Why not use the railroads for Hurricane Evacuation?

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Why not use the railroads for Hurricane Evacuation?
Posted by CMStPnP on Saturday, September 09, 2017 9:41 PM

Every major city seems to have a staging area for tri-level autoracks and unloading of new automobiles.     Why not reverse the flow and use the same area to stage buses or passenger cars from Amtrak.     One of the complaints about evacuating Houston was the Houston Mayor stated there was not enough road capacity headed North of the city.   Just seems they have enough rail lines headed out of the city that could handle a few extra trains.     

Now they did use Amtrak to evacuate New Orleans.    They had shuttle trains between New Orleans Union Station and Downtown Mobile.     Mostly Superliner Coaches.

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Posted by Convicted One on Sunday, September 10, 2017 12:03 PM

My guess is that the time required to set such an operation up would have exceeded the time available. Plus that's pretty much a dead end part of the network, isn't it? Limits in track capacity to get  the required cars down there would conflict with trains making their exit, possibly?

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Posted by BaltACD on Sunday, September 10, 2017 12:26 PM

Don't know FEC's facilities.  CSX has Palm Center auto facility a little North of West Palm Beach.  Single track territory.

         

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Posted by mudchicken on Sunday, September 10, 2017 12:36 PM

...and everybody forgets what happened to Flagler's FEC at the beginning. As the previous posters noted, timing and line capacity have an effect on short term capabilities/planning.

 

(already amused to see the east coast bias of the news media playing out)

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted by petitnj on Sunday, September 10, 2017 1:20 PM

there are 20,000,000 cars in Florida. If you have to evacuate 25% of them you have to move 5,000,000 cars. If you have an 8 lane freeway (all one way), you can move 150,000 cars in one day. It takes 34 days to evacuate. The bottom line is there is no way to evacuate that many people in that limited area. The thought of using public transportation is a joke. The train and bus drivers will leave with their families long before they get a train or bus together. There is not enough warning time to evacuate places like Florida (or Texas) but the officials pretend it can be done. Moving a few 100 autos (or 1000 people) on the train would help but the problem is just too big. 

 

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Posted by Convicted One on Sunday, September 10, 2017 3:10 PM

Let's do a little math?    

 

650,000 people had evacuation orders from Dade county

I believe that the typical Amtrak car holds 75-80 people?

Are there even 8,000 passenger cars left in existence?

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Posted by tree68 on Sunday, September 10, 2017 5:26 PM

Whaddayamean I gotta leave my car behind?  Not happenin', man.

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Posted by erikem on Sunday, September 10, 2017 5:59 PM

In the case evacuation is due in part to severe flooding, evacuating with car will likely mean saving the car. 20/20 hindsight with Harvey and Houston suggests that fewer cars would been totaled by the flooding.

Evacuation by rail might make sense if there is a large inventory of commuter rail cars and the evacuation distance is on the order of tens of miles.

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Posted by Saturnalia on Sunday, September 10, 2017 7:11 PM

petitnj

there are 20,000,000 cars in Florida. If you have to evacuate 25% of them you have to move 5,000,000 cars. If you have an 8 lane freeway (all one way), you can move 150,000 cars in one day. It takes 34 days to evacuate. The bottom line is there is no way to evacuate that many people in that limited area. The thought of using public transportation is a joke. The train and bus drivers will leave with their families long before they get a train or bus together. There is not enough warning time to evacuate places like Florida (or Texas) but the officials pretend it can be done. Moving a few 100 autos (or 1000 people) on the train would help but the problem is just too big. 

You're only figuring 150,000 cars on an 8-lane freeway per day? Sorry but this is a massive lowball. 

I-90 going north from downtown Chicago varies from 8-12 lanes, and there are parts that handle 300,000 vehicles per day. 

So I'd give 250,000 vehicles per day on an 8-lane freeway, at least. This has to keep in mind that these are measurements of an average per day, and surely I-90 does have quiet hours. So in theory with a full-blast 24-hour evacuation where traffic is controlled to limit backups should be able to handle at least 250,000 VPD on an 8-lane. On a typical 4-lane freeway however, that number is going to be much closer to the 150,000 number you quoted. However they could increase this by allowing shoulder driving, assuming the shoulder is wide enough, which on interstates, it usually is. 

