Sustainable Transportation Systems and Sustainability as an Organizing Principle for Transportation Agencies

Increasing awareness of the environmental, economic, and social effects of the transportation system has already led to new demands on transportation agencies to be more responsive in providing transportation services. Transportation agencies are challenged to build consensus around balancing short-term cost effectiveness and long-term sustainability. While the roles and responsibilities of transportation agencies differ from state to state, there are common organizational attributes and characteristics that transportation agencies need in order for their transportation systems to support the environment, the economy, and social equity. Against this backdrop, the traditional functions of many transportation agencies are changing. As they evolve, transportation agencies will have to be resilient in the face of continuing and new demands by society, and they may need to fundamentally rethink the mission(s) and organizing principle(s) that drive them today. To assist transportation agencies in evaluating their current and future capacity to support sustainability while delivering transportation solutions in a rapidly changing social, economic, and environmental context, an analytical framework and supporting tools are needed. The objective of this research is to provide a framework for transportation agencies to use to identify and understand the future trends and external forces that will increasingly put pressure on their ability to carry out their responsibilities to (1) meet society's evolving demand for transportation services and (2) meet society's emerging need to operate on a more sustainable basis. The framework will also provide a means for agencies to assess their future capacity to meet society's demands, and provide or identify tools and approaches that agencies may use to assist them in making changes they deem appropriate and necessary to meet rapidly changing needs and conditions. The thrust of this research is to make sense, from the perspective of a transportation agency, of the considerable amount of information that portends various future social, economic, and environmental demands from its transportation system. This research will (1) identify likely alternative future scenarios in which transportation agencies will be asked to achieve sustainability goals in providing for economic vitality, social equity, and environmental integrity that reflect conditions 30 to 50 years in the future; (2) analyze how transportation agencies' existing fiscal, legal, and institutional structure(s) and decision-making processes encourage or inhibit them from optimizing their contribution to a sustainable society; (3) examine the variety of roles, and the nature of their related primary activities, that transportation agencies may be expected to play in the future; (4) explore linkages, and expectations, between transportation agencies and stakeholders, and the need to form new alliances and partnerships with other transportation providers and system users; and (5) provide or identify tools that individual agencies can use in designing their particular approach(es) to adapting to the demands and opportunities of the future and in describing, in broad terms, how "sustainable" transportation agencies might be organized.


  • English


  • Status: Completed
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project 20-83(07)

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Federal Highway Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590

    American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO)

    444 North Capitol Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001

    National Cooperative Highway Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001
  • Project Managers:

    Sundstrom, Lori

  • Performing Organizations:

    Booz, Allen and Hamilton, Incorporated

    8283 Greensboro Drive
    McLean, VA  United States  22102
  • Principal Investigators:

    Houston, Nancy

  • Start Date: 20100420
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 20130715
  • Source Data: RiP Project 22369

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01464184
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: National Cooperative Highway Research Program
  • Contract Numbers: Project 20-83(07)
  • Files: TRB, RiP, USDOT
  • Created Date: Jan 3 2013 2:37PM