Transportation Planning Education in the United States

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public policy are taught at universities and colleges. All these problems ... In the United States, there will be a lot of turnover among transpor- tation planning ...
Transportation Planning Education in the United States Literature Review, Course Survey, and Findings Jiangping Zhou and Lisa Schweitzer section describes the design, goals, and procedures of the NSTPC, including the questions the survey asked. The third section summarizes the NSTPC’s findings and, when appropriate, compares these findings with those of previous studies. The final section draws overall conclusions and suggests research directions for the future.

This paper reports the results of a nationwide survey on transportation planning topics taught at U.S. universities. The survey gathered a comprehensive inventory of courses, documented variations in curricula, and determined the variations among those curricula in how they emphasized different transportation topics. This paper also includes a literature review to trace the evolution of transportation classes and education over time. Along with the survey on course content, the manuscript presents an analysis of the spatial distribution of transportation courses and in particular of transportation planning courses. The study finds that educational opportunities in transportation planning are widely distributed across the nation and that students are able to take advantage of the opportunities. However, some planning programs stand out for offering a wider variety of relevant topics, and those programs are concentrated on the coasts. Relatively little is known about the affect of geography on the allocation of resources in transportation education. Transportation educators have multiple opportunities for exploring new topics and methods, such as by including globalization and comparative study, promoting transportation planning knowledge across different educational levels, and continuing to monitor and evaluate higher education and training programs.

RELEVANT LITERATURE Three basic problems emerge from a review of the existing research on transportation education and training: the potential gap between the aggregate demand for and the supply of transportation graduates; the mismatch between the expectations that employers or experienced experts have for employees and the training students actually receive from transportation educators; and the comparatively modest amount of existing research on how well transportation topics emphasized in public policy are taught at universities and colleges. All these problems hover over the issues of the quality and output of transportation education and how to measure it, as elaborated below.

Demand for and Supply of Transportation Graduates

Access, mobility, and transportation issues are more complex today than ever before. Once considered the exclusive domain of engineers, the transportation profession now draws from a wide variety of disciplines ranging from computer science to architecture to communications to ecology. Despite—or perhaps because of— the transportation field’s broad professional base and importance to a globalized world, the expertise demanded of professionals has burgeoned and become more diffuse. There is little information, however, on what training prospective transportation planners receive in U.S. universities or on whether this training adequately prepares those future planners to excel in the transport field. To address this knowledge gap, therefore, FHWA with the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) sponsored a Nationwide Survey of Transportation Planning Courses (NSTPC) between 2004 and 2005. This paper, in four sections, reports on the design, goals, methods, and results of the NSTPC. The first section reviews the relevant literature and highlights the significance of the NSTPC in tandem with previous efforts to study transportation education. The second

In the United States, there will be a lot of turnover among transportation planning professionals in the next 10 years or so. A 2003 TRB report found that 50% (or even more) of transport staff in public agencies will be eligible for retirement between 2003 and 2013. Given this trend, transportation agencies face a challenge, within a relatively short time frame, of recruiting a sufficient number of new employees to fill the gap left behind by these retirees. To make matters worse, the public sector has had more difficulty in recruiting and retaining transport professionals than has the private sector, largely due to uncompetitive compensation packages and the lack of on-the-job training (1). In addition to the challenge of finding a sufficient quantity of new recruits, transportation agencies also have to deal with the quality of these new recruits. FHWA and TRB have actively sought to measure this quality and to improve it in the U.S. context (1–5). Their studies have indicated a significant shift in the missions of transportation agencies: a shift requiring an extension of the scope of skills and knowledge that are being demanded from transportation professionals. For instance, as transportation agencies expand their missions from mostly highway building to multimodal transportation system planning and maintenance, they need professionals who have the knowledge and skills to handle the issues surrounding multiple modes of transportation efficiently (1). In other words, the quality of current

