State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School


New York City: a Learning Lab for Sustainable Transportation

Cu ID Metro Card Cities across the world are adapting to pressures from rapid urbanization and emerging transport technologies that provide new opportunities for how we access jobs, entertainment, education, and services. These new technologies allow us to ask questions about the world we live in and the world we want to inhabit: Will we pave the world in repeating lanes of highways and parking lots or will all of these new technologies conjure new urban forms that encourage more sustainable modes of travel?

In partnership with the Earth Institute’s Center for Sustainable Urban Development, the M.S. in Sustainability Management program has developed an exciting new inter-disciplinary course entitled Access, Innovation, and the Urban Transportation Transition.  Generous support to develop this new course has also come from the Volvo Research and Education Foundations and the American Assembly. Offered this summer in a block week format, meeting from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 14 through Friday, Aug. 18, the course will provide students with insights into cutting edge thinking on urban transportation, access and mobility.

This class draws on a series of lectures, a case study approach and experiential learning in New York City, which provides a living laboratory for the issues and themes discussed in class around the transportation transition. This course provides an overview of new thinking, innovation and advocacy in public transportation with a focus on passenger transport.

This class is ideal for graduate students and young professionals interested in urban sustainability, the transport sector and urban planning and design. It is also geared towards management professionals who wish to work in the transportation/urban policy arena and want an overview of cutting edge and key issues in the sector as it relates to land-use and broader environmental and planning concerns.

Students will attend experiential learning exercises which will involve testing different transport modes and trips in New York City.

City Museum of New York

Students will explore a mode (walking, cycling etc) to meet at the City Museum of New York where they will watch the video of New York’s development over time and the link to transportation along with related exhibits. Students will be expected to get critical background knowledge of New York City as a case study and also be able to understand key causal connections between transportation networks and land-use and population changes as well as economic development.

Bx41 Select Bus Service

The Bx41 Select Bus Service opened in 2013. The plan includes bus lanes for much of the length, as well as transit signal priority, bulb outs for buses, and pedestrian refuges. The corridor provides a nice example of the type of machine assemblage needed for increasing bus ridership. On the other hand, the interventions have seen some resistance in the community. There is the expected resistance to a loss of parking but also a less expected negative response to the interventions as a sign of gentrification and a lack of community control over the corridor. The site visit will explore the corridor, and students will be expected to assess how well the new assemblage serves the riders and the wider community.

Hudson Yards

The 7 train extension to Hudson Yards was paid through a version of tax-increment financing. It is easiest to understand the financing structure on-site, walking through the buildings and parks under construction with a map of the planned tax districts. Additionally, the site incorporates the High Line park and the Javits convention center, other examples of complex infrastructure finance.  Students will be expected to be able to connect the financing models discussed in class to this real world example as well as discuss alternative financing options for other forms of needed transportation infrastructure for poorer neighborhoods and the related problems of market displacement.

This class serves as an elective in the MS Sustainability Management. This course satisfies the Area 1: Integrative Sustainability Management elective course and Area 4: Public Policy course requirement for the M.S. in Sustainability Management.



Banner featuring a collage of extreme heat images.

Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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