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Applying a transportation rating system to advance sustainability evaluation, planning and partnerships

Elise Barrella (Department of Engineering, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia, USA)
Kelsey Lineburg (Department of Engineering, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia, USA)
Peter Hurley (North American Sustainable Transportation Council, Portland, Oregon, USA)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 2 May 2017




The purpose of this paper is to describe a pilot application of the Sustainable Transportation Analysis & Rating System (STARS), and highlight how a sustainability rating system can be used to promote sustainable urban development through a university–city partnership. STARS is an example of a second-generation “green” rating system focused on transportation planning, design, operations and maintenance.


In Fall 2013, James Madison University (JMU) initiated a STARS pilot demonstration using a local corridor that connects the university and the city of Harrisonburg. The pilot’s purposes were to develop attainable transportation-development targets, evaluate infrastructure and programmatic options in the context of a credit-based system and demonstrate a decision-making framework centered on sustainability optimization. The paper provides an overview of the STARS framework and the pilot’s collaborations, analysis, findings and recommendations for credits across sustainability dimensions.


Upon applying the rating system, the research team found that STARS may initially be easier to integrate into a comprehensive transportation planning process than a corridor-level evaluation due to data needs, in-house expertise and planning timelines for campus and city developments. A campus-wide master plan based on STARS would enable a university and a city to apply sustainability principles to their physical and/or policy interfaces to systemically create change and achieve quantifiable targets.


The STARS framework provides a novel approach for integrating multiple stakeholders (faculty, the university and city staff, students and community members) in a process of capacity building, evaluating options, policy-making, implementation and performance monitoring. The JMU pilot is the first application of STARS at a university and the only US East Coast application to date.



The authors would like to acknowledge the team of faculty, staff and students who assisted with the STARS pilot. In particular, they would like to thank Dr CJ Hartman, Ms Katie Hess, Ms Kristen Castilleja, Mr Lee Eshelman, Mr Abe Kauffman, Mr Michael Dalmolin, Mr Brad Andrick, Mr Scott Brooks, Dr Stephanie Baller and Mr Brad Reed who contributed to data collection and/or analysis. Additionally, the authors would like to thank members of the JMU Applied Research Collaborative for their envisioning of a transformed Grace Street corridor – Professor Audrey Barnes, Dr Rob Alexander, Dr David Ehrenpreis, Dr Justin Henriques and Dr Henry Way.


Barrella, E., Lineburg, K. and Hurley, P. (2017), "Applying a transportation rating system to advance sustainability evaluation, planning and partnerships", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 18 No. 4, pp. 608-626.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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