National Academies Press: OpenBook

Managing Extreme Weather at Bus Stops (2017)

Chapter: Chapter Two - Literature Review

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Suggested Citation:"Chapter Two - Literature Review ." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Managing Extreme Weather at Bus Stops. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24806.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter Two - Literature Review ." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Managing Extreme Weather at Bus Stops. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24806.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter Two - Literature Review ." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Managing Extreme Weather at Bus Stops. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24806.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter Two - Literature Review ." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Managing Extreme Weather at Bus Stops. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24806.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter Two - Literature Review ." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Managing Extreme Weather at Bus Stops. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24806.
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7 chapter two LITERATURE REVIEW Transit agencies face many challenges from extreme weather events. They are attempting to mitigate risk, damage, and liability as they manage operations and provide service to millions of customers each year who depend on service for access to work, medical care, community participation, and entertainment. More people than ever are riding public transit. Unfortunately for transit agencies, the broad impacts of climate change have become a prevalent issue throughout the country as more fre- quent superstorms and snowstorms, as well as specific disasters such as Hurricane Sandy, become more routine. This brings to light how municipalities and transit agencies plan, react to, and promote greater accessibility and safety at bus stops and shelters during extreme weather, with snowstorms providing the most direct threat to accessibility, specifically at bus stops. Nowadays, it is not surprising to read newspaper stories such as, “Weather Extremes Leave Parts of U.S. Grid Buckling,” NY Times, July 26, 2012; “The frequency of extreme weather is up over the past few years, and people who deal with infrastructure expect that to continue. Leading climate models suggest that weather-sensitive parts of the infrastructure will be seeing many more extreme episodes, along with shifts in weather patterns and rising maximum (and minimum) temperatures” (Wald and Schwartz 2014). In 2012, Hurricane Sandy destroyed billions of dollars’ worth of transit infrastruc- ture in the northeastern United States and interrupted service on the New York City subway for days. NJ Transit sustained an estimated $400 million in damages from the same storm (Levin 2012). Although transit agencies across the country have individually been responding to climate change and managing extreme weather at bus stops, U.S.DOT has been providing guidance as it prepares for a new normal of change and more extreme weather. In 2014, U.S.DOT released Climate Adapta- tion Plan 2014 Ensuring Transportation Infrastructure and System Resilience, which recognizes that climate change, including higher temperatures, increased atmospheric water vapor, rising sea levels, and the frequency of extreme weather events, is already occurring and this is expected to continue (U.S.DOT 2014). The plan also recognizes findings from the Third National Climate Assessment, a report created by a team of more than 300 experts that documents the effects of climate change on the nation and provides the public and businesses with recommendations on how to react. This assessment concludes that these changes are the result of increased levels of greenhouse gases from human activity over the past 50 years (Melillo et al. 2014). The report also lists Notable Potential Impacts of climate change on transit: • More frequent and severe flooding of underground tunnels and low-lying infrastructure, requiring drainage and pumping, as a result of more intense precipitation, sea level rise, and storm surge. • Decreased driver and/or operator performance and decision-making skills, resulting from driver fatigue as a result of adverse weather and affected infrastructure. • Increased numbers and magnitude of storm surges and/or relative sea level rise of potentially shortened infrastructure life. • Increased thermal expansion of paved surfaces, potentially causing degradation and reduced ser- vice life, as a result of higher temperatures and increased duration of heat waves. • Higher maintenance and construction costs owing to increased temperatures or exposure to storm surge. • Asphalt degradation and shorter replacement cycles, leading to limited access, congestion, and higher costs as a result of higher temperatures. • Culvert and drainage infrastructure damage because of changes in precipitation intensity or snow melt timing. • Increased risk of vehicle crashes in severe weather.

