1.252J | Fall 2016 | Graduate

Urban Transportation Planning

Instructor Insights

Course Overview

This page focuses on the course 1.252J Urban Transportation Planning as it was taught Frederick Salvucci in Fall 2016.

This course examined the policy, politics, planning, and engineering of transportation systems in urban areas, with a particular focus on the Boston area. Transportation sustainability was a central theme throughout the course. The main goal was to elicit discussion, stimulate independent thinking, and encourage students to understand and challenge the conventional wisdom of transportation planning. The course was taught in standard lecture format with optional recitations.

Course Outcomes

Below, Frederick Salvucci shares his goals for student learning in the course.

I wanted students to learn to think about how to structure a problem related to urban transportation. How do you identify what the problem is? How do you identify the constituencies interested in the problem, and what their different points of view might be? I wanted them to think about how to generate potential solutions to problems and how to evaluate those solutions. I also wanted students to learn how to use simple numbers to quantify solutions, thus avoiding the trap of being directionally correct, but dimensionally insignificant, which is a common problem with policy and planning issues.

Instructor Interview

"There are typically four assignments in (this course), and they almost always take students into Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville."
— Frederick Salvucci

Below, Frederick Salvucci describes various aspects of how he taught 1.252J Urban Transportation Planning.

Curriculum Information


No prerequisites, but permission of the instructor required.

Requirements Satisfied

Can be applied toward multiple graduate degrees in Civil and Environmental Engineering and Urban Studies and Planning.


1.252J was offered every fall semester. Note: The course will not be offered at MIT in Fall 2017, but will be offered in Spring 2018 at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. MIT students can cross-register to take it there.  


Grade Breakdown

The students’ grades were based on the following activities:

  • 15% Assignment 1
  • 20% Assignment 2
  • 20% Assignment 3
  • 25% Assignment 4
  • 20% Participation

Student Information


22 students

Breakdown by Year

Mostly graduate students, with a few undergraduates

Breakdown by Major

Typical Student Background

The students are usually in their first year of a master’s program, having graduated from a bachelor’s program, typically from an institution other than MIT. Sometimes we have a few international students.

Typically, some of the students possess significant work experience, but the majority do not. Most of the students have had only summer job-type work experience. There are usually a few who have worked for a few years before coming back for their master’s degree.

How Student Time Was Spent

During an average week, students were expected to spend 12-14 hours on the course, roughly divided as follows:


Met 1 time per week for 3 hours per session; 11 sessions total.


Met during selected weeks for 2 hours per session; 5 sessions total; attendance optional.

Out of Class

Students completed assignments, went on a walking tour, and attended public meetings, hearings, lectures, and other events throughout the semester.

Course Info

Learning Resource Types
Problem Sets
Lecture Notes
Instructor Insights