Climate Change: Vulnerability, Resilience, and Adaptation

We are creating knowledge and strategies for protecting transportation systems and the people they serve against climate change. Using life-cycle thinking, we are assessing how i) public transit systems are vulnerable to more frequent heat, precipitation, and cold events, ii) the design of transit systems results in exposure to adverse environmental conditions, and, iii) transit systems might be impacted by impacts to energy systems. With this knowledge we are developing strategies to improve the resilience of transit system and decrease people's vulnerability as they travel.

Bus and Rail Network Design and Exposure to Extreme Heat

We have developed a framework for assessing exposure to environmental conditions (e.g., extreme heat, precipitation, or cold) based on network analyses of parcels, transit networks, and transit schedules. We simulate for every residential parcel in a city how long they are exposed based on their walking times to and from transit and their waiting times at transit. Our results show that, in the case of Southwest U.S. cities, that when temperature is highest (midday), exposure is greatest due to lower headways at offpeak times. We overlay social vulnerability indices to show which neighborhoods are at greatest risk. With this information we are able to direct transit agencies towards strategic investments in schedule changes, public outreach, and communication of transit schedules to reduce these vulnerabilities.

Climate Change Impacts on Electricity Reliability for Transit Systems

We are assessing how more frequent heat events can impact electricity supply, transmission, and distribution, ultimately impacting the reliability of energy delivery to transit systems. Combining climatological and hydrological downscaled forecasts, we have assessed how electricity supply in the Western U.S. might be impacted by climate change. We find that electricity generation capacity could be reduced by as much as 8.8% during certain conditions. We have developed a model to assess how transmission and distribution line capacity will be impacted by more frequent heat events. With this knowledge we are developing a framework to assess how the reliability of electricity to transit systems will be impacted.