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Thread: Day in the life of a transport planner -- typical tasks/duties??

  1. #1

    Day in the life of a transport planner -- typical tasks/duties??

    As a prospective Transport Planner, can anyone point me in the direction of "typical duties/day" of a transport planner, what they actually do. I'd like someone to describe a typical day working on a new subway or rail alignment. I haven't been able to find many real accounts about this occupation on the web.

    I also would like to know:

    a) Are the jobs in private or public sectors

    b) Is the salary similar to other planning disciplines?

    c) Are there opportunities to practice abroad or travel abroad?

    d) Do you need to be a lisenced to practice?

    e) Do you need to be a highly quanitive/analytical person to excell?

    Thanks
    Aqua

  2. #2
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    a yes

    b in many cases it is more, depends on how specialized you are.

    c yes, but you are almost required to work for a big consultant company and put in several years for this to occur.

    d no, but a PE won't hurt.

    e depends on the job. you certainly have a good deal of number crunching type jobs, but you almost have as many that are reg readers or writers. Lots of opportunity for both the development of complex models or the synthesis of public comments.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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    Cyburbian cch's avatar
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    I don't know if you use the word "transport" short for transportation, or if you consider "transport planning" a seperate discipline. But I can share some about transportation planning. I was a transportation planner for a RPC for 1 1/2 years, my first job out of school, and I gotta tell ya I didn't care for it.

    Basically, I was in charge of the TIP (Transportation Improvement Program) for the region, so I had to conduct technical committee and policy committee meetings to come up with spreadsheets that listed transportation projects, funding needs and where the funding was coming from. I was mildly interested in enhancement projects like trails and roadside plantings, and I did some trail design work by holding public workshops to determine routes and things. And I did some grant applications to apply for different funding for road improvements that would benefit economic development, and things like that. And I worked on the region's long range transportation plan.

    I'm a small-town girl, have never known a transportation planner who was involved in subway work. It seems transportation planners get paid slightly higher than most other planners, and the most common place to get your start in transportation planning would be for a MPO.

  4. #4
    Thanks, however i would like know if possible what a typical day is like, how much time is spent modelling on the computer, how much time is spent using GIS for route selection of rail/road? How much time is spent dealing with community groups, etc.. Basically, i want the full monty!! Are there any books on the career u know of per chance?


    What kind of tasks are creative, that involve comming up with new ideas - is it a creative profession?

    How do u select what areas should have a new transpot system and how is a new route plotted? Is it done by using demographics with GIS, or by computer models of traffic flow etc?
    Just trying to get an idea, sorry for all the questions

  5. #5
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Well, I am a transportation planner for the city and the MPO.

    My last week has roughly consisted of:

    30% Planning a public open house for a collector street plan I managed

    20% Finalizing a bicycle facility and route map for the metro area

    10% Planning restructured bus routes with the local transit authority

    10% Creating maps for my supervisor in ArcView

    10% Attending various meetings (staff, regional TDM, local charrettes, transit board, bicycle advisory committee, etc.)

    5% Helping the city long range planners complete a neighborhood plan

    5% Preparing for the monthly MPO Technical Advisory Committee meeting (group of regional planning staff)

    5% Writing resolutions and answering questions for upcoming city council meeting

    5% Attending night meeting run by the state DOT for an upcoming access management project (helped answer questions of both the public and elected officials)

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    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    I sit in a cube, type things into a database, talk on the phone (advising or following up poor data responses), make maps, participate in meetings and analyze transportation projects.

    It sounds incredibly boring and not very challenging, but I am able to get satisfaction from it.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  7. #7
    Thanks.. when you talk about making maps and analyzing/planning routes -- does that involve using GIS and demographic data or modelling software? Can you walk me quickly through a route planning of a bus or train -- a few steps.. I would very much appreciate it, it would give me a good insight into the profession.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by aquablue View post
    Thanks.. when you talk about making maps and analyzing/planning routes -- does that involve using GIS and demographic data or modelling software? Can you walk me quickly through a route planning of a bus or train -- a few steps.. I would very much appreciate it, it would give me a good insight into the profession.
    I think there are two different types of "transportation planners:"

    1. planner (me): facilitation, public outreach, coordination, negotiation, project supervision, etc.
    2. analyst: modeling, TransCAD, Synchro, data analysis, mapping, etc.

    P.S. I have an office, not a cube.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    I'm closer to JMello than I am to a modeler.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Flying Monkeys's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jmello View post
    I think there are two different types of "transportation planners:"

    1. planner (me): facilitation, public outreach, coordination, negotiation, project supervision, etc.
    2. analyst: modeling, TransCAD, Synchro, data analysis, mapping, etc.

    P.S. I have an office, not a cube.
    I would disagree with this as presented... I can do all of the items listed in 1. and 2., and I have had to do them. Therefore I understand them completely. However, I have employed or trained people to do these tasks. So, you could say that some transportation planners perform or direct all of the above. The following would be an example of how they fit together:

    A new corridor is contemplated, it is modeled, data is analyzed, and alternative routes are selected and mapped. This data is presented for public outreach, the stakeholders along the routes are negotiated with, and the local municipalities must be negotiated with.

    If you want to perform transportation planning well, you should be familiar with all of these tasks. So, a day in the life of a transportation planner can be vastly different depending on what day in your career you might look at.
    What’s in a name? – Your reputation….:)

  11. #11
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Your number of coworkers, heirarchy, and how well your skills match up with what is needed may have an impact in what you do. For example, I work in a large office with about 25 other planners/engineers who do transportation planning.

    We have a ton of work to do, therefore, our skills are constantly being assessed and improved. In larger environments you do seem to be put into one area or another. Our office is broken up much like JMello's is. Its not that I can't model, or I have never modelled, its just that we have data geeks who live for that stuff, while I like to do more of the wheeling and dealing.

    If you want to have exposure to all skills, you should look for a smaller office. My goal was to help improve the town I grew up in, and that happened to be a metro of 5-6 million depending upon how you slice it. We have a big area to cover, so we get compartmentalized. Sometimes this is a good thing, other times it is frustrating.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Flying Monkeys's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    Your number of coworkers, heirarchy, and how well your skills match up with what is needed may have an impact in what you do. For example, I work in a large office with about 25 other planners/engineers who do transportation planning.

    If you want to have exposure to all skills, you should look for a smaller office.

    I agree with most of this, except I work for one of the largest firms in the world and my office would be considered large. I think it boils down to what you want out of the career you choose. Helping the community you live in is an excellent goal.

    For me, my goal has always been to get a taste of all of it, then decide what I was best suited for. I am still looking. In the meantime I have enhanced my career and improved my own personal lot. So, I would say to stay open, always take on the challenge, and do not be afraid to get it wrong (just be able to admit when you are wrong and be willing to fix it).
    What’s in a name? – Your reputation….:)

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