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Sustainable Transportation Curriculum for Universities

This curriculum on sustainable transportation was developed in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The curriculum uses FHWA's Infrastructure Voluntary Evaluation Sustainability Tool (INVEST) as a tool for learning about sustainable transportation and applying the concepts to real-world transportation problems.

The curriculum is intended to support the development and delivery of university courses on sustainable transportation at the graduate or undergraduate level. Further, elements of the curriculum can also be incorporated into other university courses or be used for practitioner education/continuing education purposes. This curriculum was developed by a contractor team (ICF International and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute/Texas A&M University) in cooperation with FHWA. The curriculum is based on a course piloted at Texas A&M University, which was then developed into a generalizable curriculum and course materials, which can be adapted by users to fit their specific needs.

The curriculum examines sustainability as it relates to transportation, and explores various sustainability elements in the planning, design, and construction of infrastructure, with a particular focus on transportation systems. The curriculum introduces the sustainability evaluation tool INVEST and provides an opportunity for the students to become familiar with its use. The primary objective is to understand how sustainability influences infrastructure, particularly transportation systems. The major topics discussed include the roles of planners, designers, and constructors; the economic, environmental, and social considerations of transportation; and available tools for assessing and evaluating the efficacy of sustainability practices.

The prototype course piloted at Texas A&M University was developed and delivered at an introductory level, assuming that most students would have little to no previous knowledge of sustainable transportation; thus, the course materials included in the curriculum are suitable for undergraduate and graduate students. For undergraduate students, we recommend that the course be of an objective nature, whereas graduate students should be able to provide more subjective analyses and evaluations.

The prototype course was developed under the presumption that it would be taught by others either in whole or in part. Although the prototype course was delivered as a semester-long course, the curriculum material lends itself to the development of modules on specific topics of interest. Each module may include its own stand-alone course materials including lectures, article reviews, case studies, and quizzes.

The individual modules may be incorporated into existing university courses on sustainability, transportation, or other related topics. This is particularly useful for curriculums that wish to introduce sustainable transportation but do not feel the need (or have the flexibility) to include a semester-long course. Based on interviews with faculty that have an interest in sustainable transportation course material, a module format was of particular interest. These faculty indicated that incorporating modules into existing courses was preferable to having a new semester-long course on sustainable transportation. Further, elements of this course may be used for continuing education applications. They can be used by transportation professionals for self-learning or can be used in educational workshops and presentations for transportation agency staff.