Sustainable Transport and Public Policy

Subject ABPL90056 (2016)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2016.

Credit Points: 12.5
Level: 9 (Graduate/Postgraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2016:

September, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period 26-Sep-2016 to 14-Oct-2016
Assessment Period End 01-Nov-2016
Last date to Self-Enrol 05-Sep-2016
Census Date 07-Oct-2016
Last date to Withdraw without fail 21-Oct-2016

Quota 50

Selection criteria: Students will be selected into the subject as they self-enrol during the timely re-enrolment period. Anyone enrolling after the quota has been reached will be notified by the Student Centre and advised of the alternative subjects available

(at least one week prior to the start of teaching).

For detailed information on the quota subject application process and due dates, refer to the EDSC Quota Subjects webpage:

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 36 hours
Total Time Commitment:

170 hours


Entry into the Melbourne School of Design or approval from the subject coordinator.

Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: None
Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Student Support and Engagement Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Overview, Learning Outcomes, Assessment and Generic Skills sections of this entry.

It is University policy to take all reasonable steps to minimise the impact of disability upon academic study, and reasonable adjustments will be made to enhance a student's participation in the University's programs. Students who feel their disability may impact on meeting the requirements of this subject are encouraged to discuss this matter with a Faculty Student Adviser and Student Equity and Disability Support:


Prof Nicholas Low


The Eastern Precinct (building 138)
(between Doug McDonell building and Eastern Resource Centre)

Current Student:

Subject Overview:

Quota 50

This subject explores the idea of ‘sustainability’ in application to the public policy domain of transportation. The subject takes a global view of the problem of transport with particular emphasis on transport impacts on climate change and global health, and dependence on fossil fuels, particularly oil. A dilemma is exposed between the dependence of the world economy on physical mobility and the ecological limits of fossil-fuelled transport. Sustainable urban transport, it is argued, must mean a shift from dependence on private vehicle motorized transport to transport systems with a much stronger element of active (e.g. cycling and walking) and public transport fuelled from renewable energy sources.

From the viewpoint of public policy, the subject examines barriers to sustainable transport, emphasizing the path dependency of transport policy, and explores ways of going beyond incrementalism to find paths to more fundamental or ‘third order’ change in the policy field.

The subject is delivered in seminar form with readings, lectures (and occasional guest lectures) and presentations of students’ class papers. Students are encouraged to bring their ideas and views into class discussions.

Learning Outcomes:

At the completion of the subject the student will be able to:

  • Understand transport as a global problem, and the meaning of sustainability applied to transportation.
  • Define the necessary components of sustainable transport and be able to apply these to specific cases.
  • Understand the political processes and barriers involved in change of transport paradigm, and be equipped with theoretical concepts applicable to such change.
  • One essay (1000 words) on a prescribed topic (sustainability), mid semester, 20%;
  • One essay (4000 words) chosen from a list of topics, end of semester, 80%.

Both essays will be presented and discussed in class.

Prescribed Texts:

Low N.P. ed (2013) Transforming Urban Transport, The Ethics, Politics and Practices of Sustainable Transport, (London and New York: Earthscan/Routledge).

Curtis, C. and Low, N.P. (2012) Institutional Barriers to Sustainable Transport (Farnham, UK: Ashgate).

Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:
  • Literature search and assessment
  • Essay writing
  • Policy analysis and interpretation
  • Discussion and debating the values of transport policy in open forum
Related Course(s): Master of Design (Urban Design)
Master of Urban Design
Master of Urban Planning
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: Energy Efficiency Modelling and Implementation
Energy Efficiency Modelling and Implementation
Melbourne School of Design multidisciplinary elective subjects
Sustainable Cities, Sustainable Regions
Sustainable Cities, Sustainable Regions
Tailored Specialisation
Tailored Specialisation

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