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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

KATRINA: Bill Hobbs Puts ThinkProgress Bus Debunking in the Ditch

Did New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin blow it when he ignored his own published emergency evacuation plan's provision for using public transportation and school buses to evacuate the old and infirm? We've all seen the AP photo of the flooded bus lot, but ThinkProgress claims there is much more to the story.

Indeed there is, but Bill Hobbs in Music City took another look at the whole issue yesterday and came away with a comprehensive fisking of the ThinkProgress analysis specifically and the general issue of Nagin's failure to use the buses.

Turns out the AP photo isn't the only shot of the bus lot. There is legitimate dispute about the total of available buses Nagin could have used, but Hobbs makes crystal clear that there were hundreds of vehicles available is indisputable:

"The question, then, is - did he use them? The now-famous AP photo suggests that he did not. It shows a large number of school buses parked in neat formation in a flooded parking lot. That parking lot, it turns out, is about a mile from the Superdome.
"Were all of them working buses before the flood? Unknown. But - again, according to the newspaper article numbers referenced by ThinkProgress - no more than 70 of them were broken down. Which means that, at a minimum, there were around 185 working buses that were left to drown in the flood instead of being used to evacuate some of the city's poorest residents.
"Overall, we know - thanks to the newspaper article referenced by Think Progress - that New Orleans had 254 school buses that it could have used to evacuate people.
"The photo I've included clearly doesn't show 254 or 255 buses, so why, then, do I keep repeating those numbers? The answer is that a
satellite photo of flooded New Orleans shows the entire bus lot, while the AP aerial photo above shows only part of it.
"The blogger who found the satellite photo counted approximately 255 buses in it. You can see it here at JunkyardBlog (scroll down). He counted 255 buses, the Times Picayune said that city had 254 working buses - the coincidence suggests the buses shown in the flooded parking lot in the AP aerial photo and the satellite photo are the city's working school buses.
"254 buses, carrying 60 people per bus, could have evacuated 15,240 people per trip. How many trips to Baton Rouge - 75 miles away - might they have made if mobilized two days before Katrina hit?

"Two? That's 30,480 poor residents evacuated. Three? That's 45,720 people evacuated. The Superdome didn't need to be a shelter of "last resort" for tens of thousands of poor people to ride out Hurricane Katrina. It needed to be a central boarding station for a mass evacuation by bus before Katrina struck.
"But the 254 working city school buses made zero trips."

The above excerpt is only part of Hobbs' excellent analysis of the bus issue and of the ThinkProgress attempt to debunk the claim that Nagin had hundreds of buses available for evacuation but did not use them.

Seems to me Hobbs has provided the definitive analysis of the bus issue.