School of Policy, Planning, and Development, University of Southern California, Lewis Hall, Los Angeles, CA 90089. Corresponding author: J. Zhou, [email protected]. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, No. 2109, Transportation Research Board of the National Academies, Washington, D.C., 2009, pp. 1–11. DOI: 10.3141/2109-01



employees and new recruits is another challenge, in addition to the quantity of new recruits, which transportation agencies have to meet. These challenges faced by transportation agencies may ultimately translate into pressure on (or may act as incentives for) transportation educators. On the one hand, educators may need to attract more students, who would eventually serve as replacements for the anticipated wave of retirements to be faced by transportation agencies. On the other hand, as transportation agencies increasingly require extended knowledge and skills from their current workforce and prospective employees, educators will have to improve the cultivation of their trainees or students.

Mismatch Between Training and Education and the Needs of Employers Meeting the human capital demands for transportation agencies is only part of the whole story of supply and demand in transportation education. Not differentiating between the public and private sectors, several authors have addressed the potential mismatch between the training professionals receive and the needs of their future employers, and what the roles of different stakeholders are in whittling down the mismatch. These authors have advocated incorporating a wide range of subjects and technologies into transportation education. Against the backdrop of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991, Turnbull in 1995 (6) suggested that transportation planning education stress multimodalism, current legislation, emerging technologies, and public involvement skills. It has taken time for Turnbull’s suggestion to be adopted. As of 1997, TRB was still trying to include multimodalism in transport education (7). At that time, a survey of 67 transportation programs across the United States indicated that 54% of them either spent little time on multimodalism or did not teach it at all (8). In studies published in 1995 and 1999, Sussman (9, 10) forecast trends and needs in transportation and discussed how professionals, educations, and the like should adapt to meet the needs arising from the trends. The important topics in transportation education, according to Sussman at that time, concerned the breadth of knowledge required of transportation professionals, as intelligent transportation systems emerged. To deal with these trends, he advocated conscious adaptations on the part of both professionals and faculty. Professionals should have “a broader understanding of technology” and an “in-depth knowledge” of one of these fields: “technology, systems transportation, and institutions specialty.” For their part, faculty should consider the broader idea of “complex, large, integrated, open systems (CLIOS).” CLIOS emphasizes a comprehensive and integrative perspective for transportation research and education, and Sussman advocated that transportation faculty embrace a broader scope of work. More recently, Handy et al. (11) addressed the matches—and mismatches—between what transportation employers expect their employees to know, what knowledge and skills experts want transportation planners to have, and what transportation planning educators teach their students. This research indicated mismatches between the expectations of employers and experts and the goals of educators, in a series of topical areas in or related to transportation planning. Those areas included communication skills, the links between educators and professionals, the connection between theory and practice, critical-thinking skills, awareness of political contexts, and multidisciplinary connections.

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Transportation Topics Emphasized in Public Policy and Taught at Universities Since the aforementioned work by Turnbull (6), there have been few peer-reviewed publications on what transportation topics are emphasized in current public policy and on how well these topics are taught at universities and colleges. One of the few publications on this subject is by Krizek and Levinson (12). In treating the topic of land use and transportation as “an important part of planning curricula,” Krizek and Levinson explored how well this topic had been taught at universities in an integrated manner, based on a comprehensive survey of land use transportation courses (LUTCs) offered at U.S. universities. They argued that it is important for educators both to recognize the interdisciplinary nature of the topic of land use in transportation planning and to incorporate that interdisciplinary aspect into LUTC instruction. To provide more guidelines, they summarized the central topics covered in the LUTCs they surveyed and made suggestions on what position LUTCs should have in transportation planning curricula. As a whole, Krizek and Levinson indicated a concern over the quality of instruction of a topic that is central to “transportation practitioners and academics alike” (12, p. 304). However, given that the missions of transportation agencies and the contents of transportation legislation have changed over time (1, 6), this concern probably needs to be extended beyond the topics of land use and transportation. For instance, on the basis of Turnbull (6) and Handy et al. (11), there tends to be a continuing need for transportation educators to keep abreast of changes in transportation policies and laws and to incorporate these changes into course instructions.

