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150 More Buses Went Unused in New Orleans Evacuation

If you were the Mayor of New Orleans and you needed busses fast to evacuate the city, would you:

A) Get on the radio and whine that the Federal Government should "Get off their asses" and send some.

B) Pick up the phone and call the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority and ask them if they had any.

We all know what Nagin did. To paraphrase the old movie line, "He chose unwisely." If he had called the RTA, he might have found 150 city busses that could have been to the Superdome in 10 minutes.

Enlarge Image
Some 150 buses that were moved to the Poland Avenue Wharf in the Lower Ninth Ward appear to have fared well, but about 70 of those vehicles were commandeered by the police and fire departments, the National Guard, and in a few cases by individual citizens who used them to evacuate family members, friends and neighbors.

The RTA is in the process of recovering those buses and other unaccounted-for vehicles. The agency has learned that two buses wound up in Lafayette, one in Opelousas and one in Bunkie. Two other buses were found in the Ninth Ward, where residents used them several days for shelter.

In what may be the only bit of good news, RTA spokeswoman Deslie Isidore said it looks like the passengers on the pirated buses "did not lay a finger on the fareboxes.''

They were in perfect condition and the route between them and the elevated interstate was dry the whole time. (see link to wharf) Since the busses were going unused, other people finally found them and commandeered them on an ad hoc basis. To add insult to injury, the city had professional bus drivers to boot!

Although many of RTA's buses flooded in Katrina, the agency has enough to begin the limited run, Cook said.

And staffing isn't a problem, she said. Many bus drivers stayed at RTA's Canal Street office during the storm and evacuated on the Tuesday after the hurricane for shelter in Baton Rouge, Cook said.

"There's no problem with getting personnel," she said.

They could have easily put 140 people per city bus. Or, to do the math, they could have moved 21,000 people in a single trip. There were an estimated 20,000 in the Dome. Between these buses and the 60 previously found school busses in Algiers, they could have made it in 1 trip with room to spare.

This -perhaps better than any other example- shows why local officials are in charge of first response and not the feds. Local officials (ahem, the Mayor) should have known who to call. Once they knew there were busses on the wharf, they should have known they were just minutes from the Dome and the areas around the river never floods. (The convention center is also on the river and everyone knew it was fine) Locals know their area (or should) and -in any other city- can manage the response better than some bureaucrat flown in from Washington. Instead of trying to find a solution, Nagin whined that he was a victim.

If Nagin had used the resources available to him properly, he could have had the Dome evacuated by Tuesday at noon and much of the chaos that broke out in the city would have been avoided. But he didn't.

Note: The Image above (via NOAA) was taken Wednesday, August 31, 2005.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference 150 More Buses Went Unused in New Orleans Evacuation:

» A Blog For All linked with Hurricane Cleanup Continues

» TigerHawk linked with BusGate proliferates

» Keith D. Milby :: blog linked with The Big Metro Buses

» Antisemantics linked with More Nagin meltdown.

» Right Thoughts...not right wing, just right. linked with Another damning photo

» Mudville Gazette linked with Dawn Patrol

» Katrina Coverage linked with 150 more buses found in Ninth Ward

» Keith D. Milby :: blog linked with The Big Metro Buses

» Eclipse Ramblings linked with "He chose unwisely."

» dwayne.blog-city.com linked with Off I go......but first....

» Llama School linked with NORTA Responds to Bus Questions

Comments (20)

Who is going to hold Nagin ... (Below threshold)

Who is going to hold Nagin responsible? Voters? The people of N.O. shouldn't have to wait that long. Has anyone in the MSM held him accountable?

But Paul the evil racist Gr... (Below threshold)

But Paul the evil racist Gretna Police department on orders from Chimpy McBushitler would have arrested anyone trying to get those buses and sent them to Gitmo.

Uh, actually the line if "Y... (Below threshold)

Uh, actually the line if "You chose...wisely." The one you want is "He chose poorly."

If nagin's negligence gets ... (Below threshold)

If nagin's negligence gets him convicted of "a crime against the citizens of New Orleans", will it go into the statistics as a black-on-black crime?

