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Best and worst US cities for disaster evacuation

You might have a plan, but does the city you live in?
  • PT&C|LWG considered exit capacity, internal traffic, roadway intensity (number of lanes per 1,000 people), auto availability, bottlenecks, congestion, geographic barriers (oceans, lakes, mountains), public transit, land area and population density.

  • Texas leads the way in preparedness, with Dallas and Houston ranking numbers one and two, respectively
  • New York City ranked last for exit capacity, auto availability, roadway intensity and land area.

Forensic consulting firm PT&C|LWG recently determined how the 10 most-populated urban metro areas would fare in a disaster evacuation, taking into account a wide range of factors: exit capacity, internal traffic, roadway intensity (number of lanes per 1,000 people), auto availability, bottlenecks, congestion, geographic barriers (oceans, lakes, mountains), public transit, land area and population density.

Texas leads the way in preparedness, with Dallas and Houston ranking numbers one and two, respectively. Dallas has top ratings for exit capacity, auto availability, geographic barriers and roadway intensity. Houston excels at having few bottlenecks and strong exit capacity.

Coming in third is Atlanta. It shines when it comes to density and geographic barriers. However, the 2009 Atlanta Region Evacuation and Coordination Plan found an evacuation would take at least 24 hours — not exactly great news when faced with a disaster.

Boston claims the fourth spot. While it has terrible traffic issues, it is the third-best city in the nation when it comes to public transportation; one-third of Bostonians rely on the transit system daily.

Sitting in the middle of the metro area rankings is Philadelphia, at no. 5. It scores poorly for auto availability, congestion, land area and roadway intensity.

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Washington D.C. comes in no. 6. While Pennsylvania Avenue is unable to be used for political evacuation, this city does well when it comes to public transportation, geographic barriers, land area and bottlenecks.

In seventh place is Miami, which shares the same issues as Philadelphia. Miami differentiates Storm Surge zones (which can cause a high level of storm damage in that area), which are at risk for flooding, from evacuation zones, which are areas of the city under evacuation or shelter-in-place orders.

Looking at the bottom three, Chicago ranks at no. 8. The city does have an emergency evacuation plan, but strangely has chosen not to make it available to the public. Chicago struggles when it comes to internal traffic, exit capacity and roadway intensity.

Los Angeles is at no. 9. It’s no secret that the city is known for its traffic issues, and that comes through in the findings. L.A. receives low marks for bottlenecks, density and internal traffic.

The worst city of all to evacuate? That would be New York City.

Unlike the other worst performers, traffic is not the biggest concern in NYC. Instead, it has low marks for exit capacity, auto availability, roadway intensity and land area.