Part 2. Regional Context/Transportation
Regional Survey and Transportation Stations: Tramway and Bus Rapid Transit
Robert Gordon Architecture/Planning
An important preliminary step for advance emergency preparation would be to provide a survey and analysis of the region. Determine the best locations for new communities at the edge of the city. Engineers and site surveyors should seek and designate sites that are above the flood plain, sheltered from the wind, away from known earthquake faults and forest fire zones. They might also be looking for good soil for community gardens and regional agriculture.
Then it will be very important for these new communities to be directly connected to the city (and vice versa) by means of a modern, efficient public transportation system, including bus rapid transit to the city center and a peripheral tramway. Transportation has always provided a jolt for the economy by stimulating new jobs, improving property values and helping residents to an immediate re-integration into the economy of the region.
When disasters occur in a city, such as hurricanes, flooding of low areas or earthquakes, the residents are forced under duress to flee quickly to safer, higher ground. They usually like to be as close to their former neighborhoods and homes as possible. At times like these, it is especially important that new land be designated in advance for shelters, so that officials and residents can act quickly.
An example of advance planning, as well as immediate benefit, is the case of Curitaba, Brazil. In response to a growing slum population and overcrowding in Curitaba, “the Architect Jaime Lerner, who later became mayor, led a team from the Universidade Federal do Paraná that suggested strict controls on urban sprawl, a reduction of traffic in the downtown area, preservation of Curitiba’s Historic Sector, and a convenient and affordable public transit system.” [i] Instead of merely repairing the old, Curitiba is now left with a great asset, a planned bus rapid transit system. There is only one price no matter how far you travel and you pay at the bus stop. This system is now used by 85% of the population of the city. A combination of bus rapid transit and a perimeter tramway would help the entire city before, during and after a disaster, and would be an asset even if there were no disaster.
Without sound transportation, the project might produce a collection of disconnected individual community centers and shelters isolated from the city and from the daily needs of the inhabitants. Even if the buildings are well designed, the area must function as a neighborhood and a vital part of the larger city.
[i] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curitiba. Curitiba has a planned transportation system, which includes lanes on major streets devoted to a bus rapid transit system. The buses are long, split into three sections (bi-articulated), and stop at designated elevated tubes, complete with disabled access. There is only one price no matter how far you travel and you pay at the bus stop. The system is used by 85% of Curitiba’s population.