Risk-Based Decision Support Tools: Protecting Rail-Centered Transit Corridors from Cascading Effects

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We consider the value of decision support tools for passenger rail system managers. First, we call for models that follow events along main rail lines and then into the surrounding environment where they can cascade onto connected light rail, bus, auto, truck, and other transport modes. Second, we suggest that both probabilistic risk assessment (PRA-based) and agent-based models have a role to play at different scales of analysis and for different kinds of risks. Third, we argue that economic impact tools need more systematic evaluation. Fourth, we note that developers of decision support tools face a challenge of balancing their desire for theoretical elegance and the tendency to focus only on high consequence events against decisionmakers’ mistrust of complex tools that they and their staff cannot manage and incorporate into their routine operations, as well as the high costs of developing, updating, and applying decision support tools to transport systems undergoing budget cuts and worker and service reductions.

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