8 • System downtime, derailments, and slower travel times because of buckling of pavement or rail lines during extremely hot days. • Restricted access to local economies and public transportation. In 2011, FTA, Office of Budget and Policy, published Flooded Bus Barns and Buckled Rails: Pub- lic Transportation and Climate Change Adaptation (2011). Flooded Bus Barns and Buckled Rails was undertaken “to provide transit professionals with information and analysis relevant to adapt- ing U.S. public transportation assets and services to climate change impacts.” The study advocates “taking a risk management approach that mitigates risk without expensively over-engineering assets.” The steps identified in the study for performing risk assessments include: (1) identifying climate hazards; (2) characterizing the risk to agency infrastructure and operations; (3) linking risk mitigation strategies to the organizational structures and responsibilities; (4) implementing adapta- tion plans; and (5) monitoring and reassessing. The report further states that an asset management system offers a streamlined framework for identifying climate risks, tracking climate impacts on asset condition, and incorporating adaptation strategies into capital plans and budgets. The study further provides case studies that illustrate the use of criticality and vulnerability of assets to assess risk. Criteria for assessing criticality of transit assets included the effects on the regional economy with regard to accessibility and emergency evacuation. Examples of vulnerability included the iden- tification of thresholds above which impacts are severe (e.g., inches of rain per hour before drainage systems are overwhelmed) (Flooded Bus Barns and Buckled Rail 2011). This report found that the most notable impacts of climate change on transit infrastructure would be: • Increased temperature, • Sea level rise and higher storm surge, • Storm intensity and frequency that involve: – Increased snow levels per event (emphasized), – More frequent icing events, – Higher wind velocities, – Increased rain and rainfall per event, – Increased lightning, and – Increased flooding frequency and levels. (Flooded Bus Barns and Buckled Rail 2011) Shortly after the release of this report, NJ Transit published a local study, Resilience of NJ Transit Assets to Climate Impacts (2012), which identified projections for current and near-future levels of the indicators of climate impacts (Tables 1–3). The assessment is based on data collected prior to 2012 (Thomson et al. 2012). Although snowfall levels may not be considered a result of global warming, scientific data actu- ally suggests otherwise. Warmer air can hold more moisture, which means that the atmosphere is able to hold more water for longer periods before dropping precipitation. Therefore, although snowfall totals have decreased across most of the country in recent years, the amount of snow that has fallen Years Baseline Increase in days over 90° - Trend High Emissions Increase in days over 90° - Trend Low Emissions % change Trend – High Emissions % change Trend – Low Emissions Avg. TABLE 1 DAYS OvER 90 DEGREES FAHRENHEIT INDICATOR

9 during significant snow events has increased. This implies that intense snowfall is actually more common now and that the number of extreme snowstorms and rainstorms is expected to increase as a result (Union of Concerned Scientists 2015). Figure 1 is a map showing the increases in extreme precipitation throughout the United States from 1958 to 2012 (Melillo et al. 2014). In reacting to the body of research regarding climate change, administrations and government agen- cies across the transportation industry are now taking (or looking to take) steps to prepare for the increasing intensity and frequency of extreme events. FHWA put together a study in 2012, Climate Change Adaptation & Extreme Weather Vulnerability Assessment, which states that, “It is important to recognize . . . that typical historical climate conditions are unlikely to be representative of all future climate conditions” (FHWA 2012). In 2011, FTA designated approximately $1 million in funding for pilot programs to gauge the effectiveness of climate change adaptations. The projects were designed to “advance the state of prac- tice for adapting transit systems to the impacts of climate change” (Alberts et al. 2014). These proj- ects covered seven geographically diverse regions (two of which are discussed in this review) and nine transit agencies. Many of the projects involved identifying the largest vulnerabilities to climate change-related events, including both significant one-time events and long-term overall temperature and climate variations. Examples of identified risks for bus stops in particular included flooding in bus rights-of-way and the necessity of better air conditioning systems on board vehicles. In the Gulf Coast regional pilot, for example, a Climate Change vulnerability Index method was devel- oped to mathematically asses the vulnerability of particular transit assets to future climate change. In this case, the primary variables of interest included future sea level rise, hurricanes, rainfall and flooding, and increases in temperature. The method provided a mathematically sound way to assess the vulnerability of assets in order to ensure that Gulf Coast agencies could quantitatively analyze the risk levels of various transit infrastructures. Specific techniques are detailed in the Gulf Coast Climate Adaptation Pilot Study (Brooks et al. 2013). The Los Angeles pilot program included recommendations for assessing how climate change affects the ultimate goal of a transit system: “to provide convenient and safe mobility options to per- sons who use the system.” The study’s recommendations included conducting surveys to discover how the comfort and safety of customers at particular stops was affected by weather-related trends as well as one-time events (Liban et al. 2013). This is happening at the same time as increased awareness of the direct threat climate change poses to operations of modern infrastructure. This common consciousness of climate change’s effects, along with a shift in the public’s perception on transportation away from exclusively car-based travel TABLE 2 SEA LEvEL RISE IN INCHES TABLE 3 AvERAGE PERCENT INCREASE IN FLOODING FREqUENCY

