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Thread: Masters in Transportation Planning -- advice?

  1. #1
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    Masters in Transportation Planning -- advice?

    Hi all,

    I posted this in "Transportation Planning" before realizing it might fit better here, so here goes...

    I'm working on applications to grad school in urban planning for Fall 2017. My interest is in transportation planning, and I am also considering taking classes in engineering or pursuing a dual degree (although my background is not strong for engineering -- I graduated from a small liberal arts school with a degree in environmental studies). My particular interests are in bike/ped planning, transit planning and/or TDM; I've been working in bicycle advocacy for the past two and a half years and want to ultimately work in the public or private sector reducing SOV use in urban environments. I've looked at old threads on this forum about the best transportation planning schools, but they are starting to be a bit dated so I'm not sure if the information is still accurate. Doing my own research, it's hard to tell how strong or well-regarded a school's transportation program is from its website and course catalog.

    Schools I am considering include:
    UC Berkeley
    MIT
    Portland State
    UNC Chapel Hill
    Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
    UCLA
    Georgia Institute of Technology
    U of Minnesota
    UT-Austin

    I'd really prefer to apply to no more than five. Any thoughts to help me narrow down the schools would be appreciated. Thank you!

  2. #2
    Quote Originally posted by ln4747 View post
    Hi all,

    I posted this in "Transportation Planning" before realizing it might fit better here, so here goes...

    I'm working on applications to grad school in urban planning for Fall 2017. My interest is in transportation planning, and I am also considering taking classes in engineering or pursuing a dual degree (although my background is not strong for engineering -- I graduated from a small liberal arts school with a degree in environmental studies). My particular interests are in bike/ped planning, transit planning and/or TDM; I've been working in bicycle advocacy for the past two and a half years and want to ultimately work in the public or private sector reducing SOV use in urban environments. I've looked at old threads on this forum about the best transportation planning schools, but they are starting to be a bit dated so I'm not sure if the information is still accurate. Doing my own research, it's hard to tell how strong or well-regarded a school's transportation program is from its website and course catalog.

    Schools I am considering include:
    UC Berkeley
    MIT
    Portland State
    UNC Chapel Hill
    Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
    UCLA
    Georgia Institute of Technology
    U of Minnesota
    UT-Austin

    I'd really prefer to apply to no more than five. Any thoughts to help me narrow down the schools would be appreciated. Thank you!
    While the prestige and strength of a school's transpo program should def be considered in your decision, you need to weight where you'd like to live/work after school a little more.

    Many of the things you learn about in planning school will be localized - so, you should not only look at programs, but also look at the job prospects in other cities. Are there any bills that will be passed in that city for transpo funding? Is there room for expanded infrastructure? What is the political climate?

    Internships are very important in securing employment. It would be unfortunate to choose a school in a place that you don't want to work and try to relocate to a more desirable place where you'd be competing with recent grads that already have a hold on the employment network (via alumni networks, internships, and general knowledge of the area).

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally posted by lmacniven View post
    While the prestige and strength of a school's transpo program should def be considered in your decision, you need to weight where you'd like to live/work after school a little more.

    Many of the things you learn about in planning school will be localized - so, you should not only look at programs, but also look at the job prospects in other cities. Are there any bills that will be passed in that city for transpo funding? Is there room for expanded infrastructure? What is the political climate?

    Internships are very important in securing employment. It would be unfortunate to choose a school in a place that you don't want to work and try to relocate to a more desirable place where you'd be competing with recent grads that already have a hold on the employment network (via alumni networks, internships, and general knowledge of the area).
    Thank you! That is great advice.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    I would switch out UIUC for UIC - if you want to do transportation planning, an urban school might be a better fit. And I've heard anecdotally (being from the Chicago area) that they do more transportation planning workshops. Would also suggest considering Michigan and Penn, depending on financial aid availability. I've heard Rutgers is really good for Transportation Planning, but it's much more on the policy side. GTech and PSU are right on the mark given your interest in the more technical engineering/design/bike-ped-transit side of things.

    Good luck!

  5. #5
    I'm honestly very surprised that you did not have Arizona State on your list. ASU is a top 25 Planetizen ranked planning program with a strong focus on transportation. I'm a little biased because I'm currently in that program, but there are only a couple of other programs in the country I would have chosen over ASU (being UCLA, UC Berkeley, Ga Tech, and MIT). UNC is a good school with an excellent planning reputation, but their main transportation planning professor just left for Berkeley.

    As others have said, you also have to consider where in the country you want to work after you get your masters. A lot of the top programs like Berkeley, UCLA, MIT, UNC, etc. have national reputations with large alumni bases, but most of the other schools you mentioned don't have that same level of reputation nationwide (as far as I'm aware). Also, akshali2000 is absolutely correct about UIUC. They advertise a transportation planning specialization, but they don't really have that many faculty that focus on it.

    I'll also vouch for ASU by saying that not only are there multiple faculty interested in transportation planning, including bicycles, but the students are also really into it. The university also has a bicycle coalition that is pretty active.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ln4747 View post
    Hi all,
    Schools I am considering include:
    UC Berkeley
    MIT
    Portland State
    UNC Chapel Hill
    Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
    UCLA
    Georgia Institute of Technology
    U of Minnesota
    UT-Austin

    I'd really prefer to apply to no more than five. Any thoughts to help me narrow down the schools would be appreciated. Thank you!
    That's a good list though I am sure there are places left off that would be good as well. I echo the thoughts on location also. Having said all that, if I had to pick five of those, I'd go with MIT, Berkeley, Portland State, Minnesota, and Georgia Tech. But I also would tailor it based on where I might have a good shot to get in- have 1-2 stretches and 3-4 where I am likely to get it. Then I would choose based on where I was offered the best aid package.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian The Terminator's avatar
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    Not considering any Northeast schools? NYU and Rutgers are both well known for transportation.

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