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Lecture 2 - Introduction To Sustainability

Sustainable Transportation Curriculum for Universities

Slide 1

INVEST - Sustainable Highways Self-Evaluation Tool (logo).

LECTURE 2: Introduction to Sustainability

Slide 2

What Is Sustainability?

Sustainability encompasses a holistic consideration of economic, social, and environmental progress over the long term.

Slide 3

What Is Sustainability?

  • The United Nations Brundtland Commission (1987) defined sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”
  • Transportation agencies/the transportation sector should address sustainability within their specific transportation context

Slide 4

Sustainability Triple Bottom Line (TBL)


Economy icon. Society icon. Environment icon.

Slide 5

Sustainability Triple Bottom Line (TBL) (continued)

Transportation and TBL:

  • Economy — depends on accessible and efficient movement of people and commerce
  • Society — well-being depends on accessible and efficient transportation services, but transportation may intrude on community life
  • Environment — does not benefit from transportation, so regulations are needed to mitigate negative impacts

Slide 6

Sustainability Principles and Equity

  • Fundamental principles of sustainability:
    • Preserving and restoring environmental and ecological systems
    • Fostering community health and vitality
    • Promoting economic development and prosperity
    • Ensuring equity among population groups over generations
  • Equity connects each element of triple bottom line sustainability
The image represents the 'sustainability stool' from NCHRP Report 708:  A Guidebook for Sustainability Performance Measurement for Transportation Agencies. It has three legs representing the environmental, economic, and social dimensions, and equity being represented as a reinforcing band supporting all three dimensions.

Source: NCHRP Report 708:A Guidebook for Sustainability Performance Measurement for Transportation Agencies. National Academies Press.

Slide 7

Impacts of Transportation

Energy consumption and climate change

  • Transportation is a major consumer of energy, producing greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change


  • Transportation affects adjacent habitat, impedes wildlife movement, and changes wildlife distribution

Water quality

  • Transportation impacts water quality through temperature changes, erosion, sediment, and site pollutants

Hydrologic cycle

  • Highway construction can affect stormwater runoff and the amount of water infiltrated back into the ground

Slide 8

Impacts of Transportation (continued)

Air quality

  • Materials production, construction equipment, and fugitive dust can impact local air quality

Mobility and access

  • Transportation may cause traffic congestion and road closures, affecting mobility and access for people and freight


  • Transportation may have local community impacts related to employment, mobility, access, inconvenience, and more

Non-renewable resources

  • Transportation uses a significant amount of non-renewable natural resources

Slide 9

Sustainability and Emerging Transportation Trends

Mobility Transformation

Mobility Transformation icon. Electrification icon. Connectivity icon. Autonomy  icon.

Slide 10

Sustainability and Emerging Transportation Trends


  • Safety and security via reduced crashes, especially through connectivity and autonomy
  • Efficient and reliable travel via mitigation of road congestion through connectivity, autonomy, and mobility
  • Increased transportation options for seniors, minors, disabled, and low-income residents through mobility and autonomy
  • Climate change and sustainability via reduced vehicle ownership or single-occupancy vehicle mode share through mobility and reduced vehicle emissions through electrification
  • Sustainable development via reduced parking demand and dense land development through mobility and autonomy


  • Ensuring equity in distribution of benefits in the emerging trends and their associated opportunities

Slide 11

Key Points

Sustainability icon.

Sustainability has social, economic, and environmental dimensions

Must include human well-being with a healthy environment within a framework of time and money

Balancing sustainability dimensions icon.

Balancing of sustainability dimensions is necessary

It is a challenge to address all three dimensions simultaneously

Slide 12

Key Points (continued)

Context icon.

Sustainability is context sensitive

Situations vary, so there is no list of universal best practices

Human and Environmental Health icon.

Sustainability elevates the value of human and environmental health in the long term

Historically, sustainability has been given lower priority when compared to first costs of a project

Slide 13

Key Points (continued)

Improvement icon.

Sustainability implies improvement

Transportation stakeholders should seek constant improvement of existing practices to make progress

Scales icon.

Sustainability goes beyond the bare minimum

Regulations and standard practice reflect the bare minimum requirements, so sustainability must improve upon that

Evolution icon.

Sustainability constantly evolves

What was once considered innovative ultimately becomes standard practice, so sustainability must improve upon itself

Slide 14 [end]

LECTURE 2: Introduction to Sustainability




Lecture 2 - Introduction to Sustainability

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Lecture 2 - Introduction To Sustainability

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