September 14, 2005

JEFF TAYLOR HAS STILL MORE ON THOSE BUSES:

Had there been a futures market on buses in New Orleans, the value of the buses would have skyrocketed as Katrina approached, signaling their increased utility in the emergency. But even without such an overt market signal, any private owner of the vehicles would have exhausted all opportunities to save his or her property. Nobody who owned such a potentially valuable product would have done what New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin did: let it all go to waste on the assumption that drivers would be impossible to find. Greyhound, after all, did not leave hundreds of its buses to be destroyed. And, of course, this very fact caused Nagin to scream for “every doggone Greyhound bus line in the country” to come to the aid of his city. And it should go without saying that no private employer would long tolerate a workforce that, in Sen. Mary Landrieu’s memorable description of New Orleans public sector workers, has trouble coming to work even on sunny days.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Reader Ross Booher notes this from CNN:

In the aftermath, the questions grew sharper: Why did aerial shots of the flooded city show hundreds of school and city buses window-deep in water? Why hadn’t anyone used those buses to move people out? Did Amtrak really offer residents seats on trains the company moved out of harm’s way? And if so, who refused that offer and why?

Of course, Booher adds:

CNN does not connect the dots by noting that if the City had evacuated citizens using the buses, trains, etc. as set forth in the City’s Disaster Plan, there would have been no need to rescue those same people from roof tops, the Superdome, the Convention Center, overpasses, etc. The city’s failure started a cascading effect.

Yes. And although it wasn’t at fault in the pre-storm failures, I think that the collapse of the NOPD’s radio system played a substantial role in the unrest after the flooding began.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Harry Shearer emails:

Sunday’s lonnnnnng Washington Post piece on Katrina makes it clear, as I suggested to you last week, that, by the time Nagin declared his evac order (and even Haley Barbour warned of “Hurricane fatigue” from previous evacuations), getting people on those buses and SAFELY out of town was a very chancy proposition. Every plan published indicates that it would take up to 72 hours to fully evacuate New Orleans, and 72 hours in advance Katrina was not posing the lethal threat it turned out to be….

“Fully evacuate?” Yes. As Brendan Loy noted, even 48 hours is really too late — though Nagin waited much later than that. (I’ve seen people doing math to the effect that you could have gotten everyone out in 24 hours, but I doubt that New Orleans could have mustered the necessary degree of organization for that.) But certainly a lot of people could have been evacuated who weren’t, and that would have improved conditions for the rest, and reduced the burden on relief services. And if Nagin had gotten the buses out, they would have been available for further evacuations after the storm had passed, instead of him having to call for Greyhounds.

This is, of course, all water over the dam in the most literal sense, but given all the finger-pointing going on, it’s hard to ignore this issue. Had more people been evacuated, as they should have been, before the storm hit, conditions in the city would have been better, and relief services less stressed, afterward.

MORE: Reader Michael Pate emails:

Your post http://instapundit.com/archives/025165.php may not have been 72 hours ahead but it was 60. Brendan Loy has been posting for hours http://www.brendanloy.com/page2.html. Apparently, the Bush Administration had been talking to the Governor all that afternoon. If the plan had been implemented, and they had run slightly behind, a lot fewer than 100,000+ would have been in the city.

I guess public officials should read more blogs. Or at least pay attention to the stuff Brendan Loy was paying attention to.

Various readers, by the way, want to know if it’s “that” Harry Shearer. Yes.

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