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Thread: Canadian civil engineer vs planner

  1. #1

    Canadian civil engineer vs planner

    Hello Everyone;

    I am currently in my first year of a planning program at University of Waterloo, but im really not sure about the planning profession. I want to specialize in transportation planning, but im not sure about the role planners have in the field. I do not want to get stuck writing are reading policy for the rest of my career. I would like to do more of the calculations such as figuring out density levels to support LRTs, or determining the best path for a subway line to travel. Would an engineer be more likely to do tasks such as these, or are they in the realm of planning? If anyone could give me some advice that would be great!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
    Mar 2004
    Where the weak are killed and eaten.
    Look into transportation modeling and you may find the balance you are looking for.

  3. #3
    Feb 2008
    Toronto, Canada
    I'd have to say that based on my 20+ years in the field, planners do not typically do the number-heavy end of things like route modelling, but that's not to say they can't. I do wonder what you have in your curriculum that would cover numerical modelling however. When I was at Waterloo (long ago) as an engineering student, I took a couple of planning courses that covered material like demographics and urban form, but nothing like capacity, operations, scheduling and so on - some of that came from Civil Engineering Dept., but mostly from working in transportation consulting. I'd recommend seeking out those sorts of courses. Also consider math (statistics, simulation, optimization), and economics (consumer choice modelling for example). Maybe you should look into Integrated Studies? I do think the industry could use more modellers with a broader background as some seem to get stuck in pure numbers, but it might be a bit of an uphill battle when positions are often specifying an engineering degree.
    Best of luck to you!

  4. #4
    maudit anglais
    May 1997
    If your interest is much more on the numbers side and in the actual design of transportation infrastructure than engineering is more likely to meet your career ambitions.

    Regarding your actual examples of determining density to support LRT or planning the route of a subway, a planner would definitely do the former and have a large part in the latter. There is no one person (either engineer or planner) deciding where a facility should go. The reality is much more complex than that - you will work as part of a team (engineers, planners, architects, biologists, etc.) to develop solutions and each discipline guides the final result (plus your client, and the public).

    I am a graduate of U of Waterloo's planning program and work as a transportation planner, so it can be done.

  5. #5
    Thank you for your input everyone!

    I really enjoy the planning program so far, but I feel like my program is more focused on the process of planning such as public participation, legislation, and etc. Maybe next year will take care of those worries.

    There are some really awesome course that Waterloo is offering now, I just do not know if it will give be the depth I need to assess if systems are truly energy efficient. I will look into the transport modeling and making taking some engineering classes.
    Here is a link to the school of plannings undergrad program if you guys are interested!


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