OLIS Sustainable Transportation Class

Vicki Elmer, University of Oregon


This paper describes a pilot graduate sustainable transportation course developed at the University of Oregon to provide hands-on project experience for students studying sustainability. New approaches to sustainability and transportation pedagogies will provide a galvanizing force for tomorrow’s graduates, who must respond to concerns about climate change and the environment, social equity, and an uncertain economy. They will require an aptitude for both technical skills and collaborative leadership and communication skills. The course was guided by a framework founded in five themes from the literature on sustainability education and transportation planning and engineering education: 

(1) leading with sustainability’s cornerstones of people, prosperity and planet, 
(2) sponsoring a systems thinking approach to analyze transportation issues and potential solutions, 
(3) incorporating knowledge from interdisciplinary resources, 
(4) promoting “softer” skills including communication and leadership, and 
(5) emphasizing applied learning. 

The themes aim to overcome institutional barriers and to better prepare students for the rapidly evolving challenges they will encounter in the sustainability and transportation fields. Although the purpose of the project was to develop a framework and institutionalize a sustainable transportation class at the graduate level, the student projects had unforeseen impacts upon the community in furthering innovative technologies and policies. Ultimately, the class was featured in the local progressive weekly newspaper as starting a "sustainable transit revolution.” This paper documents the process, the projects, and puts the experience in the context of literature on the framework themes and sustainability and transportation education.


Anticipated impacts/benefits of the new course:
1.  Provide generalist graduate students with an overview of sustainable transportation practices and impediments at the local level.
2.  Provide generalist graduate students with an experiential learning project to apply the more general knowledge.
3.  Provide an example to the PPPM program that a graduate class of this sort could work, and perhaps it could influence their curriculum as well as that of OLIS.

Anticipated impacts/benefits of the student projects for clients:  
1.  Reduced dependence on fossil fuels and reduced carbon emissions for commuters to the University of Oregon; and City of Eugene.
2.  Student understanding of relationship between local transportation policies and carbon emissions.
3.  Community awareness of importance of transit.

Project Details

Project Type:
Project Status:
End Date:
December 31,2013
UTC Grant Cycle:
Tier 1 Round 1
UTC Funding: