“Mass transit is the lifeblood of New York, and a 21st century city must protect and improve its mass transit infrastructure…New York has a natural advantage in this seeminglydaunting task. We begin with an extraordinary enterprising spirit, unparalleled resiliency and a long history of engineeringthe impossible.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo in the New York Daily News, November 15, 2012
“…what we’ve learned from Hurricane Sandy and other disasters is that we’ve got to build smarter, more resilient infrastructure that can protect our homes and businesses,
and withstand more powerful storms.”
President Barack Obama at Georgetown University, June 25, 2013
Public transportation is a powerful force to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. Yet as New York saw during Superstorm Sandy, climate
change can take a devastating toll on public transportation. That’s why making the Metropolitan Transportation Authority network more resilient against extreme weather is both a short term tactic to keep service running and a long-term strategy to fight climate change.
Much of New York’s public transportation network is over a century old, and even routine maintenance and rehabilitation work is challenging on a subway system that never shuts down. But addressing the effects of climate change and reducing
New York’s carbon emissions will require significant new infusions of capital investment.
Superstorm Sandy was only the latest and largest in a series of events that underscored how vulnerable the MTA network is to extreme weather. After an August 2007 rain storm during the morning rush hour brought subway service on many lines
to a halt, the MTA adapted low-lying infrastructure to fortify against future flooding. And in the years since, the MTA learned that in some weather events, the best response is to suspend service and move trains to safe locations – a practice that
proved its worth during Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy.
The MTA has traditionally relied on its own resources to fortify its infrastructure against extreme weather, meaning that every improvement to address climate change has come at the expense of other capital needs. But the sheer magnitude
of Sandy’s damage, with years of repairs to cost billions of dollars, has made clear that developing resilient infrastructure is a vital priority in the MTA’s capital planning.
Protecting the MTA network against future storms will carry a cost in time and resources, but Sandy showed that the cost of inaction is unacceptable. Mitigating the impact of climate change will ensure the MTA can keep New York’s carbon emissions
low and make New York resilient.
Photos from top to bottom:
NOAA’s Sea, Lake, and Overland Surges from Hurricanes (SLOSH) Map of lower Manhattan showing at-risk subway infrastructure
Raised subway vent gratings prevent water from entering the subway, and can also provide sidewalk seating or bike storage
Architectural rendering of removable floodwall panels for NYCT subway entrance stairs. Photo courtesy of RSA Protective Technologies, LLC
“Thames Barrier, Charlton, SE London,” © 2012 Paul Wilkinson, used under a Creative Commons Attribution license:
Demonstration of an inflatable tunnel plug. Photo courtesy of ILC Dover
All photos are property of Metropolitan Transportation Authority, unless otherwise indicated.