What it’s really like to work in transport planning

What exactly does a transport planner do? It’s important for buses and trains to know where they’re going! Here’s how Melissa used her geography knowledge to become a transport planner and is responsible for planning all kinds of transport from trains to planes!

Armed with a Geography degree, Melissa was considering a career in town planning. After a friend who worked in transport planning recommended Melissa for a role, she was hired as a graduate transport planner for a large organisation. She moved up in her career to become a senior transport planner, responsible for planning road to air travel! Plotr went on a journey to discover a little more info about her role…

Tell us what transport planners do...

“Transport planners work on policies, projects and plans relating to all kinds of transport systems. These include:

  • Roads and the use of cars, lorries and buses 

  • Rail networks 

  • Pedestrian systems for walking or cycling 

  • Air travel

Transport planners look at ways to improve these systems or see how new ones can be implemented in certain areas. They take into consideration issues like climate change, the economy and the environment.

The work of transport planners is often related to government policies and initiatives, such as encouraging people to reduce their car use and take up walking, cycling or public transport.”

Tell us about your job…

“I currently specialise in transport and development planning at Odyssey Markides which includes the preparation of transport assessments and travel plans for a variety of land uses.

Many of the projects involve a key component of encouraging sustainable travel and reducing the need to travel by car. I also provide technical and project management support to many projects and a wide range of other commissions.

A typical day could include two or three items of the following:

  • Designing and interpreting transport and travel surveys
  • Writing clear reports and presenting options and recommendations on transport systems to clients
  • Using statistical analysis to examine travel data or accident records
  • Managing studies and projects, often within tight time and budget limits
  • Assessing infrastructure requirements (access, car parking, bus stops, cycle parking, etc.) of new developments
  • Liaising and negotiating with different parties, e.g. planning and highways authorities, residents' groups, councilors and politicians, developers and transport providers.

I manage my own workload and often help younger members of staff, I am accountable to the director of our London Office, and however in previous jobs I have had a direct line manager.”

What are the best bits about your job?

“Working and completing transport assessments – I love the different type of projects you can be working on. I have recently worked on many school projects for new primary schools around London. I could be working on a large new supermarket and housing development, and then the following week I could start working on a large master plan, which includes a large area of land for a mixed-use development. It is the different type of projects that I enjoy most about my job.

Meetings - I enjoy going to various meetings which could be at the local authority with council officers where the project is located or with the design team who work for the client which involve meetings with architects, structural engineers, town planners etc. You get to have an oversight in other specialisms/disciplines, which will help build your own knowledge and experience within the industry.”

What 3 top skills or qualities are important in this job?

  1. Written and oral communication skills
  2. Confidence in dealing with a range of people including clients, councillors, local groups and the general public
  3. Numeracy skills and the ability to interpret data.

What subjects did you love at school?

Geography – I always loved geography due to the variety of work included. Studying geography involves science and biology as well as human/social studies, politics and history. The skills learned from GCSE, A-level and my degree have provided me with many of the core skills I use today.”

What advice would you give to anyone who’d like a career in transport planning?

“Take advantage of opportunities that may come around. The smallest opportunities can be the ones that open doors in the future (day courses, work experience at a council, attending a conference etc.). I have found that networking and taking advantage of opportunities have helped in my career. It also helps not to undersell you skills from jobs that you have undertaken in the past that you don’t think will help with a job/role you are after. Most skills you learn (e.g. at a retail shop) are transferable and are valuable to employers.

Also a degree is not the only route to get into transport planning, there are many apprenticeship opportunities that are now available at companies such as mine as an entry route into the industry.”

Any top job-hunting tips to share?

“In our industry keep your CV to two pages, keep it simple direct and provide evidence to back up your skills. Experience helps even jobs that that you think would not be helpful. While at university/college do try and keep a part-time job they like to see that you’re not afraid of a bit of hard work and you have experience in a workplace.”

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