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Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

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Old 09-22-05, 01:31 AM   #1
Platy
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Cars not a good solution for hurricane evacuation?

After Katrina, some people have said that private cars are the only reliable solution for hurricane evacuation. Right now it appears from news reports that all the evacuation routes out of Houston are completely jammed, and that traffic is moving at less than 3 mph. Cars are overheating, breaking down, and running out of fuel.

Personally I am waiting for one of the evacuees to arrive at my apartment. She just called the sheriff's office in one of the counties she would be driving through and was told that traffic on the evacuation route is bumper to bumper (at midnight) and that it would be "faster to walk".

This is days before expected landfall. It is expected that many people in the Houston area will not even begin evacuating until tomorrow.

I think some folks have implied that being carfree is irresponsible because only a car can get you to safety in case an evacuation is required. But maybe cars aren't all that good a solution for emergency evacuation, either. I don't know what the solution would be, though.
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Old 09-22-05, 08:19 AM   #2
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Buses would make more sense, because so many people can ride on them, in theory reducing the number of cars on the road while getting large numbers of people out.

A friend of mine began her evacuation by SUV from Houston at 2 early this morning. She is still on the road, still in Houston, seven hours later.
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Old 09-22-05, 08:22 AM   #3
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Heck if they are going only 3 MPH they could cover alot more ground biking on the grass. I hope for the best for all down in TX. I read some where that gas could go as high as $5 a gallon. that is going to hurt every one, even us car free people (but not as much)
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Old 09-22-05, 08:28 AM   #4
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Based on my experiences during the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon, it was quite clear, from the view out my office window, that cars were nearly useless for evacuating the city. Most people just walked. All the stuck cars were an impediment to evacuation.

I think that many people should have walked out of New Orleans also. Perhaps allowing able-bodied people to stay at the stadium discouraged some from doing this. Bussing people out would have also helped.

Paul
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Old 09-22-05, 08:38 AM   #5
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Aye, I Think one might be able to outwalk the cars as well. Doesn't take much strenght to bike twice as fast as this either. I don't think I'd even consider a car.

What's the percentage of car ownership for the population over there? I think N-O had 30% car free people, which made the evacuation for drivers faster.

Are we seeing the results of a majorly car-owner population trying to evacuate?
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Old 09-22-05, 08:41 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PaulH
I think that many people should have walked out of New Orleans also. Perhaps allowing able-bodied people to stay at the stadium discouraged some from doing this. Bussing people out would have also helped.

Paul

New Orleans is a long way from anywhere, surrounded on three sides by water. Not many people could walk 80 miles to Baton Rouge. I'm not sure where else they might consider walking before the storm.

After the storm hit and it became apparent the situation was really bad, there were other complications. People couldn't walk east to Slidell because they have to cross the twin spans of I-10, which cross over Lake Pontchartrain and which were destroyed by Katrina anyway--as was Slidell. Wouldn't have done anyone any good to walk there.

They couldn't walk north to St. Tammany Parish because they would have to cross the flooded Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, the longest bridge in the world, which also crosses the lake.

It wouldn't make sense to have walked across the Crescent City Connection to the west bank of the Mississippi, because there's nothing there but small fishing communities. That and bayou.

Walking to Baton Rouge is possible, I guess, but people choosing to try it would still have to cross a long stretch of bridge (that was under water) over the Bonnet Carre Spillway and Lake Pontchartrain.
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Old 09-22-05, 08:44 AM   #7
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I should add that my plan to evacuate if a catastrophic storm was headed for the city was to bicycle to Baton Rouge, Florida or toward Texas, depending on the storm track.

That plan went to pot because I was vacationing in Hawaii when Katrina hit my fair city.
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Old 09-22-05, 08:49 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BenyBen
What's the percentage of car ownership for the population over there?
Houston? HA! Like 140%.


Quote:
Originally Posted by BenyBen
Are we seeing the results of a majorly car-owner population trying to evacuate?
Bingo.

Last edited by ___; 09-22-05 at 08:54 AM.
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Old 09-22-05, 10:08 AM   #9
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From cnn.com:

Houston resident Tim Conklin told CNN that he had been in bumper-to-bumper traffic for 13 hours and had only gotten about 48 miles. He said the drive to Dallas, where his father-in-law lives, usually only takes about four hours.

On Highway 290, the main road between Houston and Austin, people were pushing their cars and minivans to save gas -- and were moving just as fast as the vehicles that were driving. Others were stopped on the side of the highway after breaking down or running out of gas.

48 miles in 13 hours = 3.7 mph.
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Old 09-22-05, 10:34 AM   #10
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Houston-Area Residents Flee As Rita Nears By ALICIA A. CALDWELL, Associated Press Writer

Highways leading inland out of Houston were clogged with bumper-to-bumper traffic for up to 100 miles north of the city. Gas stations were reported to be running out of gas. Shoppers emptied grocery store shelves of spaghetti, tuna and other nonperishable items. Hotels hundreds of miles inland filled up. Police officers along the highways carried gasoline to help motorists who ran out.

"We ended up going six miles in two hours and 45 minutes," said Moreno, whose neighborhood is not expected to flood. "It could be that if we ended up stranded in the middle of nowhere that we'd be in a worse position in a car dealing with hurricane-force winds than we would in our house.

With traffic at a dead halt, fathers and sons got out of their cars and played catch on freeway medians. Others stood next to their cars, videotaping the scene, or walked between vehicles, chatting with people along the way. Tow trucks tried to wend their way along the shoulders, pulling stalled cars out of the way.
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Old 09-22-05, 10:35 AM   #11
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are side routes (like state highways or small county roads) just as congested? or are they not allowed to be used?

i'd grab my map out of the glove box and head away from the crowd if possible, if course i've never been in that situation.
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Old 09-22-05, 10:49 AM   #12
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are side routes (like state highways or small county roads) just as congested? or are they not allowed to be used?

i'd grab my map out of the glove box and head away from the crowd if possible, if course i've never been in that situation.
The back roads are just as bad. Too many people, too many cars.
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Old 09-22-05, 02:19 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by PaulH
Based on my experiences during the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon, it was quite clear, from the view out my office window, that cars were nearly useless for evacuating the city. Most people just walked.
My Dad was in the Pentagon that day. He walked home a piece of the way until someone he knew saw him and picked him up. I think he got out before the rest of the Pentagon folks got to their cars (have you ever seen how far it is from the parking lot to the building?). His problem was that he took the Metro and the Metro closed down after the attack. In an unforeseen emergency I'm not sure there is a great solution. By the time buses get deployed somewhere, the streets are already crowded with people who want to get the hell out.

If something happened here, I'm on my bike and gone.
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Old 09-22-05, 02:24 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by spider-man
New Orleans is a long way from anywhere, surrounded on three sides by water. Not many people could walk 80 miles to Baton Rouge. I'm not sure where else they might consider walking before the storm.
Anything would've been better than staying put. How about lifting a leftover car or bike from someone who had evacuated? Everything that got left behind was destroyed anyway. If I had my kids in New Orleans before the storm, I would've found a way to get out by hook or crook.
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Old 09-22-05, 03:16 PM   #15
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The car-centric evacuation is depressing and scary. They're traveling like 2 miles an hour, in the zone where you have to start thinking gallons per hour of use rather than miles per gallon. Not a good equation to be in. And biking hard for those who are not young but not too young, and in shape. There's walking, but it's hard for the average person to walk 5 miles much less 20 a day which I think is the standard for foot troops. Not Good.
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Old 09-23-05, 11:25 AM   #16
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Add in the difficulty of finding gas anywhere in the evacuation zone, and it shows the sheer problem of too much reliance on cars to solve what was once a local/family/personal matter. Cars are nice I suppose if everything is running smoothly. Just don't have almost the whole population thinking the same thing-getting out in the same direction. The same with airports, bus stations, train stations (what is left of them), and goverment assistance. What's left? The old fashioned means of getting around-walking, animal powered vehicles, and cycling. It is still very strange that the more technologically advanced society becomes, the more we are forced to switched back to backward practices in order to survive.
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Old 09-23-05, 12:39 PM   #17
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It is still very strange that the more technologically advanced society becomes, the more we are forced to switched back to backward practices in order to survive.
....I hear ya, but relying on human (animal) power is not backwards.
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Old 09-23-05, 06:30 PM   #18
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From the outset of construction of the Interstate System, the DOD has monitored its progress closely, ensuring direct military input to all phases of construction. The National Defense Highway System was responsible for building many of the first freeways. Its purpose was supposedly to allow for mass evacuation of cities in the event of a nuclear attack. The Interstate system was designed so that one mile in every five must be straight, usable as airstrips in times of war or other emergencies.
http://www.globalsecurity.org/milita...ility/ndhs.htm

Perhaps we should designate highways as Suburban Corridor's, under the supervision of developers, to ensure mass sprawl in the event of a real estate boom.

