Kansas City, Missouri was the only urban area that received an “A” for its evacuation capability among 37 cities evaluated by the American Highway Users Alliance. The Emergency Evacuation Report Card 2006 created an index based on three major factors: Exit Capacity, Internal Traffic Flow, and Automobile Access.

The report, “Emergency Evacuation Report Card 2006: 25 Urban Areas Could Face Greater Challenges than New Orleans Experienced After Hurricane Katrina” examines emergency evacuation capabilities, strengths and weaknesses in U.S. cities with a population of one million residents or more. Its purpose is to identify areas of weakness in “evacuation readiness” so that transportation planners can develop strategies to improve evacuation capabilities.

According to Wendell Cox, author of the report and Principal, Demographia, a public policy organization, Kansas City’s high marks are the result of several factors, including a very strong grid-oriented freeway and arterial street network.

Combined with a relatively low population density, the system provides far more efficient evacuation access in terms of exit capacity at the fringe of the urban area as well as internal movement of traffic. Another contributing factor is Kansas City’s high households-with-automobiles ratio.

Improving highway capacity is key to improving evacuation plans in areas that scored lower in the report. Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Miami, and San Francisco came in at the bottom of the rankings.

Cox says that, “while it will be difficult to improve the evacuation capacity of places like New York and Chicago, it can be done.” Use of emerging technology programs, removal of traffic bottlenecks, and new construction can not only improve mobility, but also improve an area’s overall economic picture by creating jobs and growing revenues.