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Thread: Where to start? Seeking Transportation planning schools to research

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Where to start? Seeking Transportation planning schools to research

    After looking into what the work in a number of areas in the city involves, I hink transportation planning is the way to go... but time is fairly short. Does anyone have tips on how to find colleges that might have what I want? Not "Go to my alma mater" but maybe some lists, or what schools people looked at and what they thought of them, or other resources. I'd be looking at the planning angle, since I don't have the engineering side background. (I hang out with engineers, I like engineers, but my eyes glaze over when they start delving into the deeper technical parts, and it doesn't quite match my temperament to stay focused at that level of detail all the time)

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    Make sure to find a school with good engineering profs.

    Go to a prospective school, talk to the professors in both the planning and engineering departments first hand. Explain your interest in transportation planning and ask whether or not you will be able to do some of the less technical (more practical) engineering coursework for credit in the planning program. Not all schools will accomodate this. I would look at a school that offers either a specific degree concentration in transportation/transit planning (like Florida State) or one that is urban and regional planning.

    The latter is okay, though you may be the only one there who is not a Peace Corp granola crunching type. That's alright though, because you only have to take your basic coursework with them. What you don't want is to go to a school with an environmental/international planning degree focus for masters in urban planning. That won't lead you anywhere beyond doing GIS work in your curriculum.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
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    Schools with Good Reputations (for what that's worth)

    And for the record I didn't go to any of these and still manage to do transportation planning, so its not always just where you go:

    MIT
    Georgia Tech
    UCLA
    USC
    Berkeley
    Iowa (has one good prof, at least)

    Any other big school with a decent civil engineering department would be ok.

    A warning: being a transportation planner without an engineering degree is always a challenge- people talk down to you. But if you are good with numbers you can earn respect anyway- just don't lecture too many people about biking/walking/transit vs. automobile travel (you can think it but bite your tongue!)

    Good luck- I have always said to go where the financial aid is since planning doesn't pay too well and the reputation of a school is not as important as it is in other fields.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    Hmm... Been narrowing down a bit on my priorities. So far i've sent out inquiries to .. U Iowa, Eastern Washington U, and UC Denver. I think I have all the PSU info stashed aay already, and I know what it was like there.

    I'd sort've like to hit somewhere that's got a reddish tint on a political map, maybe somewhere midwest?

    Winter city design or familiarity is a big plus. If I ask a question about snow removal, I don't want to be met by glassy-eyed un-comprehending stares, like I got in Portland. (To this day, I still don't know how porous concrete and roundabouts respond to icing on roadways or snow plows..) I *like* Alaska, and winter city design is important here.

    I'm thinking small would be good too, but i'm not totally decided in that regard. I'm not picky on the name. Affordable would be good.

  5. #5
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    I can tell you anything you want to know about UIowa.
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
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    Cyburbian SideshowBob's avatar
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    I graduated from U of Iowa 4 years ago and I tend to question it for transportation planning. You'll get an earfull of the administrative stuff--the TEA-21 reautorization, the relationship between Feds, MPOs, Local, etc. But I don't think it is too strong on the technical side--modeling etc. Of course, when I was there, they had some bad luck with professors, so maybe it has improved. I'd compare their course list to some of the other schools and see if they fall short anywhere.
    Fighting congestion by widening roads is like fighting obesity by buying larger clothes.

  7. #7
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by SideshowBob
    I graduated from U of Iowa 4 years ago and I tend to question it for transportation planning. You'll get an earfull of the administrative stuff--the TEA-21 reautorization, the relationship between Feds, MPOs, Local, etc. But I don't think it is too strong on the technical side--modeling etc.

    They had a modeling class when I was there, I don't remember who taught it, since I didn't take it. UI is a policy program, for sure.

    BTW welcome fellow alum. There are several of us here now, although a couple have not posted much lately.
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

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    Cyburbian
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    With the information on physical road they have, is there any attention payed to or reason for them to be aware of snow removal concerns and the like?

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    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by JusticeZero
    With the information on physical road they have, is there any attention payed to or reason for them to be aware of snow removal concerns and the like?

    Being a policy program with little design, not at Iowa. To me, those sort of issues become more engineering than planning.
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

  10. #10
    Cyburbian SideshowBob's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by giff57
    Being a policy program with little design, not at Iowa. To me, those sort of issues become more engineering than planning.
    Yeah, compare Iowa to Iowa State. Iowa State is a design program. I'm not sure but it may be somewhat connected to the engineering department. I don't think that snowplowing would be much of a topic, but the program is very different from Iowa's policy orientation.

    I wish I'd had some design...

