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Thread: Best transportation planning programs

  1. #1
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    Best transportation planning programs

    Hi Cyburbia! I am interested in Transportation Planning and am also considering getting a dual degree in Civil Engineering. Can anyone tell me the following:

    1) the benefits of getting both degrees
    2) The job prospects and salaries expected
    3) the best programs to do the dual, or do just the MCRP in transportation
    4) Where could I get in based on stats below?

    Experience: I have 3 years experience working for a nonprofit that does affordable housing policy, and for a community foundation that does regional community investment (which is my current job)
    GPA: 3.45 from top private institution, Majors in History and Political Science
    GRE: 740Q, 680V, 3.5W

    I don't have all of the prerequisites necessary to obtain a degree in CE, but I visited Georgia Tech this past weekend and they assured me that if applying as a dual, I won't need the prereqs, as I would obtain them during the actual curriculum. Do other schools have this set up as well?

    Any info on the transportation planning field would be helpful! Thank you!!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    MIT's program, the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP) sounds to be a good fit for you though it's competitive (being the top ranked planning program in the nation). DUSP is heavily transportation focused and DUSP students can also enroll in a dual degree with the MIT civil engineering department (Master of Science in Transportation or MST). Your GPA and GRE scores are pretty high though so I'd definitely look into MIT. Should you tire of transportation, DUSP has strong focus on housing as well. I know because the two housing experts in my planning program got their degrees from DUSP.

  3. #3
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    Thanks for the advice, Slideruler. I appreciate it!

    I'm a bit apprehensive about getting into the top programs (MIT, Berkeley, etc) because it is hard to gauge what they are looking for based on their websites and literature about the program. Additionally, I'm worried about applying for the dual engineering degrees when I don't have the necessarily prerequisites. Any help on what schools are looking for (for planning and/or engineering) would be fantastic!

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    Find out who is in charge of admissions of those particular graduate programs and call or email them directly. Believe it or not, they will actually tell you what they are looking for.

  5. #5
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    Location, Location

    There are so many great programs out there....and the dual degree can only help. Don't worry too much about the prereqs -- if they want you in, they'll work with you. My best advice is to consider where you want to live and work after school, and go there -- grad school is all about doing practical work and making connections.

  6. #6

    Transportation Programs

    Good question....

    I agree with the sentiments for finding the best fit, but in order to help you find your fit below are a few questions:

    A) Have you researched the topics in which you are interested (transportation modeling or bike planning)?

    B) Have you read journal articles or looked at blogs by the article authors / professors / transportation institutes associated with your topics of interest?

    C) Have you contacted professors directly who write and teach the topics that interest you? Have you asked for the syllabi for the courses and compared across schools?

    Personal Story:
    I originally wanted to go to Rutgers and was accepted, but when I talked to current students and then compared topics covered by classes I did not find a fit. When I visited UT Austin I discovered a better fit because planning students actually took transportation engineering courses as well as in the Planning program. Taking Transportation Planning with the engineers, Transit engineering, and Transportation modeling was an eye opener because the engineers ask different questions. Sure I was missing some of the more policy-based and theory you find in Planning school. Remember our profession is very policy and ideology heavy, so when you are working in a real transportation planning job the APA and your management will school you in policy. Gosh, Planning School gives you a lot of skills in understanding policy and theory and thinking critically, but we really have moved away from core math and science. GIS should not be your only analytical tools and a few methods from graduate school. In transportation it is helpful to understand issues from the perspective of the engineers.

    I will also say that MIT / Berkley are the leaders in Transportation if you can get in. If not then Minnesota and UCLA also publish a lot of research and professors hire students to do work. I learned more in working on transportation planning issues in my graduate research assistantship than my classes because the information used in the classes is more widely available and so well packaged. Lots of topics are not so well packaged or plentiful in research, and so working as an assistant provides you the ability to dig deep.

    Now that I work in Transit, I will say our most important issues are not well researched.....mostly because who is going to fund them? I am referencing that TOD is over researched while equity is not. UT Austin is one of the only programs in the nation with a professor specializing in equity and transportation. Of course if you really want a good schooling, go ride the bus for a week morning, day, and night.

    This is what I remember from my research days and who I read. hopefully it gives you a starting point for topics and authors. Most of them write on more than one topic but the categorization I give them is just how I remembered them from reading.

    Bike > Pucher @ Rutgers; Krizek @ Colorado; Dill @ Portland; Handy @ UC Davis

    TOD > Cervero @ Berkley; Zhang @ UT Austin; Ewing @ ? (He was at MD College Park but then relocated)

    BRT > Rodriguez @ UNC Chapel Hill

    Parking > Shoup @ UCLA

    General > Levinson @ U Minnesota; Chatman @ Berkley; Guo @ NYU

    Health & Built Environment > Crane @ UCLA; Southworth @ Berkley

    Equity > McCray @ UT Austin

    Modeling > Bhat @ UT Austin; Waddell @ Berkley

    Transportation Funding > Wachs @ UCLA; Goldman @ Berkley

    Government > Giuliano @ USC

    Transit > Zegras @ MIT; Ben-Joseph @ MIT; Brown @ Florida State
    Last edited by MapleAve; 30 Jun 2012 at 3:00 AM. Reason: Update

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Plus
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    newark nj
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    Quote Originally posted by MapleAve View post
    Good question....

    I agree with the sentiments for finding the best fit, but in order to help you find your fit below are a few questions:

    A) Have you researched the topics in which you are interested (transportation modeling or bike planning)?

    B) Have you read journal articles or looked at blogs by the article authors / professors / transportation institutes associated with your topics of interest?

