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American Public Transportation Association

 Curriculum



Module 1: Introduction to Public Transportation
Suggested Reading

Describes the components of public transportation, helps students identify transit options available in their communities, illustrates ways communities view public transportation, and recognizes that there is no universal structure for transit.

Lesson 2 “The History of Public Transportation”​
Helps the students articulate the relationship between the development of transit technology, the transit enterprise, and U.S. urban development. Students also learn to describe the positive and negative impacts of the dramatic change in urban travel method and pattern during the past 90 years.

  1. George Gray and Lester Hoel; Planning Operations and Management​
    • Chapter 1
    • Chapter 2
    • Chapter 3

Lesson 3 “The Business of Public Transportation”


Students examine the social and economic benefits of public transportation; analyze the role of public transportation in the livability of a community and quality of life of residents; illustrate the benefit of public transportation for non-riders; and capture the vital role that public transportation plays in the delivery of community services, economic development, quality of life and the enhancement of the livability of a community.

  1. George Gray and Lester Hoel; Planning Operations and Management
    • Chapter 16
  2. William Black; Transportation: A Geographical Analysis
    • Chapter 9
  3. TCRP Reports
Module 2: Governance, Finance and Policy
Suggested Reading


Lesson 1 "Organizational Structure and Governance"
Addresses the organizational structure and governance of public transportation agencies. Learning objectives include: understanding the ways that public transportation agencies are structures and understanding the role of transit agency boards of directors and how these boards are constituted.

Lesson 2"Funding Models for Public Transit Authorities" Covers funding models for public transit authorities by reviewing various agencies throughout the United States.

  1. George Gray and Lester Hoel; Planning Operations and Management
    • ​Chapter 9
  1. TCRP Reports
Lesson 3 "The Americans with Disabilities Act and Civil Rights" Covers the American with Disabilities Act and civil rights. The learning objectives are to understand the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as they relate to public transportation and to understand the civil rights laws and requirements that apply to public transportation.

  1. TCRP Reports
Lesson 4"Social Change and Justice" Addresses social change and justice. The learning objective is to be able to recognize the role of public transportation in promoting equity and social justice.
  1. Eric Mann – Los Angeles Bus Riders Derail MTA
  2. LACMT – Consent Decree – 1996-2010
  3. MTA Compliance with Consent Decree has cost the Valley Better Service – Los Angeles Times
  4. MTA Pledges Better Bus Service in Suit Accord – Los Angeles Times
  5. Missed Opportunity: Transit and Jobs in Metropolitan America – Brookings Instiution
  6. TCRP Reports
Lesson 5 "Environmental Sustainability and Livability" Introduces students to environmental sustainability and livability. Students learn to describe the concepts of environmental sustainability and livability; describe the relationship of public transportation to environmental sustainability and livability; and describe how public transportation can further these goals while achieving other goals like mobility a​nd equity.


Module 3: Planning and Design
Suggested Reading
Lesson 1 “Travel Behavior and Transit Travel Demand”

Helps students describe fundamental motivations for personal travel; explain the factors that influence travel and mode choice (availability, convenience, image, speed, cost, reliability, safety, comfort, etc.); restate the traditional model for thinking about travel demand (trip generation, trip distribution, mode choice, and trip assignment); review conditions that influence transit mode share; and compare linked versus unlined trips, round trips, trip tours, etc.

  1. William Black; Transportation: A Geographical Analysis
    • ​​Chapter 1
    • Chapter 2
    • Chapter 3
Lesson 2 Modal Characteristics and Impacts Covers funding models for public transit authorities by reviewing various agencies throughout the United States
  1. George Gray and Lester Hoel; Planning Operations and Management
    • Chapter 5
    • Chapter 6
    • Chapter 10
    • Chapter 11
  2. Vukan Vuchic. Urban Transit: Operations, Planning, and Economics.
    • Chapter 12. Table 12.1
    • Full discussion Section 12.1.1. – 12.1.2.4
  3. TCRP Reports
Lesson 3 “Network Characteristics”

Learning objectives are for students to understand how technology traits should match the market characteristics; be able to describe the different network configurations including overlaying modes, radial/crosstown/timed transfer; and describe the integration of multiple modes including park and ride, bikes on buses and airport/intercity.

  1. William Black; Transportation: A Geographical Analysis
    • ​​​​Chapter 8​
  2. ​​TCRP Report
Lesson 4 “Transit Systems Planning”

Introduces students to systems planning and helps them understand the steps required for plan selection and the key features and elements required.

