TDM and Hurricane Recovery
Transportation issues are the story after Hurricane Katrina's evacuation failures and 2 mph travel speeds on major Interstates as Hurricane Rita bears down on Texas/LA. Who would have thought Americans now know what "contraflow" means. What's next? "Demand Management"?
Even as people begin to hunker down (a term that we Floridians came to know last year), we need to look at transportation needs when these cities begin recovering. Certainly, transit will be an option but we need to demand that communities look at the likeliehood of dispersed home and work locations. We also assume that gas supplies (and prices) may be effected in the short term. We need to look NOW.
More to the point, why aren't transportation demand management agencies being brought into the discussion? And will TDM programs be prepared to help? Do they have an emergency preparedness plan?
Clearly, the devastation that has and will occur will increase demands for TDM programs and services like carpools and vanpools (and telework). Many people may have to live in temporary housing further away from work; perhaps very far away. Many will have vehicles that are inoperable due to water damage (or the fact that their vehicle was last seen sitting on the roof of a building). Their employers may have had to relocate, too. While telework may work for some, not all jobs are teleworkable (is that a word?).
So ... what can we do now? Certainly, ridematching programs and 800 telephone numbers don't require a local presence. TDM agencies on the West Coast could help expand service hours, for example. Online ridematching systems could be implemented.
Will we need temporary protections for employers that promote ridesharing in states that don't already have that protection? Will the feds revise Section 132(f) to allow employers to provide tax free qualified transportation fringe benefits to employees for carpooling and biking, too (like transit and vanpools)? Are emergency ride home programs sufficent? Will FEMA funds be available to help TDM agencies reach out to commuters and employers?
There are many questions to be answered (and apparently fingers to be pointed) to get America moving again. We need to start answering them today.