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Thread: Transport planning vs. transport engineering

  1. #1
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    Transport planning vs. transport engineering

    Note to Moderator: I asked the same questions in the Student Lounge, and got no response, so I'll try this forum.

    'm trying to decide between getting a M.S./M. Eng. in Transportation Engineering, or a MCP/MUP with an Transportation Planning concentration. From looking at other Cyburbia discussions, it seems to me that Transport Engineering is more on the design side, whereas Transport planning is more on the policy/politics side---but the line between the two is not hard and fast. As I have strong interests in both policy/politics and design, both are viable options from a "will the work be interesting/engaging?" standpoint.

    What I don't know, however, are the differences between the job prospects for these two tracks: not just what the relative number of openings and average salaries are, but also the types of employers who hire those with these two degrees. That is the information I'm hoping you folks could help me with.

    I should also add my background: I'm an undergraduate in mechanical engineering (entering junior year), so getting admitted to Transportation Engineering programs is not a problem (I've checked, and you generally only need an engineering degree, not specifically a Civil degree, to be admitted, even when the program is in the Civil dept.). I'm planning to get the P.E. eventually. I hope to someday work for something along the lines of a city public transit authority, state DOT, or federal DOT.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    Engineers:
    "Beephorn Road's traffic is down to an average of 35 MPH. What do we do?"
    "Pulling out our calculators, we can measure that that same number of cars will move 45 if we tear down the library, shopping center, and fifteen houses to add a lane. Using modern techniques, we can manage to do that without even interrupting existing traffic by using this fiendishly clever scheme. It'll handle their traffic needs for the next two years before we have to widen it again! It'll just cost a few billion dollars.."

    Planners:
    "Beephorn Road's traffic is down to an average of 35 MPH. What do we do?"
    "Well, it wasn't our idea to throw a bunch of houses on one acre lots with no sidewalks or connectivity there. And we suggested that you put some space for stores and schools and things so that people wouldn't need to drive back and forth as much."
    "You're a godless commie. Set up a meeting to tell the residents we're putting in the freeway over their houses."
    "....Okay."

  3. #3
    Cyburbian estromberg's avatar
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    Going the engineering route would have more opportunity, as a PE you could probably get a job as a transportation planner, but not vice versa.

  4. #4
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    Another, simpler question

    Another question I have that is more specific: would there be any use in getting Master's in Transportation Planning and a Master's in Transportation Engineering? Or would it just be redundant? I'm considering submatriculating into an MCP program and getting the MCP degree in a fifth year, and then getting the engineering degree after, or applying to the dual degree programs at MIT and Berkeley.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally posted by DrMaturin View post
    Another question I have that is more specific: would there be any use in getting Master's in Transportation Planning and a Master's in Transportation Engineering? Or would it just be redundant? I'm considering submatriculating into an MCP program and getting the MCP degree in a fifth year, and then getting the engineering degree after, or applying to the dual degree programs at MIT and Berkeley.
    My answer from the other forum:

    "Seems like this could be useful for smaller cities who are strapped for cash. I see many of them with combined titles and duties: city manager/engineer/PW director/etc."

  6. #6
    Now don't take this wrong, but it's really real life experience that helps determine which track to pursue. I've been in the Traffic Engineering / Transportation Planning career for over 30 years and have extensive experience on both sides of the track. It's help me to bridge the gaps in meetings and in conversations with engineers and planners. At the TPO that I work at now, we work with both engineers and planners on a regular basis. I still review traffic studies and roadway plans, as well as develop the TPO long range transportation planning model.

    jmho

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