Validating Alternative Conceptualizations of Sustainable Transportation
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This study explores how the concept of sustainable transportation relates other broad and overarching concepts that have emerged recently in the transportation sector, such as livability, health, and resilience. This study uses the term “alternative conceptualization” of sustainable transportation to collectively reference discourse in the transportation sector that explicitly purports to promote sustainability, as well as discourse (such as the examples of livability, health, and resilience) that addresses aspects of sustainability implicitly. The primary goal of the study is to assess these alternative conceptualizations of sustainable transportation in relation to each other. First, the study undertook a qualitative analysis of alternative conceptualizations of sustainability, on the basis of their scope, coverage of sustainability dimensions, and acknowledgement of inter- and intra-generational equity issues. The analysis demonstrated that there are overlaps, as well as significant differences between the various concepts. Second, the study used transportation planning data to conduct an indicator-based case study for the El Paso metropolitan area. Data from the regional travel demand model and other sources were used to quantify a sustainability index, livability index, and health index for individual traffic analysis zones in the region, for four analysis years (2010, 2020, 2030 and 2040). Each index was comprised of representative indicators, which were normalized and aggregated in accordance with common multi-criteria decision-making methods. The analysis results demonstrated little correlation between the quantified livability, sustainability, and health indices developed for the El Paso region. The indices also showed relatively low levels of change over time for a location. That is, the relative performance of a traffic analysis zone tended to stay the same, despite the modeled changes to the transportation system, demographics, and land use. The main implication of the research findings is that despite overlaps at a theoretical level, concepts such as livability and health cannot necessarily serve as proxies for sustainability when implemented in practice. The study also provides insight into the challenges of making meaningful change in the area of sustainability over time and highlights the influence of factors beyond transportation, such as land use and socio-economic issues.
Ramani, Tara Lakshmi (2017). Validating Alternative Conceptualizations of Sustainable Transportation. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from