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How Are Earthquakes a Threat in Automobile Transportation?

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Transport is not an end in itself; it exists to allow people to access various activities and services. Hence, transport involves a complicated relationship between the various land uses present (residential, employment, recreation, education, commercial) and the different transport networks and services provided (roads, paths, bus services, railways, and more)

These interact to form the ‘flow pattern’ that we experience; for example, which are the heavy transport routes, how many people use the bus, what times of the day and week are busiest and so on.

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Transportation systems are designed to operate under defined conditions. Yet, disruptions such as those caused by an accident or by a storm are rather common and well mitigated. On occasion, a disruption at a much high scale takes place to the extent that the safety or security of a whole region or nation is compromised. A disaster involves extensive damage to people and physical infrastructure that is unforeseen in nature, scale and extent. It often implies that their risk of occurrence has not been properly assessed and a large share of the damage is the outcome of a lack of preparedness. While what could be defined as an emergency can be handled by local resources such as those of the local police, healthcare and emergency response, a disaster requires a wider intervention that could go to the national and even international level. A disaster is an event going beyond anticipated capabilities to respond.Transportation is often considered a critical infrastructure since a disruption in one of its components can have a significant impact on the economic and social well-being of a region of a nation

An effective way to assess how critical infrastructure is would be to consider the impacts its removal would have on the flows and activities it services. From an economic standpoint, the impacts of disasters are dependent on three factors; 1) the nature and level of incidence of disasters; 2) the level of exposure of populations and infrastructures and; 3) the level of vulnerability of populations and infrastructures.

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In order to configure a road transport system for use after a major earthquake, it is necessary to understand how traffic conditions are impacted by such an event. (IATSS, Research Report: 2000). Let us show some striking data of the traffic conditions that occurred after the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake. Damage from the earthquake rendered two expressways as well as the JR West, Hankyu and Hanshin railways impassable, putting transportation between the cities of Osaka and Kobe into total confusion. Under ordinary conditions, 200,000 vehicles per 12 hours travel over National Routes 2 and 43, as well as the Kobe and Harbor routes of the Hanshin Expressway. The Kobe line of the Hanshin Expressway, however, is an elevated highway running directly above Route 43, and when a section of this highway collapsed during the earthquake, both of these roads were blocked to traffic. When the damaged Harbor route was closed as well, Route 2, which with a capacity of only 30,000 vehicles per 12 hours would ordinarily deal with only 15% of the overall traffic volume, was left as the only route connecting Osaka and Kobe after the earthquake

Furthermore, the three railway lines which were used daily by 650,000 passengers were closed completely, leaving Kobe's transportation system at less than 5% of its normal capacity. This situation alone is enough to demonstrate the severity of the earthquake's impact on traffic conditions in Kobe (JSCE, 1995).

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In fact, a plan to reduce the vulnerability oftransportation systems in the CentralU.S

will necessarily require acomprehensive, collaborative approach,led by the Federal government. PublicLaw 101-614, the National EarthquakeHazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) Reauthorization Act directs FEMA, inconsultation with the National Instituteof Standards and Technology (NIST), todevelop a “plan, including precisetimetables and budget estimates, fordeveloping and adopting, in consultationwith appropriate private sector organizations, design and construction standards for lifelines,” including transportation systems.

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IATSS, Research Report: Study on Road Traffic Management against Earthquake based on Actual Damaged Conditions Following Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, March. (1998).

Lida, Y. and Kurauchi F. Development of Traffic Management System in an Emergency, Confronting Urban Earthquakes, Report of Fundamental Research on the Mitigation of Urban Disasters Caused by Near Field Earthquakes, pp.202–209, March. (2000).

IATSS, Research Report: Study on Personal Passenger Car Traffic Regulation Following the Great Earthquake Disaster, June. (2000).

Christchurch City Council (CCC 2010). A City for People – Action Plan. February 2010.

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