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Application of Catastrophe Theory to Assess Transport Sector Vulnerability using Macro-Environment Factors – A Case of Floods in the Perlis State of Malaysia

* Corresponding author
1 United States Department of Defence, Directorate  of Public Works, U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart, Stuttgart, GERMANY
2 Vidya Bhavana University,  Institute of  Humanities & Social Sciences, Department of Geography, Santiniketan, INDIA

Pages: 25-37

Abstract. Decision-makers must possess rapid assessment tools to evaluate the vulnerability of the transport sector in light of the disaster-support function. Earlier vulnerability assessment models were often prone to subjectivity in quantifying and determining transport vulnerabilities. The present paper examines the macro-environment to select factors affecting transport sector vulnerabilities. A total of 30 criteria and indicators are chosen within five factors, namely Social, Technological, Environmental, Economic and Political (STEEP), to assess the macro-level vulnerability assessment taking the flood-prone State of Perlis in Malaysia as a case study. Owing to the inherent advantages of eliminating subjective and qualitative aspects, catastrophe theory is applied to obtain multiple assessment indices defining vulnerabilities and relative importance. The results obtained using the catastrophe assessment system based on STEEP factors reveal high transport vulnerability values for social factors, followed by economic, political, environmental and technical factors. Results show that among the social factors, gender, age, and income play a significant role in defining vulnerability. Other than social factors affecting transport vulnerability, the economic condition of the state, land use distribution, political attitude and the role of civic society were also found to have significant influence. Findings suggest that the immobility of the mass population and the unavailability of sufficient infrastructure and technology are the major factors of high vulnerability. The present research urges the policymakers to focus on areas such as transport systems more usable for the elderly, promoting gender equality in the transport sector and planning better transport accessibility, particularly for low-income population, that can help to improve their effective mobility and make transport system more affordable to all. The developed assessment model is simple and operational, giving decision-makers an alternative approach to assess transport vulnerabilities.

K e y w o r d s: vulnerability assessment, indicators, catastrophe theory, traffic management, Malaysia