10 to a mix of transportation modes that incorporate transit, cycling, and walking across modern urban landscapes, and even accessibility standards from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), has put pressure on governments and transit agencies to accommodate modes beyond just automobile travel during such events. The ADA provides particular encouragement for local transit agencies to create higher accessibility standards during extreme weather events. The ADA contains standards for public entities to follow to maintain service accessibility for disabled persons, although they are not consis- tently met by local authorities (Tempey 2016). The ability of agencies and municipalities to keep bus stops accessible during periods of extreme weather affects the daily lives of the millions of people who rely on bus transit. This is not a new problem, although it now occurs more frequently throughout the country. For example, the blizzard of 1969 struck New York City and surrounding areas in February, “. . . eventually killing 42 people . . . and injuring 288 others. The blizzard prompted a political crisis that became legendary in the annals of municipal politics, nearly brought down the administration of Mayor John v. Lindsay, and offered an instructive lesson to elected officials in the politics of snow removal” (Chan 2009). It took days for schools, streets, subways, airports, and other infrastructure to begin to return to normal operation. “There were no buses, taxicabs or delivery vehicles, and no trash or garbage collection for days” (Chan 2009). Similar stories played out in 1979 in Chicago, in 1982 in Denver, and in 1996 in Washington, D.C. Responding to severe weather is a safety, as well as a highly charged, political issue. Agencies and governments are being held accountable for implementing new solutions to adapt to more frequent cases of extreme weather. This is shown in the Gothamist’s article from January 2016, “Most Roads are Clear, Why Not the Crosswalks?,” which expresses the concerns of New York City’s residents about how long it takes the Department of Sanitation (DOS) to clear crosswalks and bus stops as compared with how long it takes to plow roads during snowstorms. The clearing of street corners was in many areas reported to be lackluster, especially in areas of low socioeconomic status (Tempey 2016). Currently, according to the New York City’s Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD), DOS designates priorities in snow removal by first plowing main roads, including expressways FIGURE 1 Observed change in very heavy precipitation across the United States. Courtesy: Third National Climate Assessment (2014). The map shows percent increases in the amount of precipitation falling in very heavy events (defined as the heaviest 1% of all daily events) from 1958 to 2012 for each region of the continental United States. Graphic: National Climate Assessment 2014.

