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Economic resilience to transportation failure: a computable general equilibrium analysis


This study develops and applies a multimodal computable general equilibrium (CGE) framework to investigate the role of resilience in the economic consequences of transportation system failures. Vulnerability and economic resilience of different modes of transportation infrastructure, including air, road, rail, water and local transit, are assessed using a CGE model that incorporates various resilience tactics including modal substitution, trip conservation, excess capacity, relocation/rerouting, and service recapture. The linkages between accessibility, vulnerability, and resilience are analyzed. The model is applied to the transportation system failures in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to illustrate its capabilities. The analytical framework, however, has broader applications and can provide insights for resource allocations to enhance emergent responses to unexpected events and to improve resilient design of transportation infrastructure systems.

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Fig. 1


  1. “Failure” often means total shutdown or complete cessation. The more general case is partial shutdown—disruption. We consider the influence of Hurricane Katrina on transportation infrastructures in Louisiana as a failure because the systems were completed shutdown for days. See additional evidence provided by Smyrlis (2005).

  2. See Rose (2009) on how these various tactics relate to the basic concept of the economic production function.

  3. Bicycling and walking conserve on the number of trips on formal transportation modes (which relate to transportation service providers, both private and government) that have to be made, which is consistent with the definition of economic resilience. We reserve the term substitution for shifts between formal modes.

  4. Excess capacity promotes production recapture, and is also a separate resilience tactic (similar to system redundancy).

  5. The model was originally developed by Oladosu and Rose for environmental policy analysis (Rose and Oladosu 2002) and for consequence analysis of terrorism events (Rose et al. 2009).

  6. It refers to the depiction of a hierarchal decision-making process. The nested structure provides the reader with an illustration with regard to transport in Level 4 and Level 3.

  7. An example of the estimation of the Transportation nest substitution elasticities can be found in Avetisyan (2012).

  8. Again, our analysis focuses on static resilience only, i.e., we evaluate the adaptive ability to utilize remaining resources available as efficiently as possible to maintain function. Investment related to the implementation of these resilience tactics is beyond the scope of the analysis.

  9. Due to data limitations, our assessment measures the national economic impact of transportation system failure after Hurricane Katrina. One should also note that a regional level impact assessment may be more relevant once such data become available.


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This material is based upon work supported by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security under Grant Award Number 2010-ST-061-RE0001-05. The views and conclusions contained in this document are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as necessarily representing the official policies, either expressed or implied, of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The authors are grateful for the excellent assistance from Joshua Banks, and Noah Miller. An early version of this paper was presented at the Eighth NECTAR International Conference held at Ann Arbor, Michigan in 2015. Any errors or omissions are the sole responsibility of the authors.

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Correspondence to Zhenhua Chen.

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Chen, Z., Rose, A. Economic resilience to transportation failure: a computable general equilibrium analysis. Transportation 45, 1009–1027 (2018).

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  • Transportation
  • System failure
  • Economic resilience
  • Accessibility
  • Computable general equilibrium (CGE) modeling
  • Hurricane Katrina