 

The key to mass evacuations is advance warning. Not everybody can leave all at once, even in the best circumstances. Obsticles like construction zones need to be removed as much as possible, and there also needs to be a significant amount of thought given to side roads, as they're going to provide, in a place like Florida, as much if not more capacity than the couple of freeways running towards Georgia. 

Also factoring in is fuel, which is why it was headline news that the government was relaxing regulations to get in as much as possible. 

Using rail transportation in an evacuation of an American city just doesn't work in the vast majority of cases, since we simply don't have much for an intercity network. Now perhaps you could dump NYC using the NEC to some extent, but the biggest problem is still track capacity and especially equipment. While personal cars can all go north from Florida, allowing the southbound side to be converted to northbound as well if needed, those cars don't have to double back. If you're going to run evacuation trains, you need to double the equipment back because of the limited amount. Just ask Metra how much that adds to their complexity. 

So I think in the long term the best thing to do is formalize evacuation procedures and routes. Thank goodness today we watch these things fom space. Back in the day it was "uh oh, the barometer is dropping, and here comes a wall of clouds and surf". 

Irma will do a good deal to test Florida's hurricane responses in the social media age, and after years of building post-Andrew. It really is a game of natural selection, structure edition, in these events. 

If you ask me, I'd have banned just about all building on land of less that 15' elevation and on barrier islands, but since we've as a society chosen to do that, we must either engineer for storm surges and flooding or pay the price. 

Getting people out just saves the human cost. Economic costs will be huge, but that's only because we built up a low-lying peninsula in the middle of the world's second busiest Hurricane alley. 

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Posted by tree68 on Sunday, September 10, 2017 7:30 PM

One of the design considerations of the early Interstate Highway System was high-speed evacuation of population centers.  That's why the roads were generally engineered for speeds in excess of 70 MPH.

Construction notwithstanding, we all know what will happen when one doofus causes a fender-bender that ties up all the lanes.  Or even one lane.  It all turns into a linear parking lot.

That said, in 1960 there were only 60 million cars registered nationwide.  in 2017, there were 20 million registered just in Florida.  There have been some quantum increases in highway capacity, but...

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Posted by CShaveRR on Sunday, September 10, 2017 7:58 PM

The likely scenario that's being asked for is an evacuation by rail from Miami...Amtrak doesn't have much spair equipment at all, and if their schedules were cancelled, it may have had none at all south of Jacksonville.  I'm pretty sure the last Auto Train in the area was northbound.

From what I've heard (and Balt would know), the dispatchers are/were in the process or moving back to Jacksonville, on EHH's dime.  I suspect some of them have hunkered in the bunker there.  But the lines in Florida are pretty effectively shut down.  An evacuation using Tri-Rail equipment from Miami might be doable, but it still would have had to have been done by rules or orders--and the first tree that falls across the tracks or the first signal system that goes black would pretty much terminate the effort.

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Posted by oltmannd on Sunday, September 10, 2017 9:31 PM

A lane of interstate highway can handle about 2000 vehicle an hour.  A non-controlled access highway, about half that.  

If a highway is in a jammed condition, flow can be reduced by more than half.  

So, if there are 9 interstate lanes and 15 non interstate lanes being used for evacuation, that means something like 15-33,000 vehicles per hour.  If you put four people in a vehicle, that's 60-132,000 people an hour.

If you could run 20 car trains with 80 folk per coach at 6 minute intervals, fleeting a single track freight RR, that's 16,000 people an hour per RR.  

But, what if we used buses?  Assuming capactity is reduced a bit because buses are longer and need a bit more spacing...10-25,000 vehicles per hour, at 50 people per bus is 500,000 to 1,250,000 people per hour.  

If I REALLY want to get 10 or 20 million people from here to there in a hurry, I'd use buses.

