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19 The response to extreme weather begins well before the event. Such events are identified as extreme weather events by various parties. Twenty-one agencies (66%) determine for themselves whether there is an extreme weather event and if bus stop maintenance is required. Five depend on the munici- pality to make the decision and three rely on the county. One agency reported that it, the municipality, and the county combine to make the decision. In addition, one agency reported that the decision is made by a combination of the municipality, state, and federal government. One agency noted that it does not have to deal with making extreme weather decisions, because â. . . it is always sunny [there].â In general, 26 of the transit agencies (81%) have plans for severe weather. These plans provide a response to snow, ice, rain, wind, heat, and hurricanes and include bus stops. One agency plan includes tsunamis. CASE EXAMPLES: SEVERE WEATHER PLANNING VARIES BY CITY Intercity Transit in Olympia, Washington, operates on snow and ice detours. It will visit all bus stops along the detour and ensure that they are cleared and maintained for customers. In Austin, Texas, the agency pre-treats bus stops with salt and kitty litter to deter ice and slippage. In Phoenix, Arizona, the city recently passed long-term transportation plan Proposition 104, which allocates funds to pro- vide shade, such as vertical shade panels with seating to protect passengers in the early morning and late afternoon, large louver shade screens fitted with fabric canopies and growing vines, and canvas on every one of the Phoenix Public Transit Departmentâs bus stops (Figure 11). At the time of this report, 76% of their stops were shaded, with 950 stops remaining to reach 100%. As discussed in the literature review, shutting down a transit agency in preparation for a storm is a new practice and is done by relatively few agencies, with the largest agencies most likely to do so. Six agencies (19%) reported that they have adopted this practice and these include some of the larg- est agencies in the country: MTA New York City Transit (NYCT), the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), and NJ Transit. Hurricane Irene was the first time for many agencies, including MTA NYCT and NJ Transit, to shut down completely before a storm and the practice con- tinued with Hurricane Sandy so that they could protect transit fleets and infrastructure. This practice has been expanded to include blizzards. CASE EXAMPLE: METROBUS (WMATA)âFOCUS IS ON THE ROADWAYS After the January 2016 blizzard blanketed the Northeast with 2 feet of snow, the Washington, D.C. Metrobus system, administered by WMATA, failed to clear many bus stops, including some major shelters, for days after the snow stopped falling (Figure 12). After snowfall had dissipated by the night of Saturday, January 23, The Washington Post reported that by the following Tuesday âMost area bus stops remain buried in snow or blocked by massive piles of it plowed from the road,â also including that, âconditions are not likely to change this week as the regionâs cleanup efforts are still centered on plowing roadsâ (Lazo 2016). Although Metrobus service, which had been suspended preemptively between January 22 and 23 (the longest shutdown in the systemâs history), was restored on January 24, riders remained chal- lenged when attempting to board those buses that were in service. Many riders were compelled to chapter four SURVEY RESULTS: EXTREME WEATHER PLANNING
20 wait in the street rather than at the bus stops, given that the curb was typically entirely blocked by more than 2 feet of snow, and considering that much of the plowing had pushed snow directly into the paths between the stops and the arriving buses. One Washington Post commenter inquired, âWhat good does it do to clean out a bus shelter and still leave several feet of snow in the curb lane so that a rider cannot even reach the bus?â (Lazo 2016). A path to the bus was not required by WMATA standards during the January 2016 storm. Official recommendations from the agency to customers were to wait at the nearest possible cleared side- walk location to the stop, flag drivers down, and, if possible, navigate around snowbanks to the bus. Drivers were instructed to allow customers to avoid snowbanks to board. âDonât wait in the street!â Metrobus Info urged its Twitter followers. The District of Columbia Department of Transportation reported that by the evening of January 23 500 of its 763 shelters had been cleared by the advertiser responsible for maintaining shelters. No mention was given in the statement regarding stops without shelters. Progress was slower in the sur- rounding regions, with Alexandriaâs (Virginia) bus system, Driving Alexandria Safely Home (DASH), reporting only 12 of 115 bus shelters cleared by the morning of January 24. Alexandria spokesperson Craig Fifer explained that the focus of the municipality was on âmaking residential streets passable for emergency vehicles.â FIGURE 11 Phoenix Public Transit Park and Ride Shade Structure. Source: City of Phoenix. FIGURE 12 Major shelters remained inaccessible to the road for days following the January 2016 storm. Source: The Washington Post.