NATIONWIDE SURVEY OF TRANSPORTATION PLANNING COURSES Previous surveys have identified gaps in transportation planning education in the United States (6, 11, 13); have evaluated to what extent transportation planning topics were being taught at universities (14); and have investigated how well individual topics in transportation planning have been, and could be, taught (12). However, these surveys may have limited relevance to today’s transportation education and training for several reasons. First, because some of these surveys were based on previous federal transportation legislation regimes, the conclusions derived from the surveys may have become outdated due to new legislation. Second, results based on individual topic-oriented surveys may be too narrow to provide comprehensive guidelines for educators, given that transportation planning often involves multiple relevant topics of similar importance. Third, because public agencies and professional associations were not directly involved in the research design of previous surveys, these instruments did not necessarily allow respondents to prioritize the topics most important to those agencies and associations. Finally, because these previous surveys did not identify or specify survey populations, it is a challenge to evaluate how representative and reliable those survey results were. To gather more relevant information about the state of the practice in transportation planning education, FHWA developed a plan to conduct a nationwide survey between 2004 and 2005 through the Dwight David Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship program. The result of this plan was the National Transportation Planning Course Syllabus and Associated Case Studies The goals, procedures, results, and implications of the NSTPC are summarized below.

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Goals of NSTPC Largely based on the previous work discussed above, this survey had three interrelated goals: 1. Identify and compile a standardized and comprehensive list of topics (SCLT)—a list of potentially ideal topics for transportation planning courses to cover—which would be gathered based on reviews of the latest federal transportation planning legislation, mandates, and publications and on nationwide surveys of leading transportation professionals, officials, and educators; 2. Provide detailed data on what transportation planning topics were being taught and on how these subjects were being taught at different institutions, using the SCLT as reference; and 3. Investigate where the existing state of the practice in transportation education may fall short of the needs identified on the basis of the aforementioned reviews and surveys.

Procedures of NSTPC Figure 1 illustrates the NSTPC procedures and associated timelines, deliverables, and external support. The rationales underlying the design of the procedures were detailed by Hunter (15). This paper does not reiterate those rationales and the procedures but instead highlights the features that distinguish the NSTPC from previous survey efforts: consultation of leading figures, compilation of the SCLT, inclusion of the underrepresented, and representation from different geographic regions.

Consultation of Leading Figures Before the survey was designed, there were extensive consultations with key public agency staff, professional association chairpersons and leading members, and leaders of academic organizations. By January 2005, 30 different experts had been consulted from federal, state, and regional agencies and from professional and academic associations including ITE, TRB, the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP), the American Planning Association (APA), the American Society of Public Administration (ASPA), ASCE, and the American Association of Geographers (AAG). Those in leadership positions were asked the same three questions: • What is your definition of “transportation planning”? (This question ensured that interviewees from different backgrounds would employ a common concept when they answered the next two questions.) • What topics should or must be included in a graduate-level transportation planning course? (Interviewees were asked to list the topics from most to least important, if they indicated in their answers that the listed topics should be prioritized.) • Which schools, programs, and professors would you survey if asked to investigate how well different transportation planning topics are currently taught in the United States?

Compilation of the SCLT Largely on the basis of these aforementioned consultations and reviews of existing literature, an SCLT for potential use in trans-


portation planning courses was compiled. The list helped to ensure that the survey instrument used consistent nomenclatures with the topics and to minimize the misinterpretation of survey questions and responses (14). As indicated by Krizek and Levinson, educators tend to use slightly different nomenclatures for identical topics or phenomena in transportation (12). If nomenclature use is not consistent throughout a survey, then both surveyors and their subjects may misinterpret the questions, responses, or results (15).