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Posted by petitnj on Monday, September 11, 2017 8:12 AM

i used highway design numbers. There are no continuous 12 lane highways thru Florida. And use of busses and trains requires busses and trains. Their crews left with their families long ago. 

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Posted by BaltACD on Monday, September 11, 2017 9:31 AM

Betweeen I-75, I-95 and the Florida Turnpike there are multiple lanes available out of South Florida headed North.  Only I-75 and I-95 leave the state.

I-95 is 'mostly' 3 or more lane in each direction except for a couple of counties that are working on adding the 3rd lane - those counties would create 'pinch points' to the flow or traffic.

One thing that is overlooked, even if you leave S. Florida with a full tank - YOU WILL HAVE TO REFUEL before you leave Florida.  It is a LONG way from S. Florida to the Georgia line.

         

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Posted by Norm48327 on Monday, September 11, 2017 10:26 AM

Balt,

There are also federal and state highways leading north, but given the mass exodus I' certain most, if not all, were crowded to the point of becoming parking lots.

Fuel availibility was another concern, and the lack of seems to be the result of poor planning ahead of the storm. A map of Florida stations that still had fuel during the evacuation reveals that lack. Granted, some stations lost power and could not pump gas.

IMO, the 'Boy Scouts' failed to follow their motto.

Norm


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Posted by Deggesty on Monday, September 11, 2017 10:56 AM

No power available to pump gasoline? Quick! Install the old Armstrong pumps, and pumpp the gasoline up into a container at the top of the pump and then let gravity fill your fuel tank. I do not think I have seen one of those pumps since some time in the forties.

About nineteen years ago, I used one of the pumps that had you zero the readings with a crank--in Ely, Nevada.

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Posted by VOLKER LANDWEHR on Monday, September 11, 2017 11:30 AM

Norm48327
A map of Florida stations that still had fuel during the evacuation reveals that lack. Granted, some stations lost power and could not pump gas.

Pumping shoudn't be a problem. Florida Statutes require fuel stations to have an emergency generator capable of at least 72 hours power supply.

I read somewhere that was introduced after after a hurricany black out. I googled and found this: http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0500-0599/0526/Sections/0526.143.html

Regards, Volker

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Posted by dehusman on Monday, September 11, 2017 11:52 AM

The problems with a rail evacuation isn't with the railroad.  Its the logistics of getting people to the train and then what to do with them at the other end.

You have to be able to get thousands of people to one spot at the same time  That means you have to have parking for thousands of cars near the railhead or have some sort of bus feeder system to get them there.  People will be bringing pets and everything they can carry so you will have to have baggage capability (with security for the baggage).

You will have to have food, water and bathrooms, plus medical coverage for the loading area and on the train.

Once you get to the other end you will have to have transportation to move thousands of people at nearly the same time away from the railhead to someplace else (plus all their pets and baggage).  You will need some way to match up the baggage and the people.  If you get the transportation you will have to figure out where to take them for shelter.

The rail portion is almost trivial.  During Katrina, Amtrak moved coach trainsets to the New Orleans area and the railroads were operable and willing to run the passenger trains.  But they never ran the service, because the logistics off the railroad couldn't be organized quick enough.

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Posted by BaltACD on Monday, September 11, 2017 11:55 AM

dehusman
The problems with a rail evacuation isn't with the railroad.  Its the logistics of getting people to the train and then what to do with them at the other end.

You have to be able to get thousands of people to one spot at the same time  That means you have to have parking for thousands of cars near the railhead or have some sort of bus feeder system to get them there.  People will be bringing pets and everything they can carry so you will have to have baggage capability (with security for the baggage).

You will have to have food, water and bathrooms, plus medical coverage for the loading area and on the train.

Once you get to the other end you will have to have transportation to move thousands of people at nearly the same time away from the railhead to someplace else (plus all their pets and baggage).  You will need some way to match up the baggage and the people.  If you get the transportation you will have to figure out where to take them for shelter.

