuation plans are developed and should be full part- ners in the command structure established to handle emergency response and evacuation. Box 5-2 details the planning requirements for fully incorporating transit into all phases of emergency response and evacuation plans. Many of these ideas were derived from the case studies, although none of those locations had implemented all the requirements. Other requirements were drawn from the experience of committee members. To the extent that transit agen- cies become full partners in emergency evacuation plans, they will assume extensive new mission responsibilities, such as those listed in Box 5-2. New responsibilities will also involve new costs (e.g., training of person- nel in emergency response, development of interoperable communications systems), which, in the committee’s judgment, should make these transit agencies 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.2 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; As essential personnel, transit workers should be included in the first round of inoculations for 2 pandemic influenza or similar situations. 37274mvp130_151 125 11/24/08 11:28:25 AM

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126 The Role of Transit in Emergency Evacuation Box 5-2 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 ambula- tory 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 emergency operations centers 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 emergency operations centers when the latter are activated to provide resource support. (continued) 37274mvp130_151 126 11/24/08 11:28:25 AM

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127 Enhancing Transit’s Role • 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’ avail- ability 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 dedi- cated 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 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. the availability of transit operators and equipment at the time of the inci- dent; and the extent of damage, if any, to transit equipment and facilities. The case studies illustrate the breadth of roles that transit can play in an emergency evacuation (see Chapter 4 and Appendix D). For example, transit can play a critical role in evacuating those who lack access to a pri- vate vehicle, transporting them either to area shelters or to other destina- tions 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 evacu- ees 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. 37274mvp130_151 127 11/24/08 11:28:25 AM

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128 The Role of Transit in Emergency Evacuation 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. 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 (e.g., local school bus dis- tricts, transit agencies in neighboring jurisdictions or states, the private sector) to fill service gaps, including agreements on indemnification and cost reimbursement. Transit would play a very limited role in evacuat- ing patient populations because of the specialized care and transport required. Many UAs 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 capac- ity of the transportation system, including transit, would be severely taxed. Finally, the capacity of transit to assist in an emergency evacua- tion depends on the integrity of the system itself during an incident and the safety of employees and equipment, all of which 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 agen- cies should be linked with those of emergency management agen- cies. 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. 37274mvp130_151 128 11/24/08 11:28:25 AM

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129 Enhancing Transit’s Role The case studies provide good examples of each of these requirements. For example, some UAs have transportation management centers (TMCs) (e.g., Transtar in Houston, TRANSCOM in New York) that play an impor- tant role in managing daily traffic and incidents. These centers are a valu- able resource in an emergency and should be linked with EOCs, either physically or virtually, if they are not already. At a minimum, the EOCs of individual transit agencies should be linked to the main EOC command center at the time of its activation. Fully interoperable communications systems remain a goal but not a real- ity in most of the case study sites, where a variety of devices are used, includ- ing hard-line, cell, and satellite phones; radios; and text messaging systems. In some UAs, major transit agencies are linked through real-time communi- cations networks (e.g., Chicago Transit Alert Network, TRANSCOM in New York).3 Communications between emergency managers and transit provid- ers are generally handled through a transit coordinator at the EOC. Com- munications with the public vary across the case study sites. Transit agencies have an opportunity to educate their customers about what to expect in the event of an emergency, which can be publicized through public service adver- tisements, information provided on trains and buses, and more sophisticated real-time electronic text messages to subscribing customers. Some UAs, such as Tampa, recognize the particular importance of advance communication with special-needs populations served by paratransit and other transit pro- viders to help ensure that these groups and their caregivers are prepared and know what to expect from their transit providers in an emergency evacua- tion. Finally, in many of the case study sites, transit agencies participate in exercises and drills and conduct after-action reviews that, along with transit’s role in transporting passengers to large planned events, test plans and readi- ness levels. 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 The importance of testing such networks, however, was vividly demonstrated in New York during 3 extensive flooding on August 8, 2007, which shut down much of the rail transit system. Lack of communications among Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) agencies made it diffi- cult to assess conditions in real time and provide timely information to customers about service changes. An MTA-wide EOC is being established to redress the deficiencies. 37274mvp130_151 129 11/24/08 11:28:25 AM

