Senior Honors Projects, 2010-current

Date of Award

Spring 2016

Document Type

Dissertation/Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (BS)

Department

Department of Engineering

Advisor(s)

Elise M. Barrella, Ph.D.

Abstract

The purpose of this study is to explore the social sector of sustainability in transportation design and engineering. Along with establishing a definition for social sustainability in transportation from existing literature, this document also includes a comprehensive analysis of current sustainability rating systems based on their evaluation of social sustainability metrics. The goal of this thesis is to inform transportation professionals about the existing social sustainability gaps in transportation literature and sustainability rating systems.

Social sustainability in transportation is comprised of two fundamental concepts: social equity and sustainability of community (Bramley and Power, 2009; Dempsey, 2009; McKenzie, 2004; Magis, 2010; Vallance, 2011). Social equity includes accessibility, safety, and health, and sustainability of community includes cohesion, participation, and awareness. A coding system based on a hierarchical representation of social sustainability terminology was developed to categorize the credits of six sustainable transportation rating systems: Greenroads, I-LAST, Envision, INVEST, GreenPaths, and STARS. The results of this study indicate that gaps exist between the definition and application of social sustainability in transportation. Since research in this sector of sustainability is underdeveloped compared to economic and environmental sustainability, social objectives were largely underrepresented in Envision, Greenroads, and I-LAST. Using a qualitative framework was helpful in understanding where gaps exist since the credits were interpreted based on interrelated themes and descriptions. After evaluating how each rating system quantifies social sustainability objectives, it was determined that GreenPaths and STARS are most inclusive of social credits.

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