Inclusion of the Underrepresented The NSTPC adopted a stratum sample selection strategy so that the finalized list of survey subjects would not be limited to widely recognized institutions or programs (14). The strategy ensured the finalized list of subjects would include representatives from institutions specializing in serving minority communities. Two facts triggered the adoption of this strategy. One was that FHWA maintains a comprehensive list of minority-serving institutions designated by the federal government: a list that is an important reference for federal grant allocation and policy evaluation. The other fact was the increased attention given in recent years to the differences between minorityserving and predominantly white institutions and the pedagogical problems associated with those differences (16, 17 ).

Representation from Different Geographic Regions To increase administrative efficiency and public accessibility, USDOT (more specifically FTA) divides the United States into 10 regions and has a satellite office located in a principal city in each region. On the basis of this geographic division scheme, the NSTPC sampling process assigned a regional identification to each institution offering transportation planning course(s). This identification was then used to ensure that each USDOT-designated region had at least one representative included in the NSTPC.

Questions in NSTPC Details about each specific question in the finalized NSTPC questionnaire and their policy implications were described by Zhou and Sööt (14). At the aggregate level, the NSTPC questionnaire consisted of four groups of questions: • Topics covered in the transportation planning courses, • Students’ background and course prerequisites, • Key references the instructors used in their courses and the primary sources of these references, and • Transportation planning topics the instructors would like USDOT to develop into case studies for use in their courses.

NSTPC Samples, Populations, and Responses Table 1 summarizes the NSTPC samples, populations, and respondents on the basis of different classification schemes. Using as references the U.S. News and World Report College List 2005 and the respective websites of different institutions, departments, programs, and faculty members, the NSTPC team identified 281 U.S. universities that could offer transportation planning courses. Within this population of


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Timelines (Not to Scale)

Sept. 2004

Feb. 2005

Deliverable (s) Preliminary list of candidate topics for transportation planning courses; Draft list of survey subjects

FHWA Transportation Planning Capacity Building Team (TPCBT)

Revised list of candidate topics for transportation planning; Exhaustive list of survey subjects

Email communications with, or phone interviews of incumbent leaders of Transportation Planning Subcommittees or Analogues of ITE, TRB, ACSP, APA, ASPA, ASCE, and AAG; Compilation of schools/departments/programs potentially offering transportation planning courses based on the above

TPCBT contacts at professional/academic associations

Refined list of candidate topics for transportation planning

Attendance of ACSP, TRB and AAG Annual Meetings; Face-toFace conversations with key members at the meetings; Presentations at student-organized meetings at MIT, UMN, and UIC and collection of feedback of students

Draft finalized list of candidate topics for transportation planning

Finalized list of survey subjects

Finalized survey instrument; Raw responses from subjects

Aug. 2005


External Support/ Resources

Review of FHWA and FTA publications contained in the USDOT headquarter library; Review of USDOT and NTL websites; Interviews of selected USDOT and SDOT officials

Finalized list of candidate topics for transportation planning; Refined list of survey subjects

Mar. 2005


Circulation of refined list of candidate topics (LCT) among interviewees, and the bowling and TMIP mailing lists; Draft finalized LCT submitted to TPCBT

Preliminary contact with potential survey subjects via emails and phone calls

Design of survey instrument based on LCT

Circulation draft survey instrument among selected interviewees and FHWA officials; Discussion of survey subjects with the above persons

Sending survey instruments to subjects; Administration of the survey

Survey response database; Survey result reports; Peer-reviewed publications

Survey responses coding and analysis

TPCBT; The Interdisciplinary Transportation Organization at UMN

Users of bowling and TMIP lists

TPCBT; Student volunteers at UIC

TPCBT; Student volunteers at UIC

Student volunteers at UT Austin, TA&MU, Harvard, and MIT

TPCBT; Library resources at USC

Procedures of NSTPC.

