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Coastal flooding increases Bay Area traffic delays and accidents

Map of Bay Area with accident estimations.
mage credit: Suckale et al
May 26 2021
Faculty, Fellow, Research, Stanford

Almost half of the world’s population currently lives in cities and that number is projected to rise significantly in the near future. This rapid urbanization is contributing to increased flood risk due to the growing concentration of people and resources in cities and the clustering of cities along coastlines.

These urban shifts also result in more complex and interconnected systems on which people depend, such as transportation networks. Disruptions to urban traffic networks from flooding or other natural disasters can have serious socioeconomic consequences. In fact, what are defined as indirect impacts from these types of events, such as commute-related employee absences, travel time delays and increase in vehicular accident rates, could ultimately outweigh the more direct physical damage to roads and infrastructure caused by severe flooding.

Stanford researchers examined traffic networks in the San Francisco Bay Area (SF Bay Area) as a case study to quantify the indirect impacts of sea level rise and intensifying coastal flood events on urban systems. Specifically, the researchers sought to identify the effects flooding would have on traffic delays and safety, particularly as road closures rerouted vehicles into adjacent streets and residential neighborhoods not designed to handle heavy vehicle flows. The research was published in the May issue of Urban Climate.

Study lead author Indraneel Kasmalkar is a 2015 SGF.

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