As of October 1, 2016, the SWUTC concluded its 28 years of operation and is no longer an active center of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. The archived SWUTC website remains available here.


SWUTC Research Project Description

The Confluence of Transportation and Economic Activity in a Mega Region Disaster

University: University of New Orleans

Principal Investigator:
Bethany Stich
Gulf Coast Research Center for Evacuation and Transportation Resiliency

Project Monitor:
Rod Motamedi
Reginal Economic Modeling, Inc.
Amherst, MA

Funding Source:  USDOT

Total Project Cost: $37,754

Project Number: 600451-00108

Date Started: 11/1/12

Estimated Completion Date: 10/31/13

Project Summary

Project Abstract:
This research project examines the resilience of businesses and labor markets in response to transportation disruptive events in a mega region. The disruptive events analyzed are natural disasters of all types and lengthy electric power outages. The study uses data from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) and several data sources for information on disruptive events to estimate the impacts of those events on employment, taxes, revenues and payrolls over varying timespans. Several regional economic factors that affect community resilience are included in the analysis, including industry diversity, the distribution of establishment size, and employment concentration. Fifty years of historical data on natural disasters and electric power outages provide the detailed history to examine the importance of previous community exposure to disruptive events and how that experience affects resilience. This research proposes a novel perspective for investigating infrastructure protection and disaster management while building on existing research findings. While federal, state, and local emergency management agencies have focused on short and mid-term preparedness and recovery plans, the role of the critical transportation infrastructures should be better explored. According to the literature and recent feedback from the Alabama Development Authority, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), and Greater New Orleans Inc., the relationship of disruptions in transportation modes to the wide-ranging effects in economy and security have not yet been clearly investigated and articulated.

Project Objectives:
The objective of this research is to present a multi-disciplinary, multi-scale, decision-making structure to combine vital information for economic recovery process derived and/or affected by the changes in freight movements, availability and timeliness.

Task Descriptions:
Task 1: (Start to Month 6) – Catalogue and Archive Disruptive Event Data Sources
Task 2: (Month 3 to 9) – Identify Measurable Business Responses to Disruptive Events
Task 3: (Month 10 to 12) – Multi-Criteria Decision Making and time-series scenarios
Task 4: (Month 12 to 15) – Analyze the Impacts of Disruptive Events on Economic Resilience
Task 5: (Month 15 to 18) – Final Report and Delivery

Implementation of Research Outcomes:
Jane Jacobs famously wrote, “The economic foundation of cities is trade.” Increased global connectivity and expanding domestic markets around major city hubs have led to a spatial reorganization of regional economies towards a higher level of scale referred to as the megaregion. These trade networks rely on a complex mix of freight and telecommunications infrastructure, low trade barriers, as well as international business and social networks. Policymakers have a responsibility to recognize the vital relationship between economies and freight, and it is imperative that national policies reflect the domestic and global environments in which megaregions must now compete. The United States (US) lacks a national freight strategy and most metropolitan areas fail to implement comprehensive trade strategies, indicating disconnect between policy and practice. This research determined the status of freight planning strategies at the megaregion scale of an economically integrated section of the United States Gulf Coast.

The results of the research project will be distributed to all planning professionals, state DOT chief planners and state economic developers and invited to provide feedback. The research project was designed to open up a window where divergent disciplines could see where they could work congruently to achieve a higher level of economic development coordination while maximizing their efficiency with public funds – at a level not previously considered, the megaregion.

Products developed by this research include:

Presentation:  The Gulf Coast Megaregion: In Search of a new Scale to Understand Freight Transportation & Economic Development, Bethany Stich, University of New Orleans, presented to the American Society for Public Administration, Chicago, IL, March 6-10, 2015.

Presentation: Understanding Freight Based Economic Development Transportation Planning, Bethany Stich, presented to the Arizona State University Transportation Engineering Seminar, Tempe , AZ, February 5-7, 2015.

Impacts/Benefits of Implementation:
One of the key benefits of this project is that it coordinates different data sources and then re-evaluates them collectively as a singular entity. This allows for what would have been traditionally “stove piped” information to be viewed through a multi-disciplinary collective.

The project findings are in essence a plan to improve economic conditions in the Gulf Coast Megaregion.

Web Links:
Final Technical Report