It was 8 p.m. by the time I got the family truckster out on the road last Friday. The Merritt’s first few miles of gentle curves lulled us into a sense of security. Then, all of sudden, around a bend, there’s this sea of brake-lights, and this disconcerting feeling of coming to a complete stop on a highway. At moments like those, you hope for two things: One, that your bladder holds up, and two, that you don’t see a mushroom cloud or a tornado or a horde of killer rats in the rear-view mirror. Come what disasters may, escape was not an option—for us or the 7,000 cars behind us on the way out of the metropolis.
Kurt Russell could escape from New York, but could you? A new survey by the American Highway Users Association thinks not. New York places 35th out of 37 major cities on ease of evacuation. New York gets an F, as do Philly and Boston and Houston, but only Chicago and LA are considered more of a death-trap that the five boroughs. Kansas City gets an A. And, hey, super for them!
The grade is composed of three measures: the exit capacity of highways out of the city, the flow of internal traffic, and access to cars. The reason for the emphasis on automobiles is, the survey says …
The substantial mass transit expansions that have occurred in many urban areas have not materially reduced the share of travel by car. Moreover, most such improvements have been for the purpose of internal circulation within urban areas, rather than the exit capacity that is required for evacuation. Thus, urban areas are principally dependent upon highways and automobiles for evacuation.
But this approach doesn’t do New York any favors. Not only is its highway exit capacity the worst of any major city’s, but New Yorkers’ access to automobiles is bottom of the barrel. Only 83 percent of our brethren have access to a car, well behind the next-most-car-less city, New Orleans, where 91 percent have access to an auto. Austin ranks number 1 in car access, yet another reason I’m sure why everyone reading this is anxious to move to Austin.
The obvious answer for getting out of New York is mass transit. But as the report notes, “evacuation planning in New York will be a considerably greater burden for governments than it is where a far lower share of the population is mass transit dependent.”