In order to have a sustainability plan, an organization must first know what sustainability means and how it will relate to the organization. Sustainability is the capacity to endure and the potential for maintaining long-term well-being for humankind. This in turn depends on the well-being of the natural world and the responsible use of natural resources. The most commonly accepted definition of sustainability comes from the Brundtland definition, which states, "...[sustainability is] meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" (Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development U.N. 1987).
The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) has adopted the Brundtland definition of sustainability. Consistent with this definition, DDOT believes sustainability consists of three elements: Environment, Social Structure and Economy. Environment refers to the natural characteristics of a given area. Social Structure takes into consideration the people, cultures and community aspects of a location. Economy relates to the financial realities that make up a community. When considered collectively, these elements provide the foundation for the quality of life.
DDOT serves a large population of residents, commuters and tourists. Thus, the District’s transportation infrastructure, maintained by DDOT, requires sustainable practices. It is DDOT’s goal to incorporate the three elements of sustainability in its activities and decision-making to make the District of Columbia a safe, multi-modal and healthy city for the present and the future.
It is an opportune time for DDOT to implement new and sustainable plans. The transportation network in the District is aging and experiencing increased congestion. It is time for DDOT to think and develop new ways and means to reduce current trends of vehicle dependence, sprawl and energy consumption. According to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), “America’s transportation system has served us well, but now faces the challenges of congestion, energy supply, environmental impacts, climate change and sprawl that threaten to undermine the economic, social and environmental future of the nation. With 140 million more people [residing in the US] expected over the next 50 years, past practices and current trends are not sustainable” (AASHTO 2007).
Transportation, and the infrastructure that supports it, is a vital element in our lives. Employment, education, leisure and the food supplies all depend on transportation. Though transportation represents only 10 percent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP), it is responsible for 22 percent of global energy consumption and 25 percent of the fossil-fuel depletion. Transportation produces 30 percent of all global air pollution and greenhouse gases (AASHTO 2009). Because the transportation sector is such a sizeable contributor to these trends, a more sustainable system can provide great opportunities to address sustainability concerns. Specifically, a more balanced mode share can slow the depletion of resources; the continuation of global climate change; the disruption of ecosystems; and the spread of toxic pollutants.