universities, there were (as of December 2004) about 400 planning and engineering programs. These programs had 665 faculty members with an explicit interest in transportation, who could teach at least 800 transportation courses. At the time the NSTPC was conducted (winter 2004 through spring 2005), there were 72 distinct planning programs and 209 distinct engineering programs that offered transportation courses. Forty-nine universities with both planning and engineering programs offered transportation courses simultaneously. The NSTPC team consulted with 25 instructors representing 21 programs in total before distributing the survey instrument(s) and did not pursue responses from instructors who showed no interest in responding after initial contact. As of May 2005, the surveyor was

able to get effective responses from 32 universities, 54 programs, and 32 faculty members, representing about 11%, 14%, and 5% of their respective universes. Figure 2a shows the spatial distribution of different sampling strata by university and planning program. At the time the NSTPC was conducted, populous areas such as Los Angeles, California; New York–Newark, New Jersey; Washington, D.C.; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, had multiple planning programs in close geographic proximity offering transportation courses. Also at the time of the survey, several Great Plains and Midwest states with low population densities had few planning programs offering transportation courses. As shown in Figure 2b, engineering and affiliated programs

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Universities Programs Faculty Courses


both planning and engineering programs offering transportation courses at the time the NSTPC was conducted. These universities were evenly spread out across the Great Lakes, West Coast, and New England. There were relatively fewer such opportunities in the remaining parts of the nation: for instance, the Upper Great Plains and Northern Rockies. Figure 3 shows the distribution of surveyed and responding programs and universities. Each green dot on the map represents a survey subject. A smiley face around a green dot indicates an effective response from that subject. In some cases, the dots overlap each other partially, which means either that two or even three programs at the same university were surveyed simultaneously or that the surveyed programs or universities are in close geographic proximity. West Coast, Upper Midwest, and New England states had higher concentrations of responses. Faculty in the other regions gave three primary reasons for not responding to the survey: faculty leave or retirement, the institution not offering transportation planning courses per se, and unwillingness to participate. For instance, at the time the survey was conducted, four out of 11 surveyed programs in the South and the Southwest responded that they either were in the middle of recruiting new

NSTPC Populations, Samples, and Responses


Sample (%)

Raw Responses (%)a

Effective Responses (%)

281 400b 665 800c

47 (17) 71 (18) 77 (12) 77 (10)

34 (72) 60 (85) 40 (52) 40 (52)

32 (68) 54 (76) 32 (42) 40 (52)


Including blank or uncompleted responses. Estimate as of December 2004, including all planning, engineering, and other programs that offered transportation courses. c Including courses offered in planning, engineering, and other programs, estimated figure. b

offered transportation courses across all 50 states. Yet, similar to the spatial distribution pattern seen with planning programs (as shown in Figure 2a), the engineering programs and associated courses in transportation were concentrated in comparatively populous urban areas. Most urban areas had at least one such course or program. Figure 2c reveals the spatial distribution of universities with

(a) FIGURE 2

Spatial distribution of different sampling strata: (a) planning programs. (continued on next page)


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(b) FIGURE 2 (continued)

Spatial distribution of different sampling strata: (b) engineering and affiliated programs.

transportation planning instructors or had no specific transportation planning courses but incorporated transportation topics into other courses.

FINDINGS FROM NSTPC This section reports the findings on the basis of the 32 effective written responses from universities (including 18 returned transportation planning syllabi) to the NSTPC. Whenever appropriate, face-to-face conversations with some of the respondents were incorporated.

Course Topics As previously mentioned, the SCLT was compiled to facilitate the NSTPC. The finalized SCLT used in the NSTPC appears in the left-hand column of Table 2. A comparison of the actual NSTPC responses with the options in the SCLT indicates that the list excluded only two topics that survey responses considered appropriate for transportation planning courses: freight transportation and trans-

portation models other than travel demand models. No respondents claimed their programs taught all the topics listed in the SCLT. This is probably not surprising since students whose academic concentration is in transportation are often required to take multiple transportation planning courses and one or two courses could not cover all the topics listed in the SCLT. Transportation and land use connections and travel demand forecasting were the most prevalent topics among the faculty teaching transportation planning courses (31 out of 32 responding faculty). Transportation and security in the transportation system, health– physical activity and transportation planning, and gender and transportation planning were the least popular topics, ranging from 9% to 34% of the coverage rate. Other topics were somewhere in between these two extremes, as shown in the right-hand column of Table 2. One surprising result was how few respondents covered the topic of security, which from the consultation with experts should be an important topic for future professionals. Transportation system security and related issues of planning and preparedness have been increasingly emphasized during planning conferences and at both the state and federal levels, prompted by major terrorist events

