Flood exposure, alternate routes, and motorist behavior during floods in the Greater Austin area

Authors: Ashley Coles*, Texas Christian University
Topics: Hazards and Vulnerability, Transportation Geography, Behavioral Geography
Keywords: hazards, floods, behavior, GIS, transportation
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 7
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Campaigns such as “Turn Around, Don’t Drown” (US National Weather Service) discourage motorists from entering flooded waters in a vehicle. However, motorists may not have or may not be aware of a feasible alternate route, and thus their mobility is constrained during flood events. Following a similar study in Tucson, residents of the Austin area were surveyed regarding their typical routes, travel behavior during floods, and information-seeking behaviors. For routes that intersect typical flood areas, network analyst was used to generate alternative routes and to calculate how much additional time and mileage would be required to avoid floods. Nearly 18 percent of routes had no possible alternative route, but of those with viable alternatives, 87 percent added fewer than 10 minutes additional driving time. This is well within the stated detour tolerance of most participants. Additionally, Austin residents show similar willingness to alter travel plans as Tucson residents, including canceling or pausing the trip or changing the route, destination, or mode of transportation, depending on the trip purpose. While Austin has real-time flood information available on the ATXFloods.com website, more than half of participants were not aware of this source. Furthermore, the website indicates road closures but does not provide alternate routes. Since motorists are willing to take safer detours, providing them with clear directions has high potential to reduce their flood risk.

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