The rail portion is almost trivial.  During Katrina, Amtrak moved coach trainsets to the New Orleans area and the railroads were operable and willing to run the passenger trains.  But they never ran the service, because the logistics off the railroad couldn't be organized quick enough.

It's a shame when reality enters the stories.

         

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Posted by CMStPnP on Monday, September 11, 2017 12:15 PM

OK it was Hurricane Gustav which New Orleans used Amtrak trains to evacuate.   Detailed in the article below.

http://www.nola.com/hurricane/index.ssf/2017/05/new_orleans_train_evacuations.html

 

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Posted by Semper Vaporo on Monday, September 11, 2017 12:38 PM

Not sure, but doesn't CSX service Florida?  Wouldn't their present problems of not being able to move trains have interfered with any additional trains that passenger operations would inflict?

Still, I bet all those "FEMA shackle cars" could have been pressed into service for this evacuation!  ;-}

 

Semper Vaporo

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Posted by BaltACD on Monday, September 11, 2017 2:50 PM

Semper Vaporo
Not sure, but doesn't CSX service Florida?  Wouldn't their present problems of not being able to move trains have interfered with any additional trains that passenger operations would inflict?

Still, I bet all those "FEMA shackle cars" could have been pressed into service for this evacuation!  ;-}

CSX ownership of the line to Miami ends at West Palm Beach.  From WPB to Miami it is owned by the State of Florida and operated by Tri-Rail.  The middle of the A line through Orlando is now owned by the State of Florida and is operated as Sun Rail.  While CSX retains operating privledges on these lines, they do not control their operation.

CSX preparations ahead of the storm would have involved securing crossing gates and other vulnerable signal equipment and as such the CSX portion of the lines would not be operable.  What actions Tri-Rail and Sun Rail would take for their equipment's protection is unknown to me.

         

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Posted by Gramp on Monday, September 11, 2017 5:43 PM

Amtrak and CN can wrangle a train to haul 300 people a couple hundred miles to not see the sun, but Amtrak, (CSX, etc.) have "issues" with at least maybe taking a trainload of people out of harm's way who wouldn't have an alternative means of evacuating a natural disaster.

They should all spend some time at the feet of HEB Supermarkets in Texas.

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Posted by BaltACD on Monday, September 11, 2017 6:20 PM

Gramp
Amtrak and CN can wrangle a train to haul 300 people a couple hundred miles to not see the sun, but Amtrak, (CSX, etc.) have "issues" with at least maybe taking a trainload of people out of harm's way who wouldn't have an alternative means of evacuating a natural disaster.

They should all spend some time at the feet of HEB Supermarkets in Texas.

Don't let operational realities that apply to CSX and the equipment and manpower realities that apply to Amtrak destroy your day dream.

         

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Posted by zugmann on Monday, September 11, 2017 6:56 PM

Gramp
Amtrak and CN can wrangle a train to haul 300 people a couple hundred miles to not see the sun, but Amtrak, (CSX, etc.) have "issues" with at least maybe taking a trainload of people out of harm's way who wouldn't have an alternative means of evacuating a natural disaster.

You're comparing one train for one special fun event with months of advance notice and planning, to a natural disaster with short notice and mass exodus.  Apples and trombones.

The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer or any other railroad, company, or person.

I occasionally post off-topic remarks.  Adults can handle that.

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Posted by Murphy Siding on Monday, September 11, 2017 8:51 PM

    If you stopped and thought about it for a moment, the better alternative would be evacuation by cruise ship. There's a vessel made to carry 1,000's of people at a time. They typically sail out of several Florida ports and could steam up to New York or wherever pretty easily.

      Bigger question nobody has brought up- who pays for a train or ship to transport what is basically poor folks out of harm's way?

Thanks to Chris / CopCarSS for my avatar.

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Posted by Euclid on Tuesday, September 12, 2017 7:32 AM

If I were leaving due to mandatory evacuation and had the choice of driving and remaining unbound to any specific destination or arriving at a mandatory destination with massive numbers of other people, the choice of driving could not be more clear.

The best way to get the job done would be for everyone to have self-driving cars and evacuate in one big high speed platoon

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