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(c) FIGURE 2 (continued)

Spatial distribution of different sampling strata: (c) universities with both planning and engineering programs.

such as the series of train bombings occurring throughout Europe since 2000 as well as by natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The paucity of courses addressing such issues may indicate an important gap between emerging topics and existing course offerings. When compared with findings from previous surveys, the NSTPC findings showed that some topics previously uncommon in transportation planning curricula, such as public involvement and multimodalism, had become much more widely taught (8, 13). In 1993, for instance, Turnbull had argued for paying more attention to contemporary transportation legislation and regulations (13). In contrast, the NSTPC survey found that 91% of the responding programs covered the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century. As seen from Table 2, other important legislation and regulations such as the Clean Air Act, the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act were broadly covered. Aside from the legislative topics listed in Table 2, about 10% of respondents commented that they exposed their students to state-level statutes and mandates as well. These respondents were primarily from such states as California, Oregon, and Florida, where there have been additional state-level mandates related

to environment, air quality, pedestrians and cyclists, and controls on growth. There were other geographic differences as well; these are captured in Figure 4. Most notably, Figure 4 shows that the mid- and upperlevel cohorts—defined as those programs that cover at least half of the topics listed in the SCLT—were numerous and widely distributed across the country. The number of lower-level programs (defined as those covering between four and eight topics) was small—only four— but some of that may be due to attrition from the survey among those programs with fewer offerings. This finding might indicate that most courses offered have provided students with sufficient if not ample opportunities to explore many transportation planning topics, no matter which program they choose. However, without more information on program requirements, it is impossible to form any conclusions. Judged from the syllabi sent in as part of the NSTPC, the lower-level programs tended to have developed their own niche areas in transportation planning education, and thus these programs were more focused on in-depth coverage within topics rather than on breadth in the number of courses offered. The shortest distance between the locations of any two upperlevel programs was about 300 miles. Since they are farther apart


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FIGURE 3 Spatial distribution of surveyed and responding programs and universities (survey sample size  71 programs, responding programs  54).

geographically, the five upper-level programs evidently dwarfed their neighboring programs in terms of the topics offered. Judging only from the responses, there was an evident lack of upper-level programs in the Great Plains and in the Central and Southern United States. Midlevel programs tended to be geographically separated from one another as well, which suggests that programs do not duplicate efforts in regional markets for higher education and training.

Background of Students The NSTPC results indicated that the academic backgrounds of those who take transportation planning courses were not as diverse as might be expected in an interdisciplinary field such as transportation planning. Planning and engineering students made up the bulk of the classes. Of the 40 transportation planning courses reported by the responding instructors, 25% had solely engineering or planning students, and 30% attracted both engineering and planning students. Only 5% of the courses had students from backgrounds other than engineering and planning. This indicates that despite the interdisciplinary nature of transportation planning, the subject of trans-

portation planning might not be of interest to students outside the engineering and planning fields.

Sources of Reference and Information The Internet has enabled agencies to disseminate their reports, policies, and data widely. USDOT and its subordinates, such as FHWA, FTA, FAA, the USDOT Library, the National Transportation Library, the National Transit Library, and the Transportation Planning Capacity Building Program (TPCBP), all maintain dedicated websites that convey comprehensive and up-to-date information about transportation planning, policy, regulation, and legislation. In an era where at least 75% of Americans have access to the Internet (18), these websites have become the most convenient, efficient, and timely sources of information. Responses to the NSTPC indicate that 91% of educators have used various websites affiliated with USDOT or its subordinates to reinforce their courses. The main website of FHWA was the most popular of these websites, with 78% of all responding educators using it, followed in popularity by the websites of USDOT (used by 71% of respondents), the National Transportation Library

