October 2, 2014

Talking Transportation: The Lessons from Katrina

We were all awe-struck five years ago watching the coverage of the rescue efforts in the Gulf following hurricane Katrina.  But did we learn anything from that tragedy.

Remember:  our annual hurricane season is well underway and storm activity peaks around this time each year.  And we ready for “the big one”?

Consider the following:

1)  Transportation Means Survival: The difference between those who lived and died in New Orleans was based on access to transportation.  When told to evacuate, those with cars did.  Those without couldn’t and were stranded.  The lack of public transportation along the Gulf Coast left the “disadvantaged” as just that… dis-advantaged, and maybe dead.

How would those living along the Connecticut coast be evacuated if a category four hurricane were threatening us?  Join the crawl on I-95?  Take Metro-North?  Or hunker down at a local mall.  How many of our towns have adequate shelter or emergency supplies?

Is Amtrak ready, along with Metro-North, to deploy its fleet to evacuate the hundreds of thousands threatened by a hurricane?  Doubtful.

2)  Our Classless Society Isn’t:   The victims of Katrina weren’t characterized as much by race as by economic class.  Being able to afford to live away from the flood plain and have access to private transportation both cost money.  This isn’t about race:  you don’t have to be Black to be poor.

But after Katrina, then-President Bush’s mother, Barbara, was touring the Katrina refugee camps in Houston.  She commented that, given the squalor of their former New Orleans homes, these victims of Katrina were actually better off than before.  Then she added “it’s kind of scary that they might all want to stay in Texas.”

Where would Connecticut’s refugees flee after an evacuation?  And how long would they be gone pending recovery and rebuilding?   Gold Coasters perhaps could drive their SUV’s up to familiar ski country in New England. But where would the Hispanic, Haitian and Black populations of Stamford, Norwalk and Bridgeport go… and would they also be made to feel like so many dust bowl Oakies when they arrived at refugee camps?

3)  Our Government Is Incompetent: Katrina and 9/11 showed us that our government can’t do a damn thing to protect its citizens.  One might excuse a surprise terrorist attack, but a long anticipated, well-scenarioed hurricane?  Not a chance.

At the time of Katrina, 75 percent of FEMA’s budget was being spent on anti-terrorism efforts, even though acts of nature present the real danger to most Americans. Gobbled up into the Homeland Security Agency, FEMA had lost all clout, competence and most of its budget.  “Brownie” may have been doing a “helluva job”, but would his successor do any better five years on?

Ask any old-timer about the Hurricane of 1938 which devastated New England that September.  It still ranks as the worst natural disaster to ever hit our state.  True, the human toll was compounded because we had no notice of the coming storm.  But even with sufficient time to evacuate, a storm of that size would devastate this state, especially our most expensive homes built along the coast.  Santayana said: “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Have we really learned the lessons of Katrina?

JIM CAMERON has been a commuter out of Darien for 19 years.  He is Chairman of the CT Metro-North / Shore Line East Rail Commuter Council, and a member of the Coastal Corridor TIA and the Darien RTM.  Read his column on LymeLine every other Monday.  You can reach him at Cameron06820@gmail.com or www.trainweb.org/ct .  For a full collection of “Talking Transportation” columns, see www.talkingtransportation.blogspot.com

9 Town Transit Offers Online Booking

From a press release:

Customers can now access 9TT’s self-service site at www.9towntransit.com. Each customer is provided a login ID and password. Trip bookings are immediately confirmed, with no need to speak to a reservation agent. Customers will also have the ability to view future trips and make cancellations. In addition, they can see estimated pick up times for the current days trips based on real-time performance data.

The new self-service site will provide a new option for customers to book trips 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It also allows customers to easily confirm trips and view estimated pick-up times without having to call a reservationist, eliminating phone wait times.

The Estuary Transit District provides public transit service via the fleet of 13 buses to Chester, Clinton, Deep River, Essex, Killingworth, Lyme, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook and Westbrook through its 9 Town Transit service. Connections are provided to New Haven, Middletown, Hartford and New London/Norwich bus services as well as Shoreline East Commuter Rail. All services are open to the general public with no age or disability restrictions.

Additional information, route maps and schedules are available online at www.9towntransit.com or by calling 9 Town Transit at 860-510-0429.