Extreme winter weather highlights importance of resilient transit infrastructure


Frigid temperatures and extreme weather, particularly the “bomb cyclone” that pummeled the east coast last week, highlight the need for significant investment in resilient infrastructure and transportation systems. Winter Storm Grayson brought sub-zero temperatures, heavy snow, and wind gusts in excess of 40 miles per hour to much of New York, Connecticut, and New England. As a result, transit agencies across the region experienced significant delays, cancellations, and limited service.

The storm’s far-reaching impacts, particularly as President Donald Trump and congressional leaders begin to discuss a potential infrastructure package, raise questions about the need for resilient systems capable of enduring the increasing impacts of climate change, including extreme temperatures, powerful storms, and flooding.

While the powerful winter storm produced troublesome snow and bitter cold, climate change is also likely to produce more frequent extreme heat events, coastal flooding, and stronger tropical cyclones. Coastal cities such as New York and Miami, which are particularly vulnerable to sea-level rise and increased flooding, will have to prioritize resilience in transportation and planning.

Transit agencies and governments should help mitigate the primary cause of climate change by investing in zero-emission fleets and boosting ridership. Furthermore, they ought to employ evidence-based approaches to adapt existing and future infrastructure to withstand the potential impacts of climate change.