New Report - Transportation Lessons Learned From Katrina
Lessons From Katrina: What A Major Disaster Can Teach Transportation Planners
By Todd Litman
This paper examines failures in Hurricane Katrina disaster response and their lessons for transportation policy and planning in other communities. It identifies various policy and planning strategies that can help create a more efficient, equitable and resilient transport system.
The evacuation plan functioned relatively well for motorists, but failed to serve people who depend on public transit. Transport planners can help prevent future disasters by demanding that emergency response plans devote at least as much attention to the evacuation and care of non-drivers as they do to motorists.
Non-drivers include many people with various physical, economic and social problems. Planners need to anticipate these people's needs. This may require special community outreach and communications activities to build understanding and trust among planners and the people they serve.
From a transport planning perspective, the greatest mistake in New Orleans was the lack of a detailed action plan to dispatch buses for evacuating transit-dependent residents. Such a plan would include an inventory of all available buses and essential staff, and pre-established procedures to deploy buses when an evacuation order is announced.
It is important to understand why many people ignored evacuation orders. Many faced logistical or financial barriers obtaining transport out of the city. Many had nowhere to go and were fearful of emergency shelter conditions. Some stayed to protect their property or pets, or out of bravado. Addressing these objections would increase evacuation order response.
A variety of planning policies and programs can help create a more resilient transport system. These increase system diversity and integration, improve user information, prioritize use of infrastructure, and provide special services during emergencies. These can benefit everybody in a community, even people who currently rely on automobile transportation.