The National Academies defines resilience as “the ability to prepare and plan for, absorb, respond, recover from, and more successfully adapt to adverse events.” Experience from a range of natural and man-made disasters over the past two decades has highlighted the critical roles transportation systems play during times of emergency and how important robust and functioning transportation systems are to community resilience. Since 2005, researchers at the Voorhees Transportation Center have been working with New Jersey State Police, Office of Emergency Management; New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness; New Jersey Department of Transportation; NJ TRANSIT; county offices of emergency management; and other agencies and authorities to understand transportation system vulnerabilities and to ensure transportation agencies are prepared for and can recover more quickly from emergency events and disasters.
[expand title=”Trans-Hudson Emergency Transportation Plan Update” tag=”div”]
In the wake of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, trans-Hudson River rail and highway transportation were temporarily shut-down, stranding hundreds of thousands of New Jersey and New York commuters. To return home, commuters were forced to rely on a flotilla of passenger ferries and other vessels to cross the Hudson River. In the years that followed, the load-and-go ferry and transit bus operations that emerged in 2001 to meet a critical transportation need were formalized into a series of standard operating procedures known as the Trans-Hudson Emergency Transportation Plan. In 2005, researchers at the Voorhees Transportation Center were tapped to assist the NJ Office of Emergency Management to review, update and exercise the plan.
[expand title=”Customer Perceptions of Transit Security” tag=”div”]
Customer perceptions of transit security vary across demographic and socioeconomic groups, transit modes, and from one geographic region to another. For this study, researchers as the Voorhees Transportation Center reviewed national literature on transit security, implementation, perceptions and public awareness campaigns; analyzed NJT customer complaint data; and, conducted a series of five customer focus groups to investigate how NJ TRANSIT customers feel about transit security issues and the measures used to enhance security. The study concludes with a series of recommendations regarding which elements of a transit security public awareness campaign may be the most successful. Researchers also recommended that transit agencies in the New Jersey/New York metropolitan region explore implementing joint public awareness campaigns with shared slogans, imagery and media strategies as well as creating a universal reporting procedure and phone number that can be used across geographic and institutional boundaries to eliminate unnecessary customer confusion regarding when and who to call to report security concerns.
[expand title=”State of New Jersey Regional Emergency Mass Evacuation Plans” tag=”div”]
Citizen evacuation is a critical capability in emergency preparedness. As part of this project, the Voorhees Transportation Center led a multi-disciplinary team of researchers and practitioners working with the NJOHSP, NJOEM, and New Jersey’s 21 County offices of emergency management to develop all-hazards, four multi-jurisdictional mass evacuation plans covering all of New Jersey. The regional evacuation plans include a comprehensive concept of operations, detailed decision timelines, responsibility assignments, and a series of guidebooks outlining the operational strategies and tactics available to responsible agencies for managing multi-modal evacuation, sheltering, and public communication during disasters. The plans and guidebooks cover long notice, short notice, or no-notice natural and man-made disasters. As part of the study, the research team conducted an extensive literature review, structured interviews, stakeholder outreach, evacuation behavioral surveys, and vulnerability/risk assessments for a range of disaster scenarios, including Category 1-3 hurricanes, wildfires, and winter storm events. The team also developed statewide and regional evacuation transportation planning models and protocols for evacuating critical transportation needs populations.
[expand title=”Emergency Support Function #1 – Transportation Research, Planning, and Operational Support” tag=”div”]
Researchers at the Voorhees Transportation Center currently provide the New Jersey Department of Transportation Office of Emergency Management and its allied agencies, including NJ TRANSIT and the New Jersey Turnpike Authority with support to build the emergency management, operational response, and resiliency planning capacity in the transportation sector. Efforts undertaken by the research team include: a) establishing a statewide ESF1 Operations Coordination Team to foster inter-agency coordination and communication before, during, and after disasters; b) developing a Coastal Storm Bus Mobilization and Operations plan for NJ TRANSIT to support evacuation of critical transportation needs populations in the event of a hurricane; c) developing a standard operating procedures manual to guide DOT emergency operations center activities; d) exercising and revising New Jersey’s five contraflow/reverse-lane plans; e) supporting NJDOT and NJ TRANSIT as part of post-Sandy resiliency and hazard mitigation planning activities; f) serving as a ESF1-Transportation planning cell in the State Emergency Operations Center during disasters and events requiring regional/statewide transportation response.
[expand title=”Extreme Weather and Climate Change: How Prepared is New Jersey’s Transportation Sector?” tag=”div”]
Tropical Storm Irene and Hurricane Sandy highlighted the vulnerability of critical transportation assets throughout New Jersey. This study investigated the current state of resiliency practice among transportation agencies operating in New Jersey and the surrounding region. The work plan included an extensive literature review and series of structured interviews that documented the current state of practice regarding climate adaptation, disaster mitigation, and resiliency planning among transportation agencies operating services or managing infrastructure in and around New Jersey. The research examined gaps in the areas of policy and planning, including research and vulnerability assessment; emergency preparedness and operations; infrastructure maintenance and asset management; and hazard mitigation and infrastructure adaptation. The study culminated with a final report that included a series of recommendations designed to advance policy and practice toward creating more resilient transportation systems, including public transit services and infrastructure.
[expand title=”TCRP A-41: Improving the Resiliency of Transit Systems Threatened by Natural Disasters” tag=”div”]
The resiliency of transit system infrastructure and operations in the face of more frequent extreme weather and a changing climate is emerging as a critical imperative for many public transit operators worldwide. For this National Academy of Sciences study researchers at the Voorhees Transportation are part of a multi-disciplinary team investigating the extent to which transit agencies nationally have adopted resiliency practices in their planning, operations, capital project activities. This research will result in (1) a handbook with an associated suite of digital presentation materials to address planning principles, guidelines (including metrics), strategies, tools, and techniques to enable public transit systems to become more resilient to natural disasters and climatic events; and (2) a draft recommended practice for public transit resilience to natural disasters and climatic events suitable as input to the APTA Standards Program. The handbook and its associated suite of digital presentation materials will be designed for use by public transit agency executive staff to plan, budget, and institutionalize effective practices to improve resilience, addressing (a) capital project planning and asset management (including financial planning and risk assessment for natural disasters and climatic events), (b) operations and maintenance, and (c) administration. They should provide sufficient detail to allow users to adapt them to their individual entities.