Between the two of us, we have taught a course called "Introduction to Transportation Engineering" more than 30 times since the Fall semester of 1984. As we worked together to improve the course, we continued to move farther away from the textbook that we had adopted. We began to assemble a set of course notes that, over time, began to resemble chapters of a textbook. Although we think there are several good transportation engineering books on the market, none of them seemed to fit our style of teaching and, more importantly, the styles of learning that we see in our students. We prefer to encourage classroom discussion, use computer tools to augment lectures, form small groups for in-class discussions or out-of-class problem solving, and base assignments on real-world situations. We see the need to lead students toward improved learning and away from the usual practice of using class time for extensive note taking.
Our course notes finally reached the point where we used them in place of a published textbook. The notes covered all facets of transportation engineering, not just highway modes. Although the emphasis is on highway and air transportation, there are lessons on railroad and waterborne modes of transportation, the systems aspects of transportation economics and program evaluation, public transit, and logistics management. Because we realize that this scope is ambitious for an introductory course, we adopted certain strategies that have proven successful:
- Integration of topics
- Clear, enunciated objectives
- Special discussion boxes
- A large number of examples that are based on real situations
- Hundreds of photographs and other illustrations.
These features are continued in this textbook.
SEQUENCE AND FLOW OF TOPICS
An introductory course in Transportation Engineering is susceptible to being simply a series of fragmented topics. We have addressed this problem in several ways:
1. Because a system cannot be operated before it is designed, and a system cannot be designed until it is planned, we have put the chapters in our textbook in an order that reflects this. However, planning in transportation can be rather abstract and mysterious to an undergraduate engineering student. For this reason, we put topics of greatest familiarity to studentstrafficnear the front of our textbook.
2. To minimize the fragmented nature of the topics and to emphasize the relationship between the phases of a transportation project:
A. We have invented the mythical County of Mythaca, with cities and towns of various sizes and various transportation challenges.
B. We begin each chapter in our textbook with a Scenario. These Scenarios are meant to orient the student to the material about to be covered in the chapter. The material in that chapter is meant to provide the student with knowledge and methods that can be used to address the problems stated in the Scenario.
There is about 20 percent more material than can be covered in a single-semester course at the junior-senior level. The text is structured so that, in most cases, sections within Chapters 6 to 13 can be skipped without major loss of continuity. With a modicum of care, the instructor can change the sequence in which the chapters are covered. The Engineering Economy portions of Chapter 5, however, ought to be covered before the economic analyses in the Transit (Chapter 10) and Air Transportation (Chapter 11) chapters are encountered.
For many years, we have had the following objectives in mind as we taught "Introduction to Transportation Engineering":
- Provide the student an adequate basis for deciding which more specialized transportation courses to take.
- Familiarize the student with the standard terminology and resources involved in transportation engineering, in case the student would need to conduct such an analysis in the future or work with someone else who was doing so. This situation occurs in our capstone senior design course.
- If this would be the only transportation course a student would take, give the student enough of an appreciation of transportation issues to be an informed citizen and professional engineer.
In recent years, we have found it helpful to be more explicit in what we want to accomplish in the course and in its components. We have adopted the Instructional Objectives method advocated in the National Effective Teaching Institute (NETI) Workshop, for several reasons. The instructional objectives for each chapter are presented immediately after the Scenario. In our opinion, the NETI-based objectives:
- Lead to a clear statement of capabilities that a student is expected to acquire.
- Are observable and measurable.
- Form a sort of contract between teacher and learner.
- Impose a measure of discipline on the authors as we seek to present material in textbook format.
The word "Fundamentals" appears in the title of this book, because topics that every student of transportation engineering should know are emphasized. Also included are some topics that are "nice-to-know" or just interesting. Interspersed in the textbook are items that are meant to reflect the enjoyment that can come from the study of transportation engineering. It is our hope that a student who has read this textbook will never look at a traffic signal, traffic sign, semitrailer truck, or airport runway the same way as before.
TEACHING AND LEARNING
Unfortunately, our experience has been that many students are not easily convinced to come to class prepared. One feature of our text that may help in this regard is the "Think About It" boxes in most sections. These boxed questions are placed in the text wherever a pause to think about the material being presented would be helpful to the student. Often, there may be more than one way to approach the problem being presented. To assist the instructor in leading the discussion in class, an instructor's guide will include the ideas we had in mind when we inserted the "Think About It" boxes.
The most important guidance for this textbook comes from the questions asked by students after class and during office hours. In response to their feedback, we have made numerous changes to the content and style of the text. The result is a presentation style that is more inductive than the traditional textbook.