A transportation planner works alongside government agencies to select and develop plans to organize mass transit. Travel can be by walking, bicycle, bus, rail, or air.
Transportation planners normally communicate through the media in oral, written or visual forms. Because of the nature of their job, they appreciate the implications of new information for current and future problem solving and decision making. They may therefore be involved in designing leaflets and questionnaires for the purposes of communicating or receiving feedback from the public. Meetings are a large part of their job, with duties including attendance, note taking, and scheduling, and this requires that they are detail-oriented.
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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.
Aspiring transportation planners can gain practical experience while still in school through an internship, where grant proposals and reports would have to be researched and written and maps drawn. A bachelor's degree in logistics, civil engineering, planning, economics, geography, public policy, or a related field is often necessary. For management or higher positions, a master's degree is usually preferred, and several years of relevant experience may be expected of applicants.
A knowledge of transportation-related laws is beneficial, as well as familiarity with the social and economic conditions of a location. Certification by a professional body is typically required for employement as a transportation planner, as well as extensive knowledge of best practices, cost and benefits in transportation. Excellent oral and written communication, analytical, interpersonal, negotiation, and organizational skills are also other requirements for the job.
In their day-to-day work, complex problems must be solved, which involves identifying priorities. Therefore, understanding and explaining models will be a key aspect in securing the job as a transportation planner. Transportation planners can expect little or no supervision so they must have the quality of being proactive. The need for teamwork involves facilitating collaboration between individuals from many different disciplines, some of whom are of expert stature such as city planners, engineers, and environmental managers. That is why there is a requirement for good leadership skills, self confidence, and the desire to achieve results. Mentoring might be a duty, so aspirants of the job should prepare for it. Since they frequently work with maps, good vision is also required. Because their job can be demanding, transportation planners must be emotionally mature and patient enough to handle the pressures of the job.
The work of a transportation planner typically takesplace in an office setting, with some visits to field sites for purposes of inspection, for which a driver's license may be required. The distances traveled depend on the employer, and could conceivably cover whole regions. Jobs are more likely to arise in densely-populated or urban areas. Shift work that involves evenings and weekends is also common.
Transportation systems are constantly degrading, and the extent to which this has occurred in the United States has caused a great deal of alarm. There is a growing need for alternative transit that does not involve automobiles. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the average salary of a transportation planner was $56,000 per year, with the top 10 percent earning more than $86,880 a year. Job security is excellent, as transportation is integral to the functioning of society, and society grows ever-more mobile. Working for the government provides even greater security, and around 68 percent of planners are so employed. More emphasis is now placed on rail networks.