In times of emergency, whether it be flood or fire, our commitment to the residents of Louisiana remains a top priority- Louisiana National Guard Website.
http://www.la.ngb.army.mil/welcome.htm

I think that should read "In times of emergency, whether it be flood or fire, our commitment to the oil of Louisiana remains a top priority."
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Old 09-23-05, 07:07 PM   #19
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I noticed the inbound side of the highway was clear (for obvious reasons).
Why couldnt they use they use these lanes to run shuttle buses for evacuation???
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Old 09-24-05, 12:38 AM   #20
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Here's a tidbit. Most modern wester cities the average speed is between 10-20 mph. With traffic, stoplights etc. The more conjested cities are slower.
Any situation where the whole city tries to evacuate is going to be under the speeds at which alt trans operates. Not that everyone can even ride a bike 40 miles or would try, but it addresses something about the single family car ideal of evacutaion.

And in some places we could build more roads, Houston probably could. But many cities are too dense and more roads are physically impossable.
I work with Red Cross in California and our 'main road' in case of earthquake out of San Francisco is chosen to be the largest with the least bridges or overpasses. It stretches south through a very populated area to or through San Jose. THEN San Jose evacuates south...
If you've been in the area imagine the 7.5 million people of the SF metro area evacuating on El Camino Real??? The evacutaion plan calls for the National Guard to bulldoze the street clean, block all non- emergency vehicles and allow a steady flow of peds bikes etc. Basically you'd walk the 35 miles to San Jose. 7.5 million cars take up more square footage than there is roadway for almost 100 miles. Subtract roads damaged... you get the picture. If there was ever a tsunami warning in the bay area... ANY attempt at evacutaion would be a ******** idea. Heck during a normal rush hour it can take an hour to get 30 miles, best to tell people to get to high ground and brace themselves...

Lots of people (not specifically here) critisizing the Loisiana disater's management and not the nightmarish evac in Texas.
My spin... the people in charge just deal with the realities places in front of them and try to make the best of a bad situation. WE make the world the way it is... by voting for money for schools instead of levies, by moving to a city instead of living in the country... The only way to plan perfectly for all these things is to give up our democracy and have the government TELL us where to live, how to get to work, what to build. That they are ineffective stewards should be no suprise. They by nature are only responding to the messes we make. Half the relief effort out there is volunteer workers, the other half are people like the rest of us, trying to figure these things out as they go.
There will always be disasters bigger than a local governments ability to plan for them or cope with them. That's why we call them disasters.

Luckily there will always be other people willing to help.

Oh, by the way... i hear Red Cross is looking for volunteers...
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Old 09-24-05, 04:56 AM   #21
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Trains could get lots of people out quickly.

One would think this was a very, very good lesson in the importance of a good national public transportation system.
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Old 09-24-05, 06:18 AM   #22
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I've timed myself and also read a lot on the curse of car-dependence, the average speed is just as you say, 10-20, generally more like 10-15.

According to Ivan Illich, when you calculate the amount of time a person spends paying for their car, washing it, parking it, looking for it, etc it comes out more to 5MPH - the speed of walking.
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Old 09-24-05, 09:53 PM   #23
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I was sitting at home, watching all the people stuck in traffic trying to evacuate houston. Some people travelled 33 miles in 10-12 hours. I decided to head to my wife's hospital because she's a nurse and they were allowing family to stay there. Rita passed Houston by, but we still managed to have some Rita related casualties.

Around 2.5 million people were supposed to have been evacuated from Houston and the coastal counties. When you mix up that many people trying to leave, and residents that decided to stay, topping off their tanks, you end up with a fairly dry metropolitan area. The local gov't is trying to tell people to stagger their return to Houston and surrounding areas because there may not be any gas for all the people trying to return, and we'll probably see the same bottlenecks we saw during the evacuations.

I think I'll go out for a ride tomorrow to see how many cars will be out there. I'm betting there'll be a bottleneck on the way back, though.
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Old 09-27-05, 09:37 AM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by raisin
Trains could get lots of people out quickly.

One would think this was a very, very good lesson in the importance of a good national public transportation system.
Great, unless the trains aren't running. One of the first things that happened on 9/11 is that many forms of public transportation were shut down for fear that an opportunistic terrorist would wreak more havoc using it. There is no silver bullet here. Well, maybe personal jetpacks.
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Old 09-27-05, 11:01 AM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spider-man
New Orleans is a long way from anywhere, surrounded on three sides by water. Not many people could walk 80 miles to Baton Rouge. I'm not sure where else they might consider walking before the storm.
No probably not walk, but a fit cyclist could easily cover that distance during daylight hours. Are there any stories of anyone cycling from New Orleans to Baton Rouge for evacuation? Does the route that the cars used to drive to Baton Rouge have a paved shoulder where the bike could easily pass the slow moving traffic?
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