Urban Ferries and Catastrophic Floods: Experiences and Lessons Learned in Brisbane, Australia, and New York City

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Burke, Matthew I
Sipe, Neil
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Both Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, and New York City have experienced catastrophic weather events in recent years. In January 2011, the Brisbane River flooded, inundating more than 20,000 houses; in October 2012, superstorm Hurricane Sandy hit New York City and produced a major storm surge that flooded much of the city. Ferry systems in both cities were badly affected. Comparative research was used to explore how each city's ferry operators and managers addressed the impacts before, during, and after those events. A review of published materials related to the two systems during and after the disasters was supplemented by interviews with key agency personnel in each city, conducted in mid-2013. Results suggest that how ferries are affected by floods and other disasters and how ferries may be used to rapidly respond to and provide for postflood transport needs depend entirely on context. The linear river ferry operations of Brisbane suffered much terminal damage, and operations were unable to recommence service as a result of debris and the swollen nature of the river for many weeks after the flood. In contrast, within 2 days, New York City ferries were reintroduced on key routes and were introduced to new emergency locations to provide mobility for citizens who were unable to use other transport modes because of storm damage. The lessons learned by the operators include essential areas that authorities must address before a disaster: infrastructure design and resilience, disaster planning, insurance and legal requirements, staff management, and coordination during the reconstruction phase. Findings suggest that authorities can significantly reduce damage and improve recovery times if they plan and prepare for such events well ahead of time.

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Transportation Research Record
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Civil engineering
Urban and regional planning
Transport planning
Transportation, logistics and supply chains
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