Lessons From Katrina: What A Major Disaster Can Teach Transportation Planners

This paper examines failures in Hurricane Katrina disaster response and their lessons for transportation policy and planning in other communities.

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 peoples 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.

[Editor's note: The link below is to a 150K PDF document.]

Thanks to Todd Alexander Litman

Full Story: Lessons From Katrina: What A Major Disaster Can Teach Transportation Planners



Predictable Conclusions

After determining transit dependency contributed to human suffering the author concludes more transit is the answer.

After determining people cannot depend on central plans to protect them the author concludes more central planning is the answer.

After determining that the POV on public roads provided the most mobility and safety in an emergency the author concludes that all other modes need more investment.

For anyone looking for a pattern in this disaster look no further than the criticism heaped upon the New Orleans urban form by the same people precisely advocating that same form known as the Smart Growth solution. Think about it. N.O. had mixed income neighborhoods, high urban density, proscribed urban boundaries, investment in rail transit, and minmal roads capacity. The result was/is equally predictable; concentrated poverty, decaying infrastructure, high crime and congestion.

The lessons to be learned from Katrina as relates to city form are as glaringly obvious as they are exactly the opposite of Todd Litmans predictable one note solution of doing more of whatever fails to work.

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