Smart, Shared, and Social: Enhancing All-Hazards Transportation Recovery Plans with Demand Management Strategies and Technologies

John MacArthur, Portland State University


Natural disasters, acts of terrorism, and other emergency incidents can affect multiple jurisdictions simultaneously. Major disasters, such as earthquakes, create large-scale impacts that require outside assistance even for the most prepared local public safety and emergency management organizations. The cities, counties, non-governmental organizations, and business-sector stakeholders in a region recognize that they all can more effectively respond to emergencies and facilitate recovery of communities if they prepare together. Regional collaboration in building disaster preparedness capabilities is more cost-effective for taxpayers, develops roles and relationships needed for efficient disaster response and recovery, and increases the ability to involve the whole community in preparedness initiatives. During the past few decades, a number of natural disasters and other emergencies have occurred in various regions in the U.S., and the resulting impacts on the transportation system have been significant. In each case, transportation system impacts included damage to highway and transit infrastructure and significant disruption in travel. A vital component of an emergency management and recovery framework is the transportation network. 

Transit agencies play an important part in all phases of emergency management. Transit has a role to play in mitigation by protecting its own assets and establishing redundant communication systems to help ensure continuity of service. It is crucial that transit agencies should be part of preparedness plans and represented in the emergency command structure. Transit also plays a vital role during the response phase, by both helping to evacuate those without access to a private vehicle and bringing emergency responders and equipment to the incident site. Finally, they can be involved in the recovery phase, reestablishing normal or alternate transit operations and bringing evacuees back to the area. 

The Portland, Oregon, region has learned from past natural disasters and emergency events that there is a clear need for comprehensive emergency preparedness and recovery plans that include robust and coordinated transit and transportation demand management (TDM) elements for the response and subsequent recovery periods. The basic purpose of this project was to integrate organizations that are involved in transit, transportation planning, and TDM with entities that are traditional emergency responders to develop a fully-integrated emergency recovery plan that includes transit providers, TDM providers, social media, and ITS technologies.
The first phase of this project was to develop, test, and refine an integrated allhazards emergency response and recovery transportation plan working directly with organizations that are involved in transit and TDM in the Portland region. The key goal was to address the need for post-disaster access and mobility when infrastructure has been damaged, causing reduced capacity in the system. This all-hazards recovery project looked to guide the City of Portland and TriMet to plan on how they need to think about how the city and region would deploy their human and physical capital with increased effectiveness before, during, and after an emergency. 

The second phase was to develop a training course on emergency transportation recovery planning using the Portland plan as a prototype. The course was tested in Portland, refined, and then offered in six locations across the U.S. The project also included a phase for disseminating lessons learned through research, planning, and tabletop exercises.

Project Details

Project Type:
Project Status:
End Date:
January 31,2018
UTC Grant Cycle:
non-UTC project
UTC Funding: