September 23, 2005

The Hundred-Mile-Long Traffic Jam

"Heeding days of dire warnings about Hurricane Rita, as many as 2.5 million people jammed evacuation routes on Thursday, creating colossal 100-mile-long traffic jams that left many people stranded and out of gas as the huge storm bore down on the Texas coast," says the New York Times report of the desperate attempt to flee in adavnce of the hurricane. "Acknowledging that 'being on the highway is a deathtrap,' Mayor Bill White asked for military help in rushing scarce fuel to stranded drivers."

Even with days of advance warning, it has still proven all but impossible to evacuate major metropolitan areas relying largely on private vehicles. After the crisis eases, this is something officials will have to think long and hard about. Do we try to come up with plans that will allow for reasonable evacuations, that somehow better augment the private automobile/SUV? Do we acknowledge that our current development patterns are dangerous, and work in the long term to make them safer? Or do we basically acknowledge that such widescale emergency evacuation needs are rare and thus accept this inability to get people out in a reasonable manner? Because doing nothing is actually dong the last choice - admitting that we simply can't evacuate a major metro area in any sort of timely fashion.

1 comment:

  1. I think this year is serving as a warning to all the major metro areas and coastal zones to seriously set up a plan
    to prepare for fast, safe evacuation in the event of a disaster (or the preparation for one). This year has proved
    that hurricanes don't just hit Florida and the Carolinas. They can hit other places and do even more damage because
    those areas are not prepared or equipped to handle it. Whether its a natural disaster, a terrorist attack, or some
    sort of localized problem like an explosion- no one is immune and plans need to be made! This is not a joking matter
    anymore. I used to think it was pointless to have "bomb alarm" in my place of work, but not anymore. I'm glad we
    have it. The Courthouse across the street gets bomb threats all the time, who knows when we are next.
    In the case of Katrina and the people of New Orleans who did not have cars to evacuate, you know what my solution was?
    I would've had the car dealers lend thier cars to the car-less people to get out of town. The cars would get damaged
    anyway sitting on the lots, leaking gas everywhere, so why not find drivers to take the car and themselves to safety?