Managing and Financing Urban Public Transport System

Disaster Transit: The New Orleans Experience

Thomas D. Lynch

Cynthia E. Lynch

Peter L.Cruise


Hurricane Katrina was a natural disaster, but it was human error that prevented better management of that disaster. Good management of public transportation in New Orleans was important both before and after the hurricane: public transit should have provided an efficient mans of evacuation before the storm struck, and effective mass transportation is now needed to move workers into and around the city, as a means of reviving the economy and supporting urban redevelopment. the story of New Orleans provides some hard lessons on planning and budgeting issues for transit int he context of a large natural disaster.

This chapter address transit in New Orleans in the wake of Katrina. The first section provides essential background information to help readers understand this case study. The second section explains the role that transit played during and after the hurricane. The third section describes the role of transit in New Orleans. The fourth section explains how state and local leaders reacted to the disaster in terms of New Orleans transit. The fifth section explains the new role of planning in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The sixth section explains the new role assigned to the transit system in New Orleans. The seventh section contrast the Kobe, Japan reaction to its earthquake disaster with that of New Orleans hurricane disaster. The last section provides our assessment of the future of transit in New Orleans, along with recommendation.

This is not a pretty story. In fact, it is a story of failure. As you approach this case, consider this questions. Why was it a failure?, What role did political leadership play in that failure?, What role can urban transit play in a disaster such as Katrina?, What went wrong and why?. We believe there are some valuable lessons to learn from this experience. It is important to look at the institutional, political, and financing failures in Louisiana and consider whether those failures are likely to occur, possibly in a somewhat different manner, in other parts of the world.

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