11 and bus routes, for emergency vehicles. Next, heavily traveled local streets are plowed, followed by side streets. Twenty-four to 48 hours after this plowing is complete, laborers are deployed to begin shoveling. Even though bus routes are given priority for clearance after the snow stops, accessibility (especially, but not limited to, elderly and disabled persons) at those stops is not guaranteed until all plowing has been completed, including side streets. The MOPD makes it clear that property owners are not responsible for clearing bus stops, although they are responsible for clearing sidewalks in front of their property. DOS is responsible for clearing bus stops, although the advertising agency that installs and maintains shelters is responsible for keeping bus shelters snow free. Nevertheless, DOS has the authority to issue tickets and is responsible for inspecting streets twice a day and investigating reported violations (Snow Removal Fact Sheet 2016). A similar sharing of responsibility for different parts of the system and a lack of prioritization for the clearing of bus stops appears prevalent in many large agencies across the region, including the New York State Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), Southeastern Pennsylvania Trans- portation Authority (SEPTA), Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority (WMATA), and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA). Social media users and traditional media are known to react a few times each winter to complain about the handling of snow removal at bus stops in their respective cities. The responsible party varies from city to city, and the informa- tion about this responsibility is often not well-posted or well-circulated to the general public. Smaller systems often have shared responsibility for clearing bus stops, and policymakers nationwide desig- nate such responsibility of clearing stops from snow or other weather events to a mixture of property owners, transit agencies, contractors, local authorities, advertising agencies who pay for the privilege of maintaining the stop and shelter, and community groups. Arlington Transit (ART) in virginia has a creative Adopt-A-Stop program that includes bus stop snow removal. Adopt-A-Stop programs are typically agreements by volunteers to pick up litter and assist with other maintenance tasks. At ART, the volunteer’s duty includes “. . . clearing a sidewalk path from the nearest curb ramp to the bus stop and path from the bus stop to the road.” ART provides Snow Removal Guidelines for their three types of bus stops: the regular bus stop with bus stop flag (a non-major, normal stop), major bus stop without a shelter (a busy stop with no shelter), and bus stop with shelter (a busy stop with a shelter) (“Adopt-a-Stop” 2016). Transit systems face the challenges of adapting to changing climate patterns and as they make changes to promote accessibility during weather events they also must plan for the costs associ- ated with damages from such storms. Better tracking of costs accumulated from extreme weather has become an industry standard for modern systems. For instance, SEPTA began using a unique work order number in its system to track the costs of weather events just before Hurricane Sandy; later than most U.S. transit agencies had finished their implementations. This allowed SEPTA to track the costs of the storm’s effects much more effectively than previously, revealing more than $1.3 million in labor costs—approximately ten times more than costs associated with previous storms, which were widely believed to have caused much more damage than Sandy. Collecting this informa- tion provides SEPTA and other agencies with the ability to understand the costs incurred from extreme weather events and better prepare for future events (Asam et al. 2015). In Rochester, New York, the Rochester–Genesee Regional Transportation Authority (RGRTA) is given full responsibility for maintaining and clearing bus stops. Although the city provides plowing services, a spokesperson explained in February 2015 that, “It’s RGRTA’s responsibility to keep those bus stops clear. We [the city] will help out where we can but our main responsibility is keeping those main streets clear, those sidewalks clear” (Taney 2015). RGRTA has stated that they simply do not have the resources to clear their more than 3,800 bus stops during extreme snowstorms. A January 2015 New York Times article “Leaders in NY and NJ Defend Shutdown for a Blizzard That Wasn’t,” mentions that recent challenges such as Hurricane Sandy have left decision makers risk- averse. Extreme weather is now compelling unprecedented decisions to close infrastructure and leave vulnerable populations without service. In that article, Governor Chris Christie defends the decision to curtail services, “We’ve had Hurricane Irene, we’ve had Hurricane Sandy, for better or for worse, we know how to deal with these situations” (Flegenheimer 2015).

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TRB's Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) Synthesis 129: Managing Extreme Weather at Bus Stops documents current practices of transit systems to determine methods and procedures used for maintaining transit stops and associated infrastructure during and following such weather events. This synthesis provides a state-of-the-practice report on transit systems' management of extreme weather events; associated planning; management responsibilities; efforts to respond; standards and specifications; associated legal claims; and communication with customers.

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