    C) Have you contacted professors directly who write and teach the topics that interest you? Have you asked for the syllabi for the courses and compared across schools?

    Personal Story:
    I originally wanted to go to Rutgers and was accepted, but when I talked to current students and then compared topics covered by classes I did not find a fit. When I visited UT Austin I discovered a better fit because planning students actually took transportation engineering courses as well as in the Planning program. Taking Transportation Planning with the engineers, Transit engineering, and Transportation modeling was an eye opener because the engineers ask different questions. Sure I was missing some of the more policy-based and theory you find in Planning school. Remember our profession is very policy and ideology heavy, so when you are working in a real transportation planning job the APA and your management will school you in policy. Gosh, Planning School gives you a lot of skills in understanding policy and theory and thinking critically, but we really have moved away from core math and science. GIS should not be your only analytical tools and a few methods from graduate school. In transportation it is helpful to understand issues from the perspective of the engineers.

    I will also say that MIT / Berkley are the leaders in Transportation if you can get in. If not then Minnesota and UCLA also publish a lot of research and professors hire students to do work. I learned more in working on transportation planning issues in my graduate research assistantship than my classes because the information used in the classes is more widely available and so well packaged. Lots of topics are not so well packaged or plentiful in research, and so working as an assistant provides you the ability to dig deep.

    Now that I work in Transit, I will say our most important issues are not well researched.....mostly because who is going to fund them? I am referencing that TOD is over researched while equity is not. UT Austin is one of the only programs in the nation with a professor specializing in equity and transportation. Of course if you really want a good schooling, go ride the bus for a week morning, day, and night.

    This is what I remember from my research days and who I read. hopefully it gives you a starting point for topics and authors. Most of them write on more than one topic but the categorization I give them is just how I remembered them from reading.

    Bike > Pucher @ Rutgers; Krizek @ Colorado; Dill @ Portland; Handy @ UC Davis

    TOD > Cervero @ Berkley; Zhang @ UT Austin; Ewing @ ? (He was at MD College Park but then relocated)

    BRT > Rodriguez @ UNC Chapel Hill

    Parking > Shoup @ UCLA

    General > Levinson @ U Minnesota; Chatman @ Berkley; Guo @ NYU

    Health & Built Environment > Crane @ UCLA; Southworth @ Berkley

    Equity > McCray @ UT Austin

    Modeling > Bhat @ UT Austin; Waddell @ Berkley

    Transportation Funding > Wachs @ UCLA; Goldman @ Berkley

    Government > Giuliano @ USC

    Transit > Zegras @ MIT; Ben-Joseph @ MIT; Brown @ Florida State
    I didn't know he was considered that highly. I'm glad I'll be taking a pair of courses of his this Fall.

  8. #8
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    Thanks so much for your depth. I've researched some of these professors and programs. I'm wondering if I should only apply to transportation programs that have a dual engineering degree option, or apply to ones without too. Aside from Berkeley, MIT and Georgia Tech - how are schools like Portland State, CalPoly or UC Irvine? I know that UNC has a public health component in their Engineering school but the program seems to stray from the normal engineering and design focus that I see in other schools.

  9. #9
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    Thanks so much for your depth. I've researched some of these professors and programs. I'm wondering if I should only apply to transportation programs that have a dual engineering degree option, or apply to ones without too. Aside from Berkeley, MIT and Georgia Tech - how are schools like Portland State, CalPoly or UC Irvine? I know that UNC has a public health component in their Engineering school but the program seems to stray from the normal engineering and design focus that I see in other schools.

  10. #10
    Out of those three I would say Portland State hands down. I do not recognize any of the faculty at UC Davis or Cal Poly from my transportation research or continued reading of journals, blogs, TRB papers, etc. Dill continues to publish and be a contributing member to Planning and likely can hire you as a graduate research assistant to do their work...progressive work.

  11. #11
    Just as important as where you go to graduate school is the environment in which you work...your work experience, the challenge of your planning work to think on your feet and problem - solve. Of course first you need a boss who provides you the opportunity to problem - solve. Grad school gives you tools and instruments to problem - solve. Much of what you will need to know in the workplace you will learn on the job, but having a formal graduate education forms a foundation and skeleton framework. Grad school is the training ground and the workplace is the battlefield for application.

  12. #12

    Careers in Transit Planning

    I am the Manager of Service Planning at a large public transit agency in the midwest and am willing to answer any questions about careers in transit planning. Feel free to contact me.

  13. #13
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    Have you researched the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee? They have the dual-degree track that you mentioned. I went there in the early 1990's and earned a Masters of Urban Planning (MUP) degree as well as a Masters of Science (MS) degree in Civil Engineering. It is a fantastic program, especially the engineering side as they had/have outstanding professors that are nationally known in travel demand modeling, which in my opinion should be a necessary skill in transportation planning.

    Having the MS in Engineering degree in addition to the Urban Planning degree should place you head and shoulders above your counterparts who only have one of these degrees. The Urban Planning program will provide you tremendous communication skills (writing, presenting, management), and the Engineering program will further develop your analytical skills, as well as help gain the respect of the engineers in our industry.

    Here is a link to the program:
    www.graduateschool.uwm.edu/students/prospective/areas-of-study/urban-planning/"]http://www.graduateschool.uwm.edu/students/prospective/areas-of-study/urban-planning/

  14. #14
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    UBC?

    Hello - I'm wondering if anyone can share the reputation of the University of British Colombia's School of Community and Regional Planning. They are currently restructuring their master's program - good or terrible idea to apply and be a guinea pig for the first year? Anybody have experience in the U.S. job market after receiving a Canadian education? Thanks!

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