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130 The Role of Transit in Emergency Evacuation populations with pets) during an emergency. However, these groups are inadequately addressed in most local emergency evacuation plans. 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 (e.g., Bailey et al. 2007; GAO 2006), as well as the plan assessment and many of the case studies conducted by the committee. The term “special needs” covers a range of population groups that may have differing needs in an evacuation. For example, ambula- tory but carless low-income populations can use fixed-route transit ser- vice, whereas the elderly, disabled, or medically homebound are likely to require sparser paratransit service with accessible equipment and trained operators. Moreover, many of these groups may be widely dispersed across a UA, further straining limited transit resources in an evacuation. 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 serv- ing 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 case studies reveal a range of approaches for handling special- needs populations. The Tampa UA is particularly notable for focusing the resources of transit agencies and school bus operators on evacuating special-needs populations in an emergency, typically a hurricane. The state requires that county emergency managers establish voluntary spe- cial registries to help identify the medically impaired who need evacuation 37274mvp130_151 130 11/24/08 11:28:25 AM

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131 Enhancing Transit’s Role assistance and that they provide special-needs shelters. 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). In contrast to Tampa, the larger case study sites—New York, Los Angeles, Chicago—have found keeping such special registries up to date difficult and have opted for different approaches. They are working with social service agencies, community groups, churches, and paratransit providers that rep- resent various special-needs subgroups—those with disabilities, the elderly (e.g., Meals on Wheels), people living with AIDS, the homeless—to identify those who might need assistance in an emergency. Other options include working with MPOs and local universities to map the general locations of special-needs populations in metropolitan areas (e.g., concentrations of those who are elderly or carless) using geographic information systems and to link local databases of special-needs clients. Other measures involve establishing community emergency response teams and working through trained neighborhood leaders to help educate special-needs populations and their caregivers about disaster response and transportation assistance. Still others involve encouraging complementary self-help measures. Progress is slow, however, and efforts are often piecemeal, suggesting the need for a more integrated strategy, as well as funding to support the gathering of infor- mation about the transportation needs of these populations in an evacuation and targeted public information campaigns. Complementary Transportation System Improvements Transit operates as part of the transportation system in an urban area. Its role in emergency evacuation depends in part on how well that system is functioning. The poor condition and inadequate capacity of transportation systems in both older and newer UAs were raised by all the case study sites as a critical issue affecting evacuation by private vehicle as well as by transit. 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. 37274mvp130_151 131 11/24/08 11:28:26 AM

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132 The Role of Transit in Emergency Evacuation For example, commuter rail transit can provide rapid transport for large numbers of transit-dependent evacuees; in many UAs, however, it shares the track with freight and passenger railroads (e.g., Amtrak), which may limit evacuation capacity. New York City Transit was recently forced to sus- pend 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 redun- dancy provided by New York’s extensive transit network enabled it to play an important role in the evacuation of Lower Manhattan following the terrorist attack 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, Account- able, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users, Congress should authorize the Federal Transit Adminis- tration 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 infra- structure, 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 remov- ing 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, changes in signal timing), and inter- operable communications systems to improve situational awareness, can 37274mvp130_151 132 11/24/08 11:28:26 AM

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133 Enhancing Transit’s Role 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 accomplished through mutual-aid agree- ments designed to maximize existing resources. For example, emergency managers in Chicago, a major rail hub, are working with a freight rail car- rier group organized to alleviate rail congestion. In the event of an emer- gency, 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 evacu- ation of the residents of nearby Galveston and by Tampa’s coordination with local school districts to evacuate the carless and special-needs popu- lations. Both of these arrangements can help stretch existing resources during periods of surge demand in an emergency evacuation. Research Needs Evacuation Modeling The committee noted several areas that would benefit from additional research. First, good evacuation modeling can help inform emergency operations plans, particularly the movement of traffic away from danger- ous areas in an emergency incident. Such models can be particularly help- ful in those areas that do not regularly experience major incidents or large planned events, which provide an opportunity to test evacuation plans in real time. Houston, Chicago, and Tampa drew on network models in developing the transportation component of their evacuation plans. Gen- erally, the MPO handles the modeling, which simulates a large evacuation under varying assumptions about traffic demand and roadway capacity to help determine optimal evacuation routes, estimate regional evacuation times, and test various contraflow options on area highways. Most of the models, however, lack modal detail, particularly regarding the use of buses, and would benefit from this addition. For example, where buses will be used for evacuation from a disaster-affected area and are expected to make return trips, the models could simulate the use of dedicated lanes for both ingress and egress of buses and emergency vehicles to determine optimal 37274mvp130_151 133 11/24/08 11:28:26 AM

