Transportation planners understand the practical application of engineering science and technology, particularly the principles, techniques, and equipment involved in the production of goods and services. They consider safety, environmental, and efficiency issues in areas such as land use, infrastructure analysis, environmental compliance, and corridor planning. They allocate resources to initiate and develop projects and are responsible for the identification of needs, the preparation of plans and estimates, and adherence to regulations.
There may be the need to write proposals when competition is present, so transportation planners must be competent at writing clear reports that describe features, present available options and make recommendations. Other aspects of their job are monitoring accounts, managing shipments, and planning for staff and consultants. They also answer inquiries from the public, environmental groups, governmental bodies, the business community, and funding partners. In essence, they liaise with stakeholders of all kinds. Since their environment is client-focused, strong communication skills are an asset.
In addition to having a knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and calculus, transportation planners need to be well versed in applied statistics such as demand forecasting and the ability to analyze data. They model solutions and test actions before a final implementation. Therefore, the understanding and use of various software packages is a necessary, such as CORSIM, VISSIM, Cube Voyager, TransCAD, and others.
Transportation planners may be called upon to act as an expert witness at public inquiries. Jobs range from playing a small role in a larger master plan to managing a region-wide public transport system. They are frequently under tight time and budgetary limits, and their job can be frustrating and emotionally draining, but the work of a transportation planner has an impact on the lives of many people.