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TABLE 2 Transportation Planning Course Topics and Coverage Rates from NSTPC Topics Considered, Based on Expert Opinions

Coverage Rate from NSTPC (%)

General Transportation and land use connections Travel demand forecasting Metropolitan planning procedures and processes Environmental and sustainability issues Transportation project evaluation and assessment Public involvement Environmental impacts of transportation Multimodal integration Intelligent transportation systems Transit planning and management Software applications in transportation Pedestrian and bicycle planning Safety and planning Environmental justice and equity in transportation NEPAa requirements Professional ethics (ethics) Gender and transportation planning (gender) Health and physical activity and transportation planning (health) Security in the transportation system (security)

96 96 89 85 85 81 81 78 78 74 59 59 52


Legislative and Regulatory Transportation Equity Act For the 21st Century Clean Air Act NEPA Americans with Disabilities Act Title 23—FHWA planning regulations Environmental justice executive order Title VI of the Civil Rights Act Environmental streamlining Title 49—FTA planning regulations Water Quality Act Limited English proficiency (LEP) executive order

pile these cases and make them accessible to educators across the nation. The NSTPC asked whether educators would like to have an inventory of these cases and, if so, which topics they would like to use. Answers to this question indicated that of the responding educators (n = 32), around 93% supported the idea. All topics in the SCLT received support from at least 38% of the respondents. Many educators showed an interest in using the USDOT-compiled case studies to expand the topics that were not currently covered in their courses. A correlation analysis of the coverage rates for the topics currently taught and the popularity rates of case studies among the respondents confirmed that the value of the correlation coefficient is −0.87 (α = 0.05). This means that the better a transportation planning topic has been covered by instructors, the less likely they would be to need the USDOT-developed case studies, and vice versa. It is therefore possible that should good case studies become available, such topics as security could be covered by more transportation planning courses. One probable reason why few NSTPC respondents covered such topics as security might be the lack of relevant and effective references.

91 75 69 63 44 41 34 31 28 25 3

NOTE: Sample size = 77 transportation planning courses, number of effective responses = 40 courses. a NEPA = National Environmental Policy Act of 1969.

(56%), and the TPCBP (53%). Few educators reported using the FAA website: airport planning is not covered extensively in transport courses, which have a strong emphasis on ground-based passenger transportation.

Case Studies Over the years, USDOT and its subordinates have accumulated numerous case studies summarizing best practices of different agencies, communities, and stakeholders at various geographical levels, on how they have carried out effective transportation planning. One proposal at USDOT has been to inventory, classify, and com-

Although the overall response rate to the NSTPC yielded a small sample, those who participated in the survey and in the expert panels have furnished a deep data set on the topics and methods covered in their classes. Substantial support and active participation of many individuals means that the NSTPC, though limited in sample size, has been an attractive and useful survey. At some risk of both oversimplifying and overgeneralizing, some broad conclusions, based on a synthesis of the NSTPC results and the relevant literature, can be formed. First, transportation education in general and transportationplanning course instruction in particular are by and large widespread and widely patronized in the United States. Students can choose from many universities, programs, and instructors offering many relevant courses that cover a wide range of topics. Whether these programs are creating a sufficient supply of new professionals, however, is a different question: the ability of public agencies to compete with private consulting firms for bright young recruits depends on a variety of factors, including compensation and work environment, which are independent of the training new graduates received. The survey also provides some evidence that planning programs are adapting to new content demands regarding such issues as multimodalism and public involvement and that those course instructors who responded to the survey have been entrepreneurial in balancing curricula content with topics that have emerged as a result of the latest public policies, laws, and regulations. Second, geography may play a role in determining the number of programs offering transportation planning courses and the breadth of topics covered by these courses. Populous regions and states tend to have multiple programs that offer transportation planning courses, while transportation planning courses in singular programs located in areas of low population density seem to focus on depth of coverage rather than breadth of the topics taught. Geography has proved important in planning education on how land use law is taught and where (19), and this exploratory analysis suggests that the same may be true with transportation planning topics. Different programs and universities from different regions receive varying levels of funding from federal and state agencies to conduct research and fulfill their research and teaching missions (20). This factor may advantage pro-