    I was born and raised in Minneapolis, and I tell ya, they sure as heck can remove snow up there (not that it helps with your question, I'm just saying)
    Fighting congestion by widening roads is like fighting obesity by buying larger clothes.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    Yeah, that's the sort of thing I want.. to learn under people who have to shovel their driveways on occasion and debate the merits of studded tires.
    In Portland, they'd proudly show some development - traffic circle, or roundabout, or porous concrete, or whatever, but if I asked about how said idea worked with snow removal, or road icing and the associated changes in vehicle behavior, I got a blank, glazed stare. So when I go back and the first objection to absolutely any change whatsoever is "That's great in Portland, what about here where we have road ice and snowplows?"... well, it's pretty weak if you can't get through five seconds of questioning without having to say, in essence, "I don't know if it works at all for six months out of the year.."
    I'd also like to be somewhere right-leaning and a bit more rural. I needed to get the 'urban feel' at Portland, but now I want to study somewhere a bit more like the places I want to work at.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian jenniplans's avatar
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    TP schools

    I recommend calling the schools and talk to the tp professors. The more questions you ask, the better off you'll be. I went to U Iowa and never had a difficult time talking to profs - Paul Hanley, Dave Forkenbrock, and Jim Stoner (Transportation Engineering).

    Another thing is to really thing about what you want to do in tp. Are you interested in city/small town neighborhood transportation issues or do you want to work for a state DOT working on regional or statewide issues. A few of the tp students before and after me went to work for consultants, which isn't/wasn't my thing.

    It's tough knowing what you want to do, but if you can find a school that encompasses all (or most of) your interests, things will fall into place - though it may not seem like that.

    Good luck!

  13. #13
    Cyburbian
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    Honestly? I have an economic development leaning already. I want to work on individual streets. I enjoy design. I've done work with communities. I also want to be able to work effectively in winter cities, and have the ability to work in more conservative areas than the rabidly-liberal ones. *shudder* On a similar note, the ability to get through a week without being verbally ambushed for my evil primitive capitalist neanderthal ways is a definate plus.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian FueledByRamen's avatar
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    I am also applying to grad schools and want to focus on transportation. I was an Aerospace Engineering major my first year and a half of college, and while I have a pretty good grasp on physics and differential and integral calculus, engineering really isnt my thing. Im more of a systems guy I guess....I like looking at a broader problem and trying to solve it. That said, I would like to be able to take some engineering related courses in grad school, but I dont want to end up like transportation planners here in Texas that think transportation planning is an engineering field that only works with highways. In addition, I am really more interested in fixed transit systems and intercity rail...those areas, at least to me in the road-hungry south, tend to not come up with the engineering people.

    Example: Ive talked with the President of Alliance Transportation (a trans. engineering consultant) on a few occasions while researching for my thesis. Once I asked him what schools had good programs for transportation planning. He mentioned several engineering programs (Ga. Tech, Berkley, etc.) including the civil engineering dept. here at UT....didnt even mention the Community and Regional PLANNING department. He had never even HEARD of Portland State University.

    I am applying to Portland State, though. Im going to visit in January and from what I understand, I think I will fit in with the program very well. Dont take this as offensive, but being a former engineering student and having one of my best friends and many other friends still in engineering programs, I have come to believe that engineering just focuses on small-scale problems and never addresses the big picture. I know this is a gross over-generalization and this whole post probably didnt contribute anything to your thread...but I just felt like typing it all out!

    Adam

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    Cyburbian
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    I do have to agree with that assessment.. i'll note that there seems to be an across the board hatred of engineers from the planners for the most part. One of the people I studied with was a highway engineer, and he felt that the planners were imposing the rigid restrictions on his engineering firm that the planners claim is the halmark of evil engineers. It was amusing watching him go off calmly but at great length and with great conviction on a guest speaker after one too many anti-engineer comments.
    Haven't seen enough to know if there's any great truth to the matter, though I will admit that after seeing a few plans from the engineers I have to say i'm unimpressed. (several glossy sections of 2-lane road with left turn inhibitors on a road where half the businesses require freight access? And two sketches of the 3-lane version, the more detailed one of which is how to convert it to the 2-lane version? And the cross section - no good can come of a section labelled "Parking/SNOW STORAGE" in the commercial core..)

  16. #16
    Cyburbian FueledByRamen's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by JusticeZero
    And the cross section - no good can come of a section labelled "Parking/SNOW STORAGE" in the commercial core..)
    Hahaha

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    Cyburbian jread's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by FueledByRamen
    I am also applying to grad schools and want to focus on transportation. I was an Aerospace Engineering major my first year and a half of college, and while I have a pretty good grasp on physics and differential and integral calculus, engineering really isnt my thing. Im more of a systems guy I guess....I like looking at a broader problem and trying to solve it. That said, I would like to be able to take some engineering related courses in grad school, but I dont want to end up like transportation planners here in Texas that think transportation planning is an engineering field that only works with highways. In addition, I am really more interested in fixed transit systems and intercity rail...those areas, at least to me in the road-hungry south, tend to not come up with the engineering people.

