Skip to content
Version 1.3

Lecture 4 - Sustainability And Transportation - Key Concepts

Sustainable Transportation Curriculum for Universities

Slide 1

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

LECTURE 4: Sustainability and Transportation — Key Concepts

Slide 2


  • Triple bottom line — environmental, economic, and social
  • Principles
    • Preserving and restoring environmental and ecological systems
    • Fostering community health and vitality
    • Promoting economic development and prosperity
    • Ensuring equity among population groups over generations
The image represents the 'sustainability stool' with 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 3

Transportation and Sustainability

There are several areas in which transportation impacts sustainability

Sustainability principles and considerations can apply to every stage of the transportation life cycle

Sustainable transportation reflects how sustainability principles are applied to the transportation sector

Transportation icon. Life cycle icon. Principles icon.

Slide 4

Transportation and Sustainability (Continued)

Energy/climate change
Water quality
Hydrologic cycle
Air quality
Mobility and access
Community impacts
Non-renewable resources


Slide 5

Approaches to Sustainable Transportation

May be holistic (viewing transportation as a part of a broader system) or sector specific (focusing on the transportation sector alone)

This image is an excerpt from a book, Sustainable Transportation: Indicators, Frameworks, and Performance Management, by Gudmundsson et al. It shows a comparison of a 'sustainable transportation perspective' and a 'sustainable development perspective.' The former focuses on a single system. Its advantage is that it provides sector-specific objectives to guide transportation policies, while the disadvantage is that transportation is considered in a vacuum, and not connected to other impacts. A <abbr class='tooltip' title='Contributes to one or more of the triple bottom line principles' >sustainable</abbr> development perspective, or a holistic view, is advantageous in that it highlights the need for a national framework or policy on sustainable development, and encourage sectors to integrate their activities. A disadvantage is that it does not provide detailed, sector-specific guidelines.

Source: Gudmundsson et al. (2016). Sustainable Transportation: Indicators, Frameworks, and Performance Management. Springer.

Slide 6

Transportation Decisions and Sustainability

Long-range transportation planning

  • Point at which expectations for sustainability performance can be discussed — particularly in terms of desired sustainability outcomes — and broad performance goals established that drive subsequent investment patterns

Short-range transportation programming

  • Point at which broad expectations about sustainability established in long-range planning can be translated into explicit targets associated with implementation of a specific set of projects

Project-level planning

  • Project-level sustainability performance may be used to inform project-level planning decisions

Slide 7

Transportation Decisions and Sustainability (continued)

Project-level review

  • As in planning, project-level sustainability performance may be used to inform project-level environmental decisions

Design, land acquisition, and permitting

  • Points at which the predictions made during planning and environmental review can be verified and translated into an outcome of sustainability

Construction, maintenance, and operations

  • How construction, maintenance, and operations work is done can be designed to support an agency's sustainability goals

Slide 8

Policies and Programs Addressing Sustainability

Sustainability considerations overlap with several transportation-sector polices and programs, such as those addressing:

  • Climate change
  • Resilience
  • Context-sensitive solutions
  • Health
  • Equity
  • Environment
  • Connectivity
  • Neighborhood revitalization
  • Smart growth
  • Multimodal transportation

These usually cover only some aspects of sustainability, not the triple bottom line in a holistic manner

Slide 9

Challenges for Sustainable Transportation

Aspect Challenges Potential Solution
DEFINITION — conceptualizing and defining sustainable transportation Unclear definition and misuse of the term. Also affected by inherent conflicts between sustainability dimensions, political factors, and alternative discourses such as resilience or climate adaptation. Take a holistic approach — with consensus on fundamental issues
MEASUREMENT — assessing progress Primarily affected by the multitude of frameworks and metrics present. It is also affected by the cross-cutting nature of sustainability, which may limit the scope of what is measured. Focus on end goal (i.e., outcome focused)
IMPLEMENTATION — implementing programs and policies Political issues and alternative discourses can affect how programs and policies are implemented. Be context specific — consider local factors

Source: Adapted from Ramani, T. L., and Zietsman, J. (2016). Sustainable Transportation—Alternative Perspectives and Enduring Challenges. International Journal of Urban Sciences, 20(3), 318-333.

Slide 10 [end]

LECTURE 4: Sustainability and Transportation — Key Concepts




Lecture 4 - Sustainability and Transportation - Key Concepts

(311 kb)

Lecture 4 - Sustainability And Transportation - Key Concepts

(627 kb)