Eric,Dude. That p... (Below threshold)
Sheik Yur Bouty:


Dude. That post should have been in ALL CAPS. C'mon man. Get with the program!


If this keeps up we will di... (Below threshold)

If this keeps up we will discover that there were enough buses for every last person in the Superdome to get out.

- Ok.... Nagin and Blanco, ... (Below threshold)

- Ok.... Nagin and Blanco, and every other governmental entity totally jumped the shark.... We get it.... At this point thats all water over the dike... the issue now is: Do we really want to spend gazillions restablishing a repeat of another identical disaster. Not an easy answer to that question....

Well, he would have not bee... (Below threshold)
Papa Ray:

Well, he would have not been able to find any city employees to drive them.

He would have had to ask for assistance from FEMA for drivers.

They would of course have to have:

Valid lousyiana drivers lisence

Experience in driving busses.

Bring enough food and water for

Bring the gas or disel for the busses.

Pay the City for the use of the busses.

Return busses clean and with full gas tanks.

Papa Ray

Oh, don't worry, people...N... (Below threshold)

Oh, don't worry, people...Naggin' will make it all right now: let's just gamble our way back to health!

Mayor seeks to turn hotels into casinos to save city

From the article:

Mayor Ray Nagin called Friday for a major expansion of casino gambling in hurricane-hit New Orleans in a desperate attempt to quickly heal its battered lifeblood industry -- tourism. "Now is the time for us to think out of the box," Nagin said while expressing some hesitancy about the method of his plan. "I'd love to have another solution for the citizens. I'm not a big gaming person," he said.

"We don't need no steeenkin' buses!!! Just gimme more slots!"

/stinking b*stard

Well, he would have not ... (Below threshold)

Well, he would have not been able to find any city employees to drive them.

[sigh] Another one of those commenters. Papa Ray, if Nagin had half a clue he would have used the buses to get people out of the city before the storm -- before the bus drivers left.

He would have had to ask for assistance from FEMA for drivers.

Or put out a call for qualified volunteers. If he had taken on the full responsibility for responding to the disaster that was his to bear, he would have been able to do this on his own authority without even involving the feds.

I truly do get tired of reading comments from living brain donors.

Papa Ray, you forgot that a... (Below threshold)

Papa Ray, you forgot that any FEMA drivers would have to be certified by the union and take sensitivity training before they could begin to drive city busses.

Nagin saw this photograph, ... (Below threshold)

Nagin saw this photograph, and has already debunked it. "C'mon people" said Nagin, "look at those buses! What are they, like 1 inch long? A 1 inch long bus cannot be used to save people!"

they had buses drivers avai... (Below threshold)

they had buses drivers available???

but but but Sen. Mary Landrieu TOLD us there were not drivers; that Bu$HitlerBrownieFemaHatesBlacks doesn't understand the problems mayors have

Mayor Nagin and most mayors in this country have a hard time getting their people to work on a sunny day, let alone getting them out of the city in front of a hurricane.

More on Naggin', from WWL-T... (Below threshold)

More on Naggin', from WWL-TV's website:

Nagin in the eye of the storm after Katrina

But critics suggest Mr. Nagin already has bobbled some key decisions since the storm. They say he sent the wrong signal by meeting in Dallas with some of New Orleans' mostly white business executives.


A former Republican and donor to President George W. Bush, Mr. Nagin switched parties just before entering the mayor's race. He also endorsed Republican U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal in the 2003 gubernatorial runoff against Democrat Kathleen Blanco – the eventual winner.

(emphasis mine)

So...he won't meet with Lakeview residents (pissed-off voters), but he WILL meet with CBD businessmen (fueling his corporate tax base).

Oh, and note WWL's spin on Nagin's political re-alignment, as if to subtly suggest that his problems stem from him not REALLY being a Democrat. Gotta love that one.

Damn. February's mayoral election is gonna be interesting...

Anyone with a valid commerc... (Below threshold)

Anyone with a valid commercial drivers license could have driven those busses.... Firefighters with experience driving the trucks, truck drivers, city bus drivers, etc...

The blacks reap what they s... (Below threshold)
Rob Hackney:

The blacks reap what they sow. What do you expect when you elect Blacks like him?

