Flooded Bus Barns and Buckled Rails: Public Transportation and Climate Change Adaptation

This report from the Federal Transit Administration compiles climate change adaptation analyses and information for use in adapting U.S. public transportation assets and services to climate change impacts. The report is targeted at transit professionals and aims to prompt the consideration of climate resiliency in the transit industry by providing sector-specific adaptation information.

The report is divided into four chapters with four supporting case studies which demonstrate the report's key points and provide examples of agency experiences with climate adaptation:  

  • New York State Metropolitan Transit Authority's achievements in assessing the vulnerability of its infrastructure, partnering with climate scientists, and joining state and local adaptation efforts.
  • Mobile, Alabama conducted a criticality assessment as a part of its adaptation planning.
  • Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority incorporated a vulnerability assessment into wider sustainability initiatives.
  • Transport for London's incorporation of climate adaptation measures into its asset management systems.

Section 2 describes the anticipated climate change impacts on U.S. transit. These impacts include landslides, flooding, extreme heat, and storm surge, among others. The report provides multiple examples of such impacts interrupting transit, often illustrated by photographs or maps. 

Section 3 compiles existing risk management, vulnerability assessment, and adaptation planning tools and methods and applies them to public transportation agencies. The report describes how to conduct a risk assessment and its value in allowing transit agencies to prioritize risk by evaluating the criticality of transit assets. This section describes existing transportation sector risk assessments and the crucial elements of successful adaptation efforts. 

Section 4 describes a wide range strategies for adapting transit assets and operations to the climate change impacts described in Section 2, relying on the four main strategies of: maintain and manage, strengthen and protect, enhance redundancy, and retreat. This chapter is composed mainly of actual examples from domestic and international transit agencies which implemented the recommended strategies. For example, the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority chose to maintain and manage by raising many of its sidewalk ventilation grates to prevent water from entering the subway during floods.

Section 5 describes how the implementation of adaptation strategies can and should be linked to transit agency organizational structures and processes. The report describes 12 agency processes such as budget priorities and asset management systems and the opportunities within each to address adaptation.

More broadly, the report argues that climate impacts will interrupt transit agencies’ ability to function normally, reliably, and safely. The FTA urges transit agencies to capitalize on the opportunity to incorporate adaptation strategies into their systems during repair and maintenance projects to save money and avoid damages in the long term.

In writing this report, the authors relied upon the climate change, adaptation, and transportation literature while also utilizing interviews with transit agency representatives, experts, and academics.




Publication Date: August 2011

Author or Affiliated User:

  • Tina Hodges

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Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Assessment guide
  • Case study
  • Planning guides
  • Tool (general)

States Affected:


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