and the overall evacuation left thousands of motorists stranded on the highways.

Study Charge, Scope, and Audience

The purpose of this study is to examine how the potentially critical role of transit can best be fulfilled in an emergency evacuation. 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 (see Appendix A).2 Having witnessed the critical role of transit in the events of September 11, Congressman Pascrell noted that redundancy among transportation modes is important in an emergency but that transit is frequently overlooked in emergency planning. Hence, the charge to the committee that conducted this study was to

evaluate the role that the public transportation systems serving the 38 largest urbanized areas in the United States could play in the nation’s security, and …assess the ability of such systems to accommodate the evacuation, egress, and ingress of people to or from critical locations in times of emergency.

For the purposes of this study, transit is defined broadly to include bus and rail systems, paratransit and demand-responsive transit, commuter rail, and ferries, whether publicly operated or privately contracted.3 Highways and their capacity are also considered because many transit systems provide only bus service and must share the highways with private vehicles during an emergency evacuation. Given the resources made available for the study, it is limited to those transit properties serving the 38 largest urbanized areas


 Initially, Congressman Pascrell sought to have security added to the Federal Transit Administration’s New Starts program as a selection criterion. This program helps pay for designing and constructing rail, bus, and trolley projects through federal grants that cannot exceed 80 percent of the estimated net cost of a project. Congressman Pascrell’s proposal failed to garner sufficient votes—thus his decision to recommend a study.


 Transit here does not include services provided by private operators, such as intercity bus, taxi, and shuttle services, although the committee recognizes that they may also play an important role in emergency evacuation.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement