Emergency Traffic Management Tool for the Los Angeles and Long Beach Harbor Area

Since September 11, 2001, transportation agencies and the maritime industry have had to concentrate on safety and security. General awareness has increased, and many protective measures are in place. The United States is a maritime nation. More than 90% of U.S. imports and exports are delivered by ship. Located in one of America's largest and fastest growing urban centers, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, with their vibrant roadways and intermodal transportation links, are major gateways of Sino-American trade. The Los Angeles and Long Beach ports combined are the busiest container ports in North America and are a microcosm of the nation's maritime security challenges including security considerations for containers, cruise terminals, power generation, critical transportation links, and population and financial centers. Keeping the gateways to America secure and guaranteeing the continued flow of commerce is a top priority of government and industry. As container volumes continue to increase at the nation's major gateway ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, state agencies, port authorities, terminal operators, and local and regional landside jurisdictions are grappling to form new institutional arrangements to identify project priorities and funding to improve both safety and security in the goods movement system. In responding to the mandate set by the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002, the Central California Area Maritime Committee (AMSC) was established in February 2004. One of the committee's goals is to advise on the development of a continuous overall port security evaluation process that includes contingency plan development and dissemination of maritime security related material. Moreover, programs in the operative federal highway legislation, SAFETEA-LU, provide incentives for the development and implementation of real-time traffic management systems in all states to enhance security with the capacity to provide pertinent information to the traveling public and emergency responders in the case of an incident, natural or manmade. The Secretary of the Department of Transportation has issued a directive specifically for establishing real-time traffic management capabilities and a standard platform for exchanging transportation system performance information with local and state jurisdictions, as well as with the general public. Currently, standard methods of evacuating vehicles from a potential hazard area at the port involve directing traffic flow towards preset evacuation routes. These evacuation routes are chosen beforehand based on various criteria and made very public. In terms of security, this method works out fine if an "accidental" emergency occurs away from the evacuation routes. However, post 9-11, the maritime community is nowadays quite concerned with man-made disasters instigated by terrorists. In the case of a terrorist attack, a great deal of damage to life and property can be undertaken simply by sabotaging these evacuation routes. Generally, these evacuation routes can quickly become gridlocked in the case of a real disaster; making these preset routes public just allows the enemy to plan more effectively. The key objective of this research will be to deny the enemy the chance to do such damage by researching the possibility of an artificially intelligent traffic management tool. Assuming vehicle drivers follow the instructions given by this tool, preset evacuation routes should become unnecessary and gridlock will be maximally avoided in the transportation network in the case of a disaster. This proposed study will contribute to and support the national efforts underway to enhance port security across the country. This proposed work builds upon METRANS-funded research that has been conducted and is presently under way by the authors. These studies include research currently being completed relating to convoy routing in an emergency environment (METRANS AR 06-03), managing empty container flow in urban commercial corridors using short sea shipping and regional port systems (METRANS 04-05), and a number of other research efforts relating to port operations, including assessing container terminal/port productivity at LA/Long Beach in comparison with other US and international ports (METRANS AR 05-06) and understanding the logistics of empty container flow in Southern California region (METRANS 02-03). The convoy routing study considers a novel mathematical model for routing convoys in an emergency situation. The model as stated contains many fewer variables than any previously presented version of the problem and yet still retains enough complexity to be NP-complete[1]. This reduction in the number of variables makes routing convoys through a disaster environment a potentially tractable problem in real-time using modern computer systems and various artificial intelligence techniques. The short sea shipping and port operations and productivity studies provide a basic understanding of commercial port operations and the characteristics of landside distribution networks in detail and propose a method to manage empty container flows in urban congested commercial corridors using short sea shipping and the regional port systems. The proposed project takes advantage of the knowledge base developed as part of these past and existing efforts, considering the nature of port operations and activities and port-related commercial flows as inputs to the proposed algorithm. Qualitative findings obtained through interviews with study participants and quantitative data arising from the analysis will be presented in a final report and be submitted for publication with relevant academic and industry journals.