Transport planning: industry sector
Transport planning straddles town planning, engineering and architecture. The discipline considers all modes of transport and influences the development and design of transport facilities or new buildings to maximise accessibility, improve journey times, reduce congestion and encourage sustainable and healthy transport.
Graduates from a wide range of disciplines become transport planners. While some might have studied town planning or geography, others may have degrees in social sciences or even music. Employers in this sector place more importance on whether you have the necessary skills and the potential to make a good transport planner. Some employers, typically engineering companies, may require a relevant degree.
What does a graduate planner do?
Transport planners work to improve and manage our transport systems. Key responsibilities include preparing, implementing and assessing policies, evaluating the design and location and transportation networks and facilities, and working to reduce emissions.
Projects that graduate transport planners might work on include:
- Assessing the business case for a new railway line
- Designing the transport facilities for a new school and undertaking a transport assessment to ensure the impacts of school traffic are minimised
- Creating a strategy for a business to improve its sustainability credentials and the health of its staff by promoting sustainable travel to work
- Investigating opportunities for transport improvements in a regeneration area.
On the job, you could help set up and run traffic models, check proposed layouts to see whether they will work in practice, analyse local government policy to advise clients on whether schemes comply or create maps using Geographic Information Systems software.
Graduates who enjoy focusing on detail may find that working on transport models and close analysis suits them, while conceptual thinkers may prefer to look at policies and spatial planning or masterplanning, considering how high-level issues affect large areas of land.
Which employers recruit graduates?
Graduate employers include specialist transport planning consultancies, local authorities, engineering consultancies, planning consultancies, urban design practices and architects, management consultancies and transport providers.
Some graduate opportunities are in the form of a development scheme. For example, Transport for London, Network Rail, AECOM, Arup and Mott Macdonald all run graduate training programmes in transport planning.
But remember graduate schemes aren’t the only entry route into this career. Some employers, such as Mouchel, recruit graduates as trainees on an ad hoc basis. Keep an eye out for opportunities on TARGETjobs as well as the websites of relevant organisations and professional bodies.
Useful work experience for prospective transport planners
Getting some relevant work experience can boost your CV and help you decide whether transport planning is the right career for you. Some employers in this sector offer summer placements and undergraduate year in industry placements.
Don’t worry if you haven’t managed to secure a formal placement though, there are other ways to accrue experience. Some smaller companies may welcome speculative applications to shadow transport planners for a week or two.
Professional qualifications for transport planners
You can gain a professional qualification from the Transport Planning Society and Chartered Institution of Highways & Transportation (CIHT) to gain chartered status. If you work exclusively in areas of the discipline that are closely related to engineering or design, you could work towards chartered engineering status with the Institution of Civil Engineers or CIHT.
What is the career path of a transport planner?
Once they have completed a professional qualification or a development programme, some transport planners choose to specialise in a particular area, such as transport modelling, sustainable transport and travel planning. But others enjoy the variety and so continue working across a wide range of areas.
Many transport planners aim to become project managers and leaders – sometimes leading to wider management roles. In more senior positions, transport planners manage larger-scale projects and take on increased responsibilities.
Essential skills for graduate trainees
- Spatial thinking/awareness: ability to see how objects relate to each other in space.
- Common sense.
- Observation: having an awareness of transport issues based on taking in what’s happening on the street.
- An eye for detail and ability to see the bigger picture.
Highs and lows of a transport planning graduate career
Projects can take a long time to be completed. Planners are usually involved in the earliest stages so it’s often a while before projects are fully finished and operational. Jobs may include working away from home or relocation. However, there is the potential for a high income and transport planners have a chance to make a noticeable difference to everyone’s daily lives.