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The Role of Transit in Emergency Evacuation
(UAs)4 in the United States—a proxy for those systems serving populations larger than 1 million. The rationale is that many of these areas are vulnerable to major emergencies that could require an evacuation, so they are more likely than smaller UAs to have emergency response and evacuation plans in place. Moreover, many of these areas have sizable transit systems, or even multiple systems, and hence the capacity for transit to play a major role in the event of an emergency evacuation. Therefore, the largest UAs are likely to yield good examples of best practice for other areas.
In light of its charge, the committee focused this study primarily on the role of transit in evacuation, in the transport of emergency personnel and equipment to an emergency site, and in recovery. Several other issues are important to successful emergency response and evacuation, such as sheltering issues (where to take evacuees who use transit) and interfaces with local enforcement officials (to provide security at assembly points and drop-off locations). These issues are noted in the report, but they are not studied in any depth because the committee believes they are tangential to its primary charge.
The study is also focused on major incidents that could necessitate a significant evacuation from the central business district or other location in a UA and in which meeting the associated surge demands and coordination requirements is likely to strain the capacity of a single jurisdiction or transit agency (see Figure 1-1). Emergency responders and the general public are familiar with localized incidents, which are relatively contained, can be handled in a matter of hours, and typically do not involve an evacuation. An examination of larger incidents is more likely to illuminate the command structure, communications systems, and coordination capabilities necessary for transit and other agencies to operate as successful partners in an emergency evacuation.
The primary audiences for this report are congressional staff and the Federal Transit Administration sponsors, as well as transit operators, emergency managers, and state and local departments of transportation. The report
For Census 2000, the U.S. Census Bureau classified as “urban” all territory, population, and housing units located within a UA or an urban cluster (UC). According to the Census Bureau, UA and UC boundaries encompass densely settled territory, which consists of (a) core census block groups or blocks that have a population density of at least 1,000 people per square mile and (b) surrounding census blocks that have an overall density of at least 500 people per square mile.