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134 The Role of Transit in Emergency Evacuation traffic flows. Houston will be examining the use of high-occupancy vehicle lanes for just this purpose, and this type of information would be useful to transit agencies and emergency managers alike in determining how best to deploy transit and emergency equipment during an evacuation. Spatial Dimensions of Demand for and Supply of Transit Service A second area that could benefit from research is understanding of the spatial dimensions of the demand for and supply of transit service in an evacuation. With respect to the demand side, research projects could help identify effective ways of estimating those in the general population or in special-needs groups who are likely to use transit in an emergency evacu- ation. Locating special-needs groups is a particularly difficult challenge in many UAs. Research could explore the pros and cons of various methods— from use of census data to help pinpoint geographic concentrations of potential transit users (e.g., low-income populations, the elderly),4 to experience with voluntary special registries, to accessing and linking the databases of client groups of social service agencies and paratransit pro- viders so that EOCs could have access to these data in an emergency to arrange for transport with the appropriate transit operator. On the supply side, research could be focused on the best methods for inventorying available transit equipment and drivers by location (e.g., maintenance yards) and time of day to determine how best to muster these resources in an emergency, match them with likely demand for transit service, and keep the information current. The Tampa and Chicago case studies provide good models of possible approaches. In Tampa, for exam- ple, emergency managers in Hillsborough County worked closely with the housing authority to determine the transit needs of public housing resi- dents located in evacuation zones, and transit agencies have planned to expand service in these areas should a hurricane necessitate evacuation. In Chicago, where no-notice events are more common, transit agencies have examined how much transit equipment can be mustered at different A study conducted for the Federal Transit Administration on the status of emergency planning 4 for vulnerable populations in 20 metropolitan areas (Bailey et al. 2007) mapped those living in poverty, low-English-proficiency groups, and zero-car households by census tract for each met- ropolitan area to help locate concentrations of those with special needs who might be potential transit users in an emergency evacuation. 37274mvp130_151 134 11/24/08 11:28:26 AM

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135 Enhancing Transit’s Role operating times, particularly during off-peak hours, when it is more dif- ficult to recall both drivers and equipment to respond expeditiously to an emergency incident. In other UAs, inventorying the location of equipment and fuel can help identify vulnerable locations (e.g., low-lying areas sus- ceptible to flooding) and, together with information on potential transit demand, help in prepositioning equipment for advance-notice events. Given a good inventory of the locations of local transit resources, researchers could also explore various options for meeting driver and equipment shortfalls by calling on neighboring jurisdictions and states and the private sector—a largely untapped resource. Emergency manag- ers in Los Angeles, for example, have begun to explore how assets such as car rental fleets, airport shuttles, taxis, and other private van and bus fleets might be accessed in the event of a major emergency—an approach that could benefit from more research on the most effective methods. The American Public Transportation Association’s web-based national inven- tory of transit property equipment, personnel, and contact information, which can be accessed by participating transit agencies in an emergency, offers another resource (see Chapter 2 for details). Researchers could explore how that database has been used and what enhancements to it make sense. Finally, research on strategies for ensuring emergency work- force availability, particularly transit workers, through evaluation and sharing of best practices could help ensure that more transit agencies will consider adopting such programs. Communications A related area for research is communications, both with the general pub- lic and with special-needs populations, who are especially likely to be tran- sit users in an emergency evacuation. Transit agencies have a customer base and thus an opportunity to educate their customers about how transit operations will function in an emergency and what they can do to access those services. Such advance information could include public-service notices on buses and trains with contact numbers, or pamphlets with an overview of emergency operating principles and maps showing assembly points and staging areas for transit use in an emergency. Real-time informa- tion during an emergency is also critical, and technology is enabling elec- tronic alerts and text messages to registered transit customers, providing 37274mvp130_151 135 11/24/08 11:28:26 AM

