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August 26, 2011

Is Transit Ready for the ‘Big One?’

by Alex Roman - Also by this author

What a week for the East Coast! First, the region was rocked by a "surprise" 5.8 earthquake, now it is looking in the eye of Hurricane Irene — a "once-every-100-years event," which is expected to impact from down south in the Carolinas all the way up to Maine.

Through it all, public transportation has been there and plans to continue to be there to transport customers and help provide evacuation efforts.

The preparedness of these agencies reminds me of a conversation I had with a CEO from a California public transportation agency when I first started on METRO Magazine. He told me that his agency has to be prepared for anything and everything, especially in the wake of 9/11, the London subway bombings, as well as the ever-looming prospect of natural disasters such as earthquakes.

The best way to be ready, said this CEO, was to devise a plan, practice it and be ready to calmly execute that plan when it's time. Already, in cities including New York and Baltimore, transportation agencies are on alert and putting their emergency plans into effect in preperation for this weekend's hurricane.

What this week's course of events proves, though, is we never know when something out of the ordinary is going to happen. Is your agency ready for the "big one," whatever it may be?

In case you missed it...

Read our METRO blog, "'Protestors bring transit, civil liberties to forefront'"  here.

Alex Roman

Managing Editor


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  • Jan van Eck[ August 26th, 2011 @ 12:20pm ]

    So far, NJ Transit's "plan" is to shut everything down by noon Saturday and provide no service. NYC's "plan" is to shut down the mass transit (subways). Not much of a "plan" to me.

  • Alex Roman[ August 26th, 2011 @ 1:26pm ]

    Good point! But, wouldn't you say without at least having a plan to shut down they could possibly jeopardize lives by continuing to run?

  • Melzer Rafeal (Rafi)[ August 28th, 2011 @ 1:36am ]

    Daer friends in the last 25 years I had beenhead of the planning of the Public Traffic and planning div of the DAN coop the main PT of the center of Israel center and Tel Aviv Region. I still a member of the UITP like to read your Metro Magzin . As to your saefty and security problem it conected to every step that you wont to achieve towards the new customer or P.T Customer or Passengers would like to have or to get the way of security atmosfer and feelings (from all around them than travel time, punctuality well trainned driver.clean bus,and some where information.

  • Jeff Brown[ August 29th, 2011 @ 12:49pm ]

    I was also surprised to find that transit was shutting down ... until I stood outside in it on Saturday night. I'm glad people were told not to go wait on street corners or rail platforms in that wind and rain. I'd like to hear from Jan van Eck who posted before the hurricane: where were you for the storm? Now that the storm has passed, do you still feel transit should have continued to run through the storm?

  • IAROBOSS[ September 7th, 2011 @ 1:34am ]

    It's a matter of balance, isn't it? On 9/11, Port Authority buses in particular perfomed invaluable service rescuing and helping to evacuate people despite the risks. However, with a hurricane coming, you don't want to expose staff or passengers to danger. Where does the need to serve the public balance with the need for protection of people and assets? You do need notice to shut down a train service, for example: crews and trains need to get back to depots. So how do you decide when to shut down - bearing in mind that vulnerable people and people with no choice will be depending on transit?

  • Jan van Eck[ October 19th, 2011 @ 12:20pm ]

    In answer to Jeff brown as to where I was, I was out driving bus right through the thick of it. Remembering that a heavy bus weighs 46,000 lbs (and a railcar can weigh 160,000 lbs), I find the industry reaction to be overblown. And yes, transit should run, particularly subways. If you as manager anticipate that storm surge is going to flood down a street entrance, then sandbag that entrance and bring in some self-contained pumps. A decent 6" pump will keep any such station clear. it is not as if this was Category 4; it was a "tropical storm." Have we become a nation of the timid?

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