Measuring the Sustainability of Urban Transportation Systems
By Christine Buckley, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
A group of researchers in UConn’s departments of geography and civil and environmental engineering have developed and tested a new index that will measure the sustainability of complex urban transportation systems across the globe.
The index will allow policymakers, scientists and the public to understand not just how congested cities’ transportation systems are, but the economic, social, and environmental impacts of the system as a whole.
“Policy in developed countries and in the U.S. in particular has tended to focus on relieving congestion and has largely ignored social and environmental impacts associated with expanding freeways,” says Carol Atkinson-Palombo, assistant professor of geography in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “This index takes a more holistic approach, which gives a comprehensive sense of the effects of the system.”
The Transportation Index for Sustainable Places, or TISP, is part of the July themed issue of the journal Research in Transportation Business & Management, edited by Atkinson-Palombo, Norman Garrick, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Wesley Marshall, a former graduate student of Garrick’s who is now a faculty member at the University of Colorado, Denver. Timothy Garceau, a Ph.D. student in geography, was a lead author on one of the papers in the issue.
Before coming to UConn, Garceau worked as a city planner for four years. He says that although sustainability is a buzzword, people have a hard time defining it.
“Our team was trying to find a way to measure, in a tangible fashion with data, what it means to be considered sustainable transportation,” he says.
Garrick says that many people only think about transportation in terms of traffic. These so-called congestion indices, he says, are misleading because they are not necessarily about making the city better, but simply moving cars more efficiently.