Rob,What an amazin... (Below threshold)
Chris S:


What an amazingly racist comment.

The question is one of competience and ability to do one's job.

There are plenty of competient blacks and incompetent whites.

Just look at Powell, Rice, Judge Brown, or Justice Thomas.

For that matter Mayor Nagin was by all accounts a successful executive for Cox Cable before he entered politics. Without Katrina he might have gone down as one of the better mayors in New Orleans history (admittedly a low bar). Unfortuantely he has proven to be marginal emergency manager at best.

Just because you are competient and successful in one area doesn't mean you will be successful in all areas. Oprah is very good at being an entertainer but I wouldn't expect her to be good at running a hospital. Michael Jordan was a phenomenal basketball player, but only able to make the minors in baseball, his coaching career hasn't been much better.

Rob,That was about... (Below threshold)


That was about 1 nanometer away from being deleted. Frankly the only reason I didn't was then I'd have to delete Chris for continuity's sake and he had something worth saying.

It is too bad there are so ... (Below threshold)

It is too bad there are so many uninformed people acting like authorities on this issue.
1. The estimates from the Hurricane Pam disaster drill and experience from other urban evacuations led the city officials to expect well over 100,000 people left in the city.
2. There were not anywhere close to enough buses available in the immediate area to evacuate that many people before the storm hit - it took upwards of 12 hours to get to any large city from New Orleans, and only large cities had large buildings available as shelters for tens of thousands of evacuees.
3. With the back-ups on the evacuation routes, buses tasked with taking people on contraflowed roads would have been able to make ONLY 1 trip.
4. Governor Blanco delivered 68 buses from surrounding areas on Monday after the worst of the winds had slowed down to evacuate some people. I expect that the few RTA (city bus) drivers left in town were some of the drivers that were used to get the first people out of New Orleans. In addition, they did have a few buses that were transporting relief workers and evacuating people.
5. She was told on that same day that FEMA would provide 500 air-conditioned buses to evacuate people. That is why Nagin and Blanco did not continue to assemble more school buses on Monday.
6. Blanco DID commandeer, via executive order, hundreds of school buses from other Louisiana parishes on Wednesday and forced those parishes to provide the bus drivers that would normally be providing transportation to school children, when FEMA had not delivered the air conditioned buses. Those buses evacuated over 15,000 people on Wednesday and Thursday, until the Greyhound buses eventually arrived on Thursday.
7. The Mayor has said that they had trouble finding enough drivers to drive the few city-owned buses, some with lifts for wheelchairs, that stopped at 10 locations around New Orleans and delivered people to the SuperDome, the shelter of last resort. There is no evidence that there was a surplus of drivers that Nagin failed to take advantage of.
8. The school buses shown in the flooded lot DID NOT belong to the city. They did not even belong to the Orleans School District. They were owned by a company named Laidlaw. The bus drivers for those buses were not employees of the Orleans School District - they were employees of a private company. There is no way that Nagin could have FORCED those drivers to drive those buses.
9. The fact that a private person can steal a bus and then drive it, or that a private business can allow anyone that they chose to drive a bus does not mean that a city can allow just anyone to drive buses being used in a citywide evacuation. A municipality cannot do that - they had to have legitimate bus drivers. In addition, in order to have bus drivers on call for any evacuation, someone would have had to been paying them to be 'on call'. We all know people who are 'on call' for their jobs, and they are paid to be 'available', even if they are not called in to work. In order to have bus drivers available in these circumstances, some municipality needed to have been paying them OR FEMA needed to provide bus drivers from out of the immediate area, which is eventually one of the things that happened. It just took FEMA until Thursday and Friday to deliver those buses and bus drivers.
10. They would have also needed additional security staff to monitor and supervise the gathering point(s), medical personnel to staff the buses, and additional staff to manage the crowd control and queues.
11. Since there were insufficient school buses to transport all those that were left in the city, the issue arises of who would have gotten on those buses. The people that died were mostly in 3 categories. Those who died as a result of hospitals and nursing homes being able to provide advanced life support and intensive medical care, those that drown because they did not evacuate their homes and move to safe higher ground like the SuperDome, and those that did evacuate to the SuperDome but were too medically fragile or too young to survive for days without water.
12. Would the weakest people in the hospitals who died from lack of advanced medical care have survived 12 hour trips on non-airconditioned buses without basic medical machines or treatments? Of course not. How about those that failed to even leave their flooded neighborhoods? Well, they would not have gotten on the buses either - they were unwilling to leave their homes. So buses would not have saved them. And the weakest people at the SuperDome? Would they have been able to force their way to the front of the line once people realized that the number of buses was incapable of evacuating even a quarter of those left in the city? Remember, with all the buses, hundreds of them, that the Governor was able to amass, they still only got 15,000 people out. There were at least 60,000 at the Convention Center and the SuperDome, and about 100,000 or more in the city who did not evacuate.

Getting 80% of a city's population to evacuate is a very high number. If a few poorly built flood walls had not collapsed, those 20% of people left in the city would have been okay IF they had gotten help from FEMA in a timely fashion. There were 360,000 meals ready to eat delivered to the SuperDome, and trucks full of water on Sunday and Monday. They had supplies for several days. FEMA should have been planning on a city flooded with toxic waters that needed to be evacuated as of Saturday. FEMA has told local emergency preparedness officials for years that they should be prepared to hang on by their fingertips for 48-72 hours until FEMA can provide significant help. That 2-3 day window of time, starting from Saturday, would have been over on Tuesday. But obviously FEMA was NOT there, in any great numbers, on Tuesday. The buses they promised Nagin and Blanco would be provided did not arrive until Thursday. They should have had those buses there before then. They should have planned on this need beginning on Saturday. In fact New Orleans was hit with a less powerful storm, and had much less wind damage than what FEMA should have been preparing for.

These accusations of failure directed towards Nagin and his dealings with the buses appear to be an effort to deflect criticism from the Bush Administration. Nagin and Blanco were NOT perfect in the way they managed this diaster. There is plenty of blame for almost everyone involved. However, Nagin really does not deserve blame for not using the buses.

1. After the Hurricane Pam disaster drill, and after Hurricane Ivan the year before, and after reading about how the city's evacuation had problems before Hurricane Georges, the Mayor insisted upon the creation of a disaster plan that would be sent out to the residents of New Orleans. They were looking to recruit local churches to organize small groups that would help those without cars to evacuate, among many other initiatives. This plan that Nagin had initiated was almost complete when Hurricane Katrina hit. Governor Blanco and the state of Louisiana had created a plan that called for a phased evacuation of low-lying parishes first, allowing those people to get off the delta and past New Orleans before the Mayor of New Orleans would be allowed to call for the mandatory evacuation of the city. This protects thoses people who live in areas not protected by levees and floodwalls to get out in time, and not be stuck in dangerous areas by gridlocked highways out of New Orleans. This Statewide evacuation plan also called for contraflowing the three major evacuation routes out of town - something that Louisiana had NOT had in effect for previous storms. The Mayor could NOT cooperate with the Statewide evacuation plan and call for a mandatory evacuation of his city too early. The parishes south of New Orleans did not demand that their residents evacuate until Saturday morning or early afternoon, and so Mayor Nagin had to wait until Sunday to demand that New Orleanians leave. There was not time THEN to assemble people at gathering points, find bus drivers, extra police, crowd control and medical help and get map directions to those drivers to evacuation sites in safe areas. The best idea was to encourage everyone they could to leave, and to provide a safe place for those that would not or could not leave. Nagin did that. I am really sorry that so many people refuse to look at the facts and come away with reasonable conclusions about his actions regarding these facts.

We actually <a href="http:/... (Below threshold)

We actually contacted NORTA to get their side of the account on a lot of the schoolbus stories. Unfortunately, a lot in your post in accurate. First, the Mayor did contact NORTA both before and after Katrina hit, requesting RTA buses for evacuation of the Superdome (some which were used to take disabled people out before flooding became widespread).

Also, the drivers that were at the Canal St. station were stuck in the building after it was flooded, and were evacuated out. They were not pressed into service after being evacuated, allowing them to rest after having gone through flooding and a hurricane.

There's more comments from the NORTA spokeswoman in the link that present the other side of the story.






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