A conceptual framework for developing sociotechnical transportation system resilience
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Natural disaster statistics worldwide indicate an upward trend in the number of reported disasters. In the year 2000 alone, there were over 500 reported natural disasters, which caused at least ten fatalities; affected 100 or more people; and required international assistance or called for a state of emergency. According to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), between 1991 and 2000, an average of 211 million people was either affected or died from a natural disaster. During that same decade, an average of 1,300 people was killed across the world every week. Such natural disasters are not only a humanitarian issue, but also an economic one and have a significant impact on the US economy. For example, between 2011 and 2013, transportation accounted for approximately $14.7 billion in disaster relief spending, ranking fourth highest among 19 departments. Additionally, Hurricane Sandy’s recovery appropriation amounted to $60 billion. Resilience, the ability of a system to maintain critical functions and prevent catastrophic failure during a disruption, and then recover rapidly, is now more than ever at the forefront of most critical infrastructure systems’ discussions. A consensus has emerged among relevant stakeholders on the need for evolving long-standing planning approaches and operational methods into approaches with more resilient outcomes. The primary objective of this research is to therefore develop a framework for transportation system resilience planning that expands current transport resilience approaches by using a sociotechnical systems approach, one that considers human and organizational factors in addition to technical factors for system performance. To develop the framework, this research adopts an inductive and multimethod approach. Data is systematically gathered and analyzed in two main phases. The first phase begins with an in-depth literature review and synthesis of transportation resilience as well as resilience theory and its applications to the built environment, social systems, economic systems and ecological systems. Next, a survey of selected transportation agencies is conducted to study resilience capacity building at transport agencies in order to extract an evolving maturity process for handling hazards and building system resilience using sociotechnical considerations. The second phase of this research then combines key concepts extracted from the resilience literature and the results of the survey to develop the sociotechnical transportation resilience conceptual and planning framework. The framework is then verified and demonstrated using practitioner reviews. Findings from the research show that the concepts of stability at multiple equilibria found in ecological resilience present opportunities for expanding the current paradigm of transportation resilience thinking, evolving it from one based on single-equilibrium stability to multiple equilibria stability. The resultant framework, based on both the resilience literature and survey results, characterizes the relative levels of four types of transport agency capital (organizational, institutional, technical and financial capital) that contribute to sociotechnical system resilience and catalogues attribute-based strategies for developing resilience capacity systematically. This research contributes to transportation resilience knowledge by extending the current paradigm of transportation system resilience planning from that of a single equilibrium conceptualization to multiple equilibria conceptualization. The research also characterizes different developmental stages of building transport resilience capacity using a sociotechnical approach. Finally, the resulting framework is a potentially beneficial tool for transportation decision makers involved in strategic or long-term resilience planning.
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