  1. TCRP Report
Lesson 5 "Transit and Land Use"

Explains the transportation and land-use connection; describes the history of transportation and urban development; examines the cost of sprawl; and discusses pedestrian-friendly design and transit oriented development.

  1. Ewing, R., Cervero, R., 2010. Travel and the Built Environment: A Meta Analysis. Journal of the American Planning Association 76(3), 265 - 294.
  2. Polzin, S. 1999. Transportation/Land-use Relationship: Public Transit’s Impact on Land Use. ASCE Journal of Urban Planning and Development, December 1999, pp. 135-151.;
  3. TRB, 2001. Making transit work: Insight from Western Europe, Canada and the United States. Transportation Research Board, National Research Council, National Academy Press, Washington DC. (read chapter 2 only).
  4. TCRP Reports
Lesson 6 “Public Transportation and Regional Transportation Planning"
Enables students to describe why regional planning is relevant for public transportation, discuss the history of regional transportation planning; and understand the regional transportation planning process and common issues that may arise.


  1. AASHTO (2011). Survey of State Funding for Public Transportation. Washington, DC, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. (additional reading);
  2. USDOT (2007). The Transportation Planning Process: Key Issues. Washington, D.C., Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration. 
    • ​Read Introduction and Part 1; 
    • Instructor can choose from Major Policy Issues in Part 2);​​
  3. ​​​​​​USDOT (2004). Transit at the Table: A Guide to Participation in Metropolitan Decisionmaking. Washington, D.C., Federal Transit Administration. ​
    • Read Executive Summary; 
    • Instructor can choose additional sections;​
  4. Weiner, E. (1997). "Urban transportationplanning in the US - A historical overview.
    • ​​Read Chapters 1, 12, 13.
    • Possibly add chapter 3 

Module 4: Transit Service Planning
Suggested Reading

Lesson 1 "Public Transit Planning in the United States" Students discuss the history of public transit in the United States, summarize the variety of transit modes and their attributes from a planning perspective and describe the typical duties of a transit service planner.
Lesson 2 “Fundamentals of Transit Service and Networks”

Enables students to explain the key factors that drive transit demand, summarize the main approaches to network design, and describe the role of intermodal coordination in transit planning.

  1. TCRP Reports (Lessons 1-5)
Lesson 3 “Route Level Planning and Design Concepts” Describes scheduling concepts that impact running time, express the basic principles and usage of ridership projections, and examines route-level resource allocation and constraints.

Lesson 4 “Developing Service: Measuring Quality of Service”
Describes the difference between transit performance viewpoints of the passengers, the community, and the agency. The lesson also summarizes various metrics that can be used to evaluate transit quality of service.

Lesson 5 “Developing Service: Calculating Capacity Students learn how to calculate transit vehicle and passenger capacity at four levels including loading area, bus stop, bus facility, and person capacity.



Module 5: Transit Management Suggested Reading


Lesson 1 "Organizational Models and Transit System Stakeholders"

Focuses on the organizational models and transit system stakeholders. The learning objectives are for students to recognize the various organizational models among transit systems; list the various functions performed by transit management; describe how management interacts among various internal and external stakeholders, and how the interests of those stakeholders may conflict with one another; explain what ethical challenges are faced by a transit system CEO; effectively use statistical indicators to measure and benchmark transit system performance.


  1. ​TCRP Report
Lesson 2 "Performance Measurement and Benchmarking"

Addresses Performance Measurement and Benchmarking.

  1. TCRP Reports

Lesson 3 "Organized Labor in Transit"

Introduces students to Organized Labor in Transit.

  1. ​TCRP Reports

Module 6: Public Transit Technology and Trends
Suggested Reading

Lesson 1
“The Impact of Evolving Technology on Public Transportation”


Helps students to understand how various impact areas are influenced by technology trends and offers examples of some of the specific applications within the transit industry. The areas include safety, environmental, customer convenience, and cost-effectiveness.


    1. William Black; Transportation: A Geographical Analysis
      • ​​​​Chapter 87
    2. TCRP Reports
    Lesson 2 “Trends Affecting Public Transportation”
    Students learn to understand the historical trends affecting public transportation and to examine some of the other trends currently occurring in the United States and describe how they affect public transportation.

    1. TCRP Reports

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