In 2012, First Environment completed the study “Resilience of NJ TRANSIT Assets to Climate Impacts” under the guidance of NJ TRANSIT —the largest state transit agency in the country—to determine the potential risks of weather related events and impacts on its stationary assets for the five-, ten-, and twenty- year planning horizons. The research accomplished the following:
- Includes a survey of current reports and research on the topic
- Identifies and maps specific impacts to NJ TRANSIT assets (i.e., commuter rail, light rail, and bus)
- Compiles national and international agency efforts underway regarding transit strategies to protect assets
- Determines appropriate resilience strategies for the impacts identified
- Provides a summary level costs and benefits for each of the resilience strategies identified
- Summarizes and highlights cost effective strategies to maintain NJ TRANSIT current and planned future services
- The completed report provides a regional overview and can be used to identify critical impacts on assets and take appropriate measures to reduce its vulnerability to extreme weather.
Using research information, First Environment prepared flood, coastal vulnerability, and forestation maps for NJ TRANSIT using GIS data. The maps are reflective of the most recent information readily available at the time from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), and are consistent with the findings in the New Jersey Transportation Planning Authority’s (NJTPA’s) study on criticality. The maps provide a basis for NJ TRANSIT to identify and prioritize individual assets affected by the change in climate.
Asset Risk Model
First Environment developed a model to identify the range of possible outcomes based on data from established climate change models. Using this risk assessment approach allows transportation managers to identify critical high-risk facilities based on a range of potential risks related to climate change impacts. The model uses Indicators of Risk to assess the vulnerability of assets over time to identify appropriate adaptation strategies for each at-risk infrastructure site and develop cost-effective solutions to keep assets in service for the 0-5, 6-10, 11-20 and 20-50 year planning horizons.
Climate Change Indicators of Risk for New Jersey
As there are no short-term (5-20 year) climate models available to predict NJ TRANSIT’s extreme weather events, First Environment developed Indicators of Risk that quantify, on average, the increase in extreme weather events that will affect NJ TRANSIT over the next 20 years and beyond. These indicators identify the scale of the risk associated with these impacts and include: number of days over 90 degrees Fahrenheit, sea level rise, and storm/flood frequency.
Potential Resilience Strategies and Costs to Implement
Based upon the projected long-term climate impacts, First Environment and our subcontractor determined potential risk management strategies to address each of the predicted potential impacts. The purpose of implementing a resilience strategy is to make the specific assets more resilient to a particular impact. The level of resilience identified in the study was intended to minimize operational impacts to NJ TRANSIT operations after an extreme storm event, increased flooding or increase in high temperature days. For each risk management strategy we identified, the project team developed a cost range for implementation adjusted to the base year (2012). Costing was developed using a high to low rating system to represent cost variability throughout the state as well as implementation of a range of risk management options for specific assets.