    Example: Ive talked with the President of Alliance Transportation (a trans. engineering consultant) on a few occasions while researching for my thesis. Once I asked him what schools had good programs for transportation planning. He mentioned several engineering programs (Ga. Tech, Berkley, etc.) including the civil engineering dept. here at UT....didnt even mention the Community and Regional PLANNING department. He had never even HEARD of Portland State University.

    I am applying to Portland State, though. Im going to visit in January and from what I understand, I think I will fit in with the program very well. Dont take this as offensive, but being a former engineering student and having one of my best friends and many other friends still in engineering programs, I have come to believe that engineering just focuses on small-scale problems and never addresses the big picture. I know this is a gross over-generalization and this whole post probably didnt contribute anything to your thread...but I just felt like typing it all out!

    Adam
    Hey, if you do end up going to Portland, let me know how it compares to Austin. Portland has always been a city that I wanted to visit and have considered living in. I hear that it's very similar to Austin as far as the people and young, "hip" culture.

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    Cyburbian FueledByRamen's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jread
    Hey, if you do end up going to Portland, let me know how it compares to Austin. Portland has always been a city that I wanted to visit and have considered living in. I hear that it's very similar to Austin as far as the people and young, "hip" culture.
    Will do. Ive heard that it has all of the good qualities of Austin and few of the bad ones. No 80% humidity when it is 95* outside, etc.

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    Cyburbian jread's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by FueledByRamen
    Will do. Ive heard that it has all of the good qualities of Austin and few of the bad ones. No 80% humidity when it is 95* outside, etc.
    Yes, but it's that 6 months of gloom and rain that most can't handle. I always hear about Texans not being able to make it through more than one rainy season there. We're just too used to the sunshine.

    I, on the other hand, LOVE rain and fog so it doesn't worry me

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    Cyburbian FueledByRamen's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jread
    Yes, but it's that 6 months of gloom and rain that most can't handle. I always hear about Texans not being able to make it through more than one rainy season there. We're just too used to the sunshine.

    I, on the other hand, LOVE rain and fog so it doesn't worry me

    Well, I grew up in Lubbock. The annual rainfall there is under 20" and the humidity never gets above 40% unless it is raining.....so maybe I wont be able to take it...but it rains alot here, and then is hot as hell the next day....

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    Cyburbian
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    The entire time I was in college in Portland there was very little rain. On occasional, a tiny amount of mist - not really worth an umbrella - would drift down for a few minutes, then the sun would come out again, at which point people would pat themselves on the back and brag about how good they were at being able to stand the long rains. Sometimes it would actually rain, but usually it was pretty short-lived and rare.

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    Cyburbian
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    So far, Iowa State seems to be the top of the short list, on account of actually HAVING a winter city traffic program connection.
    How hard is it to get in, what's it like?

    How many applications should I be sending out, anways, I might add? I'm not sure how hard it is to get into a planning program as compared to any other one..

  23. #23
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by JusticeZero
    So far, Iowa State seems to be the top of the short list, on account of actually HAVING a winter city traffic program connection.
    How hard is it to get in, what's it like?

    How many applications should I be sending out, anways, I might add? I'm not sure how hard it is to get into a planning program as compared to any other one..


    I don't know how hard it is to get into Iowa State. I can tell you that it is more conservative than U Iowa. My undergrad is from Iowa State, but not in planning. Ames is a good town, you could probably say it is rurally focused, it is the ag school for the state.

    I proably can answer most questions you might have about the Iowa schools.
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

  24. #24
          roger's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by JusticeZero
    How many applications should I be sending out, anways, I might add? I'm not sure how hard it is to get into a planning program as compared to any other one..
    Depends on how much money you want to spend, and how many hoops you're willing to jump through. I limited myself to four, both for monetary and logistical reasons.

    Difficulty of getting admitted depends more on the school/department, and how well you craft your applications. Different programs will have different standards.

  25. #25
    Member chouston's avatar
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    I got my B.S. from Iowa State, and my first job out of school was as a Transporation Planner. The program there was within the College of Design, and focused alot on ethics and equity in planning. All Community and Regional Planning students were encouraged to take one Civil Engineering class, which was mostly about trip modeling. I work in zoning and code enforcement now (though my title is "Planner"), for a different jurisdiction. I thought I would like the transportation planning, but my job was mostly just about making the Transporation Improvement Program (allocating money the way the engineers told me to) and occasionally applying for transporation related grants. The enhancement projects (trails, plantings, etc.) were the only things that turned out to be interesting to me. Replacing delapitated bridges and pot holes were not. Before I left that job I was just getting started on the Long Range Transporation Plan, and that probably would have been somewhat interesting to work on. As a side note, being a female transporation planner, surrounded by engineers old enough to be my father (most of the time) was sometimes intimidating, but if any of you find yourself in that situation, stick to your guns and don't allow yourself to be talked down to.

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