Assessment of Extreme Weather Events Under Changing Climate on Transit Desert Communities

Extreme weather events like Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Harvey had severe impacts on local communities and their transportation infrastructure. In many cases evacuation out of flooded areas was difficult because of a lack of adequate transportation infrastructure. In this study, a vulnerability assessment will be made by combining storm surge and extreme rainfall projections with the Transit Deserts method that assesses geographic vulnerability, in regards to access to employment and other services that impact quality of life, and transit equity and access. For instance, thousands of residents had no means to evacuate from flooded areas in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina or in Houston during Hurricane Harvey, due to the lack of affordable and available transportation. Thus there is an urgent need to evaluate the vulnerability of transportation infrastructure and mass transit in relationship to climate change and extreme weather. The project tasks of this study are divided in two phases: 1. A preliminary compilation of a transportation risk assessment map for the Houston metropolitan area by synthesizing the Transit Desert method (i.e. transportation, mass transit maps, transportation availability) with storm surge maps (including projected sea level rise), and the 100/500-year flood zone. 2. In a second phase, a larger transportation vulnerability team including experts from environment and transportation stake holders, FEMA, and the NWS will be formed. The assessment team will expand the focus to the New Orleans metropolitan area. For both areas, estimates of transportation needs for rapid and massive evacuation into safe shelters will be developed. The research team will further expand the decision-making tools and the meteorological data by adding change in rainfall pattern and extremes in precipitation due to climate change for these areas.