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FIGURE 4 Spatial distribution of programs by number of transportation planning topics covered (survey sample size  71 programs, responding programs  54).

grams in regions or states with larger population bases, and hence greater political leverage and more economic power. Further study is needed to evaluate whether these advantages affect the well-being of transportation planning instruction and research in different regions and states. Third, surveys like the NSTPC ask whether universities offer professional education—a basic supply of educational opportunities. However, little is known about expectations for instructors or students—the quality of the educational experience and what skills students obtain in these courses aside from exposure to different content areas. There is even less information about demand: on the motivations, expectations, and learning experiences of students in transportation planning (21). Without better information on practices and demand, it is unclear what might help entice the brightest minds to the field. It may be that transportation courses suffer not from a topical mismatch, but from problems in pedagogy that are shared by other topics in the science, technology, engineering, and math disciplines. Schweitzer et al. (22), for example, suggest that recruitment into the field of sustainable transportation and environmental analysis might be improved by introducing younger students—as early as junior high—to the many professions, such as atmospheric science, civil and

environmental engineering, and urban planning, which are involved in transportation and the environment. Fourth, in contrast to what has been done in other topical areas within transportation planning, experts in the panel guided the survey toward an emphasis on primarily domestic transportation issues and resources rather than the effects of globalization (21, 23–25). This may speak again to the strong bias for passenger travel rather than freight among U.S. transportation planners. However, existing studies on planning education in general indicate that an international perspective can help programs improve their strategic planning and rethink their role in an increasingly globalized world (26, 27 ). Internationalization of planning curricula has already in fact happened (21). Transportation is a field where the effects of globalization are both immediate and of significant magnitude, and yet the opinions from both the survey sample and the experts did not stress the importance of international comparative study or the study of global flows. Fifth, the findings from both the NSTPC and previous research confirm the need to explore and monitor educational practice in transportation (1–5). Studies indicate that education in the field is both wide-ranging and adaptive to new issues. However, they also

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indicate that a lag exists between the state of the art in certain issues, such as security, and the state of the practice in education. Finally, due to time and resource constraints, the design and the implementation of the NSTPC may have been subject to some drawbacks: • An overemphasis of some topics: Because transportation planning can be done at various geographic levels and by different sectors, the survey, by not differentiating transportation planning topics on the basis of those characteristics, may have overemphasized topics of importance to the federal government and programs that are focused on meeting national or regional, as opposed to local, capital needs. • A rigid framework for classifying topics: The SCLT offered a structured way to examine topics that could be taught in transportation planning courses; however, it also excluded the possibility of framing the themes of transportation planning courses in other worthwhile ways: for example, how the sustainability of real-world transportation systems and integration issues at local and regional levels could be synthesized and then incorporated into planning courses. • A relatively small number of responses: As indicated in Table 1, the effective responses of the NSTPC only represented about 5% of the total faculty and course populations. Therefore, the information provided by the responses could have limited applicability. Another related issue is that transportation planning themes may have been organized into multiple courses by different faculty members with or without the indication of “transportation planning,” and the NSTPC could have therefore introduced a bias into the survey results because it focused on only those courses with that indication. • Potential bias: While distributing the survey instrument, the NSTPC surveyors intentionally excluded faculty members who had explicitly stated they had no interest in participating in the survey. Few efforts were made to evaluate how this exclusion may have affected the final survey results. As a result of this exclusion, some of the most representative courses may have been omitted from the survey. “No time to spare for side issues” may have been the norm rather than the exception among these productive instructors. To enhance the reliability of the NSTPC results, there is a need for alternative ways to better understand which topics these productive instructors covered in their courses and how they evaluated the effectiveness of their students’ learning. Appropriately addressing these drawbacks would increase the effectiveness of future NSTPC endeavors.

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