MTA Finds Opportunity After Sandy

The director of sustainability at the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) discusses what Sandy has taught the MTA about the sustainability, and the future, of the city's subway lines.
Friday, November 16, 2012 12:30 EST | 6
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11/28/2012 5:04:27 PM
User Rank City Slicker
CERT programs for disaster mitigation
2:40 - employment opportunity

I would like to echo the comments here about the opportunity for social and economic growth. My suggestion is to have a local, state, and national understanding that mitigation of disaster recovery is as important as mitigation of the issues of the active disaster as well.

If we consider the future cities of the world as capable as possible of facing the current concerns and situations, such as flood, lightning storms, massive forest fire, or other catastrophically devastating events, then likely we are accepting that there will be a certain level of destruction during and after each event.

I propose that we press our government to support preemptive preparation for disaster recovery with programs such as CERT ( These sorts of programs teach citizens how to prepare for a sudden and potentially unnerving event that may happen on a local scale. We train citizens to be able to attend to disasters by supplementing the local Emergency Response programs, which is arguably the first step of disaster recovery -- recover as many displaced citizens as possible.

Whether we're talking about an earthquake, a multi-block fire, flooding, or large storm, all Emergency Responders will be substantially taxed. CERT members help by reducing the initial work of the trained responder, by attending to reasonable, citizen-level tasks that can be undertaken in a community. Gather the wounded and the displaced, basic first aid, and basic Search and Rescue are undeniably useful skills for citizens to put to use, when trained Responders are not available.

I would further suggest that this undertaking should be supported on all levels. States should make grants avaialble to supply the CERT initiative with supplies for the citizenry, municipalities should support with written acceptance of local CERT programs, and Federally there should be consistent support for such programs, or incentives given to citizens who take the initiative to prepare for disaster.

Thank you for your video, and I hope that each public employee will one day be CERT trained, for the benefit of their friends, family members, and neighbors, as well as for the benefit of all the Responders who have their work load reduced, and can attend to more critical issues.


Nicole Ferraro
Nicole Ferraro  
11/21/2012 6:08:28 PM
User Rank Staff
Re: Ongoing effort
That's certainly something new cities will need to take into consideration, Mary. And they have the opportunity to do so, which is great. The hard part is how to address this with our current systems that have been in place for a century, in cities like New York?

Nicole Ferraro
Nicole Ferraro  
11/20/2012 10:00:33 AM
User Rank Staff
Re: Thanks for a Quick Recovery
tbulone, thanks for leaving such a positive comment. I agree with you here. I don't think anyone could possibly feel the city and MTA were anything but stellar at getting things back up and running. When I saw the flooded stations it was hard to imagine they'd ever be running again, meanwhile we were traveling underground again in just a few days.

Furthermore, the MTA has just provided the Rockaways (destroyed by the storm) with a special subway line so they can get access to the city. A relief for those residents, I'm sure.

As you say, "Now imagine what could be done if we were actually serious about properly funding and maintaining our mass transit and transportation networks!" I hope someday we'll be able to do more than just imagine it!

11/20/2012 5:08:28 AM
User Rank Urban Legend
Thanks for a Quick Recovery
Personally I always find it amazing how resilient the NYC subway system is after unprecedented events like Sandy or 9-11.  Whenever such a catastrophic event occurs, it seems like the system recovers relatively quickly considering the circumstances.  Credit goes to the original designers and workers that built it, and the people today that keep it running day after day despite the enormous challenges of keeping the 100 year old system in working condition.  Same can be said for our nation's transportation infrastructure.  When these systems were built, absolutely no one could have predicted the demands that would be placed on the systems today, (or how neglected they would become), yet they still work fairly well in most areas of the U.S. overall.  Now imagine what could be done if we were actually serious about properly funding and maintaining our mass transit and transportation networks!

Mary Jander
Mary Jander  
11/16/2012 5:43:20 PM
User Rank Staff
Ongoing effort
Great video. The images alone are arresting. And the concept that improving the transit system with modern risks in mind must be an ongoing process is terrific. We can't anymore expect to construct a system and leave it to function, period. Transit systems have to be more organic and adaptable. There are too many variables in the city today that weren't present years ago.

Nicole Ferraro
Nicole Ferraro  
11/16/2012 2:26:37 PM
User Rank Staff
So now we know
Projjal, thanks for taking the time to share the MTA's experience in dealing with and learning from Sandy. You're absolutely right that the weather we're now experiencing could never have been predicted 100 years ago. But I think I can speak for many in expressing relief that the MTA is using this as an opportunity to move forward in a more sustainable way, understanding the risks we now face and situations we need to prepare for going forward.

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