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136 The Role of Transit in Emergency Evacuation up-to-the minute information on service and route changes. Providing similar information to many special-needs populations, who may not have access to the latest technology, could require a more concerted effort employing 311 systems, reverse 911, and citizen volunteer groups. The development of communication strategies could benefit from research on best practices that would help identify what works and for what types of emergencies and which population groups. Moving Forward Enhancing transit’s role in emergency evacuation will depend on the actions of many different players. This section revisits the committee’s recommendations from the perspective of who should be involved in moving the recommendations forward. Because local governments have the primary responsibility for responding to an emergency incident and ordering an evacuation if necessary, it is appropriate to begin with the actions that can be taken by local emergency managers, transit agencies, and local departments of transportation. State and federal actions are then discussed. Through concerted local, state, and federal efforts to imple- ment the committee’s recommendations, the full potential of the use of transit in emergency evacuation could be realized. Local Actions With the exception of Recommendations 2 and 6, the committee’s rec- ommendations require the joint action of local emergency managers and transit agencies, which share responsibility for identifying a role for transit and incorporating that role in local area evacuation plans (Recommen- dation 1). Both can help ensure that transit agencies are involved when evacuation plans are developed and the command structure is established (Recommendation 3) and that transit is an integral part of emergency operations plans (Recommendation 4). Local departments of transporta- tion and law enforcement personnel can help move bus and automobile traffic on local evacuation routes through the use of traffic cameras linked to TMCs, expedited traffic signal timing, and traffic control at major inter- sections (Recommendation 6). Transit’s unique role in evacuating special- needs populations will require a focused effort by emergency managers and 37274mvp130_151 136 11/24/08 11:28:26 AM

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137 Enhancing Transit’s Role transit agencies and is likely to involve other groups, such as social service and public health agencies, MPOs, nonprofit organizations (e.g., the Red Cross, local church and citizen groups), and in some cases state agencies (e.g., departments of public health) (Recommendation 5). State Actions State emergency management agencies have a critical role to play, par- ticularly in coordinating with appropriate regional entities (e.g., MPOs, FEMA regional offices) to help local governments develop and imple- ment regional evacuation plans that should include a role for transit (Recommendation 2a). In addition, state departments of transportation are generally responsible for funding and managing operational improve- ments on major evacuation routes, such as contraflow lanes, traffic cam- eras, and interactive signs, as well as large capital improvement projects (e.g., interchange improvements, lane additions) to remove bottlenecks on evacuation routes that can impede traffic flow, including bus traffic (Recommendation 6). State departments of health could play a role in planning for the evacuation and sheltering of special-needs populations through both regulations and cost reimbursement (Recommendation 5). Federal Actions Finally, federal agencies and Congress have a role to play. DHS and FEMA, in conjunction with USDOT, should provide more detailed guidance to state and local governments on how to develop regional evacuation plans that include the role of transit and other public transportation providers (Recommendation 2a). DHS should expand funding of its Regional Cata- strophic Preparedness Grant Program to include all UAs with populations of more than 1 million and develop a compendium of promising regional evacuation strategies (Recommendation 2b). In the reauthorization of surface transportation legislation, Congress should authorize the Federal Transit Administration and the Federal Highway Administration to make eligible and fund evacuation-related capacity enhancement projects that would add redundancy at critical links in transit and highway systems and should increase ITS funding to support operational highway improve- ments that would help in managing bus and private vehicle traffic during an evacuation (Recommendation 6). 37274mvp130_151 137 11/24/08 11:28:27 AM

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138 The Role of Transit in Emergency Evacuation References Abbreviations DHS U.S. Department of Homeland Security GAO U.S. Government Accountability Office USDOT U.S. Department of Transportation Bailey, D., S. Swiacki, A. Byrnes, J. Buckley, D. King, V. Piper, M. Marino, S. Mundle, G. Pierlott, and A. Lynd. 2007. Transportation Equity in Emergencies: A Review of the Practices of State Departments of Transportation, Metropolitan Planning Organizations, and Transit Agencies in 20 Metropolitan Areas. Final Report. FTA-PA-26-8001-2007. Milligan & Company, LLC, and Mundle & Associates, Philadelphia, Pa., May. DHS. 2006. Nationwide Plan Review, Phase 2 Report. June 16. www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/ Prep_NationwidePlanReview.pdf. GAO. 2006. Transportation-Disadvantaged Populations: Actions Needed to Clarify Responsi- bilities and Increase Preparedness for Evacuations. GAO-07-44. Washington, D.C., Dec. www.gao.gov/new.items/d0744.pdf. USDOT. 2006. Report to Congress on Catastrophic Hurricane Evacuation Plan Evaluation, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Washington, D.C., June 1. www.fhwa.dot.gov/reports/hurricanevacuation/. 37274mvp130_151 138 11/24/08 11:28:27 AM