Evacuation Preparedness of Public Transportation in Rural Coast Communities of the North Gulf Region

Document Type


Publication Date


Subject Area

place - north america, place - rural, mode - bus, mode - school bus, mode - demand responsive transit, economics - capital costs


Evacuation planning, public transportation and evacuation, rural evacuation preparedness


In 2005, devastating hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit the Gulf Coast of the United States of America, leaving 1,300 people dead, 705 people missing, and destroying over 90,000 square miles of property valued at $80 billion (Nationwide Plan Review-2006). During these natural disasters, coastal communities required mass evacuation and major emergency transportation services, and experienced fuel shortages, traffic congestion, significant delay in civil supplies, frustration and risk during evacuation, and a lack of public transportation for vulnerable populations which literally left them behind. Coastal communities along the I-10 corridor from Florida to Louisiana are predominantly rural. Since the devastating 2005 hurricanes, rural communities within 100 miles of the immediate coastline have experienced rapid growth that has impacted already limited infrastructure. Nearly 40 percent of the country’s transit-dependent population, primarily senior citizens, persons with disabilities, and low-income individuals, live in rural areas. Due to a lack of travel services, rural populations are more automobile dependent than their urban counterparts. When evacuation occurs, rural coastal communities are at high risk and difficult to evacuate in a timely manner due to larger geographical areas, low density and limited resources. Before 2005, public transportation operators in the U.S. did not take the lead on evacuation planning, nor were they viewed as a viable option for evacuation. Now, there is increased national awareness and interest in the role of public transportation in evacuation. Public transportation can perform multiple roles in evacuation and be a successful partner in four tasks of emergency management plans; (1) mitigation, (2) preparedness, (3) response and (4) recovery. Due to public transportation’s capabilities to perform multi-task, it can play an important role in rural communities’ mobilities in emergencies. Now is the time to investigate the role of public transportation and school buses in emergency management for rural areas.


Permission to publish the abstract given by Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University.