• Instructors: Susan Handy, Miguel Jaller, Alan Jenn
  • Prerequisites: Algebra II; Physics and Statistics are helpful
  • Typical Field Trips: Davis Bicycle Network, Port of Oakland, Tesla Factory, JUMP Bikes, Lime Scooters


A sustainable transportation system meets society’s needs for movement while minimizing environmental harms, fostering healthy and equitable communities, and supporting economic growth. This cluster will first consider the science behind sustainable transportation challenge then examine strategies for enhancing the sustainability of the transportation system in three areas: vehicle technology, system design, and micro-modes. In all three courses we will consider the ways that science can inform policy. Lectures and projects will draw on multiple disciplines, including physics, mechanical engineering, civil engineering, economics, and statistics.

Vehicle technology

In the vehicle technology section, we will investigate critical components of current and future vehicle technologies and the science behind them. We will address questions such as: How do internal combustion engine vehicles work? What is an electric vehicle and how is it operationally different from a gas car? What are the energy implications of driving with alternative fuels? How do autonomous vehicles work and what will their impacts be? How does shared mobility (Uber, Lyft) fit into the system?

System Design

California has nearly 400,000 miles of roads, enough to circle the earth 16 times. Engineers are looking for strategies that make better use of existing roads and avert the need for more roads. Questions in this course include: What models can planners use to forecast the volume of driving in the future? What strategies can be used to manage traffic and what is their effect on greenhouse gas emissions? How does freight transportation differ from passenger transportation and what happens when the two systems interact? You will get hands-on experience in this course with simulation software used by practitioners around the globe.


Bicycles have been an important component of the transportation system for well over a century. New technologies are expanding the usefulness of bicycles, including electric assist bicycles and bike-sharing systems, and electric skateboards and scooters are expanding travel options yet further. This course focuses on these “micro-modes” and examines questions such as: What are the operating characteristics of these different modes? What are their infrastructure needs? How can streets be designed to accommodate this mix of modes? What role should these modes play in the larger transportation system?