RedLantern wrote:The bus companies can dispute this all they want, but like freight, there really is no more efficient method of moving massive amounts of passengers over land.
I don't think the bus companies can dispute it; but there are certainly logistical advantages to buses (namely, they can go to where the people are, rather than trying to shepherd people to a train station - you gotta use a bus to get people to the train station, so why not just use the bus the entire distance; and they can be mobilized quicker). But once you can obtain a large number of folks - yes, a train, unquestionable, will get those people from point 'A' to point 'B' faster.
RedLantern wrote:Rail seems like it's something that should really be looked closer at as a method for quick mass-evacuation. It served this purpose well back in the day, but it seems ignored for this use this day and age. In my theoretical case of Katrina, not only would it move passengers out, but it could've moved emergency supplies in much more efficiently.
Because the rail option only works in certain places. Say, you want to evacuate Tillamook County, Oregon. Or Clatsop County, Oregon. Rail isn't an option (both rail lines are washed out). What good is planning for rail, when the trains get stuck 30 miles from where you need them? It is certainly worthwhile to plan for rail, but when disaster strikes, we need plans A, B, C, D, and E - all ready to go. Frankly, we have a ton of surplus passenger configuration 747s sitting in a desert in Arizona that could move over 500 people, PLUS cargo, at the same time. Expensive? Yes. But is it worth it when lives are at stake? YES! And those 747s can land in either Astoria and Tillamook on an emergency basis - provided the airports aren't flooded.
RedLantern wrote:I think FEMA should invest in some emergency rolling stock. A 6 coach train could make a fairly high capacity moving hospital that could be brought anywhere. A single boxcar of bottled water could probably last for days, a few tank cars could last even longer. They could keep the train somewhere (or have multiple trains) that could be dispatched whenever there's some major emergency. They should have a mixed train standing ready somewhere with a bunch of freight cars and coaches packed to the top with non-perishable supplies. Once the train reaches it's destination, the freight cars cold be unhitched and used for the emergency command center with supplies while the coaches provide evacuations. Imagine a train the size of the B&B Circus train, but with food, supplies, medical equipment, and everything a disaster scene needs, including track maintenance equipment all ready to go on a moment's notice.
Honestly believe this is a good idea (despite my earlier comments). The military has shown that it can invest in strategic assets that are seldom deployed, and many military bases have rail access in which the emergency trains can be stored and kept on standby. Heck, just acquiring some of the used SD40-2 locomotives that are surplus to the Class Ones, where they can be maintained easily and cheaply, along with surplus passenger cars and freight cars (again, which can now be obtained cheaply) should do the trick. Used double-deck commuter coaches and Amtrak retired stock that are refitted with more basic interior accommodations (for ease of maintenance - people aren't riding these trains for comfort), boxcars that can be equipped with ramps or lifts that are self-contained, potable water tankcars, and flatcars for moving vehicles and containers - the equipment is literally sitting out there right now waiting to be scrapped, yet it is all useful equipment. Obtain about five of these trainsets and position them to where they can be deployed anywhere in the lower 48 within 24 to 48 hours - the railroads already have the capability of calling up operating crews with very short notice, and the emergency crews can be flown to the disaster site and show up just as the train arrives.
Just as one example, the Umatilla Army Depot in northeastern Oregon is next to the UP mainline between Portland and Salt Lake City, and has access to UP lines to the Tri-Cities, which in turn provides access to the BNSF network throughout eastern Washington, northern Idaho and Montana - and would be an ideal location to station one such train which can reach Portland, Seattle, Spokane, Boise, Salt Lake City, or even Denver - within 24 hours.