- The Washington Times - Friday, September 16, 2005


D.C. officials are re-evaluating options for quickly evacuating the city after a terrorist attack or natural disaster.

While Metro’s fleet of 1,500 buses and nearly 960 railcars would be used to move people quickly from the District, officials said yesterday that other transportation assets from throughout the region also might be needed.

“The greatest threat to us is terrorism,” said D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican.

Her interest in the issue stemmed from the bombing attacks on London’s transit system in July. But her concerns were heightened by the devastation caused last month in Louisiana by Hurricane Katrina.

“One of the most dramatic things that came out of the New Orleans nightmare was [learning of] the need for mass evacuation of people who did not have their own forms of transportation,” Mrs. Schwartz said.

About 35 percent to 40 percent of the District’s 572,000 residents do not have access to private cars. About 1 million commuters and tourists use public transit in the city each day.

Officials also have identified 5,634 school buses, 1,400 commuter buses operated by public agencies or private companies, and MARC, Virginia Railway Express and Amtrak trains as transportation options for moving residents.

However, questions remain about their availability and the ability of their owners to respond quickly in an emergency, said Richard A. White, chief executive officer of Metro.

The District is working with nonprofit groups that transport senior citizens or the disabled to carry their vulnerable clients. City officials also are refining a “Regional Walkout Plan” for use if Metrorail stops running.

“That’s people using their left and right feet,” said Dan Tangherlini, the director of the D.C. Department of Transportation.

Routes leading out of the city could be designated for pedestrian use based upon the availability of sidewalks, and other factors, Mr. Tangherlini said.

Several locations near Metrorail stations have been identified for use as bus staging areas. But officials declined to discuss specific locations because they could become secondary targets for terrorists.

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