Rogoff explained that when developing MAP-21, they didn’t want to make transit dependent on FEMA for getting systems back up and running and didn’t want systems to be put back in the condition they were in, they wanted funding for repair and resilience. He cited an example of New Orleans having 8-year-old buses and being required to go out and get 8-year-old buses.
For MAP-21 they thought $25 million in a year’s time would be expected and they turned out needing $10 billion after Sandy. “That was the largest scorekeeping error in the federal budget since Medicare Plan B.”
Casey told attendees about the preparations that were put in place pre-story at SEPTA and while they were also preparing for the worse, they only had 4.2” of rain and heavy winds, so they were very fortunate compared to New York and New Jersey.
One thing he pointed out was that it was important to provide symbolic service following the storm for a psychological boost to the community. Seven hours following the storm they had their buses back out in service even though the community wasn’t ready to fully use the service.
Weinstein said the damage caused by the storm was primarily on the rail system and because of the stand down they did prior to the storm, the bus system help up very well. The 2,500 buses and 5,300 employees carried NJ Transit for close to 30 days. For the extra bus service they needed to fill in for the missing rail service, agencies from around the country provided vehicles. And when it comes to funding preparations for the future, Weinstein said, “It is much stronger speaking as a group with one voice when speaking to Congress.”
Rogoff stressed there is more difficult work coming up. Our industry’s DNA is about getting service back and up and running. However, some of those repairs that were done to get the service running, weren’t the best long-term solutions and one example was that some of the tunnels will have to be closed so the longer-repair terms can be done.
Regional discussions will need to go on, he said. If all the tunnels had not flooded, all of that water would have been in the basements of lower Manhatten. “Water has to go somewhere.”
If you’re protecting a rail yard or a tunnel, it could worsen the situation elsewhere. What are the best investments as a region for all of transit, not just one system.
The employees behind the accomplishments were talked about by the panelists and audience members. Panelists talked about the dedication of the employees in working so hard at getting things going following the storm but Rogoff warned that some had been working three days straight and as he explained, having someone on a catenary pole who hasn’t slept for too long of a period, isn’t the best option.
A question asked was about how management could show appreciation to the many staff members that were so important to prepare for the storm and to get the systems back up and running. Casey stressed that those employees have such a sense of pride in them about what they do. “Getting it back and running was gratification for them.”