What is a Transportation Planner?

A transportation planner specializes in developing and implementing transportation plans, policies, and projects for communities, cities, and regions. These professionals work to ensure that people can move safely and efficiently throughout their community using various modes of transportation such as public transit, cars, and bikes. Transportation planners may work for government agencies, private consulting firms, or non-profit organizations.

Transportation planners conduct studies, gather data, and analyze transportation systems to identify problems and opportunities for improvement. They work with local officials and community members to develop transportation plans that prioritize safety, accessibility, and sustainability. These plans may include new infrastructure projects such as highways, bike lanes, or pedestrian paths, or changes to existing transportation systems such as improving public transit routes or managing traffic flow. Transportation planners also play an important role in ensuring that transportation policies and projects are equitable, considering the needs of all community members regardless of their income, age, or physical abilities.

What does a Transportation Planner do?

A view of a busy street with a bus.

Duties and Responsibilities
The duties and responsibilities of a transportation planner may vary depending on their specific role and the scope of the projects they are working on. However, some common duties and responsibilities of transportation planners include:

  • Conducting Transportation Studies: Transportation planners conduct comprehensive studies to assess the current state of transportation systems, analyze traffic patterns, and identify areas of congestion or inefficiency.
  • Developing Transportation Plans: Based on their studies and analysis, transportation planners develop short-term and long-term transportation plans that address existing transportation issues and anticipate future needs.
  • Designing Transportation Projects: Transportation planners design transportation projects, such as road improvements, public transit expansions, bicycle lanes, pedestrian facilities, and traffic management strategies.
  • Analyzing Data and Models: They use data analysis and transportation modeling techniques to forecast future transportation demands and evaluate the potential impacts of proposed projects.
  • Engaging with Stakeholders: Transportation planners work with various stakeholders, including government agencies, community groups, businesses, and the public, to gather input and ensure that transportation plans align with the needs and preferences of the community.
  • Considering Environmental and Social Impacts: Transportation planners assess the environmental and social impacts of transportation projects and incorporate strategies to minimize negative effects and promote sustainability.
  • Promoting Sustainable Transportation: They promote sustainable transportation options, such as public transit, walking, and cycling, to reduce reliance on single-occupancy vehicles and decrease greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Securing Funding: Transportation planners are often involved in securing funding for transportation projects. They may prepare grant applications or seek funding from various sources to support the implementation of transportation plans.
  • Monitoring and Evaluating Projects: Transportation planners monitor the progress of transportation projects and evaluate their effectiveness in achieving the desired outcomes. They may make adjustments or improvements based on feedback and evaluation results.
  • Keeping Abreast of Industry Trends: Transportation planners stay updated on the latest advancements in transportation technology, policy changes, and best practices to inform their planning efforts.
  • Integrating Land Use and Transportation Planning: They work to integrate transportation planning with land use planning to create more sustainable and walkable communities.
  • Advocating for Transportation Policies: Transportation planners may advocate for transportation policies and initiatives that support the development of efficient and equitable transportation systems.

Types of Transportation Planners
There are several types of transportation planners, including:

Transportation planners work on various aspects of urban and regional transportation systems to develop effective and sustainable transportation solutions. There are several types of transportation planners, each specializing in different areas of transportation planning.

  • Urban Planners: Urban planners focus on the development and improvement of transportation systems within cities and urban areas. They analyze traffic flow, assess transportation needs, and design strategies to address congestion and improve mobility. Urban planners may work on projects related to public transit, pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, and traffic management.
  • Regional Planners: Regional planners work at a broader level, addressing transportation issues that span across multiple cities or jurisdictions within a region. They collaborate with various stakeholders to develop comprehensive regional transportation plans, considering factors such as population growth, economic development, and environmental impacts.
  • Transit Planners: Transit planners specialize in public transit systems, such as buses, light rail, and commuter trains. They design and optimize transit routes, schedules, and service levels to enhance accessibility and encourage public transportation usage.
  • Long-Range Planners: Long-range planners focus on forecasting transportation needs and planning for future transportation infrastructure projects. They consider factors such as population growth, economic trends, and technological advancements to develop transportation plans that accommodate future demands.
  • Environmental Planners: Environmental planners assess the environmental impacts of transportation projects and develop strategies to mitigate potential negative effects. They may work on projects related to sustainable transportation, green infrastructure, and environmental conservation.
  • Active Transportation Planners: Active transportation planners concentrate on promoting walking and cycling as viable transportation options. They design and implement pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, such as sidewalks, bike lanes, and bike-sharing programs.
  • Freight Planners: Freight planners focus on the movement of goods and commercial transportation. They develop strategies to optimize freight transportation systems, reduce congestion, and improve freight efficiency.
  • Safety Planners: Safety planners work on projects to improve transportation safety, reduce accidents, and enhance emergency response capabilities. They may analyze crash data, develop safety programs, and implement traffic calming measures.
  • Land Use Planners: Land use planners consider how transportation systems interact with land development and urban design. They aim to create transportation plans that support smart growth and promote mixed-use developments.

Are you suited to be a transportation planner?

Transportation planners have distinct personalities. They tend to be investigative individuals, which means they’re intellectual, introspective, and inquisitive. They are curious, methodical, rational, analytical, and logical. Some of them are also conventional, meaning they’re conscientious and conservative.

Does this sound like you? Take our free career test to find out if transportation planner is one of your top career matches.

Take the free test now Learn more about the career test

What is the workplace of a Transportation Planner like?

The workplace of a transportation planner can vary depending on their specific job duties and employer. Many transportation planners work in government agencies at the local, state, or federal level. They may work in offices, attending meetings and collaborating with other professionals to develop and implement transportation plans and policies.

Transportation planners may also work for private consulting firms that specialize in transportation planning and engineering. These professionals may work on a variety of projects for clients in the public and private sectors. They may spend time conducting research, analyzing data, and developing recommendations for transportation systems that meet the needs of their clients and the communities they serve.

In addition to working in offices, transportation planners may spend time in the field conducting site visits and collecting data. For example, they may conduct traffic counts, observe pedestrian and bicycle activity, and assess the condition of transportation infrastructure such as roads and bridges. They may also meet with community groups and stakeholders to gather input and feedback on proposed transportation projects.

Some transportation planners may have the opportunity to travel for work, attending conferences and events related to transportation planning and policy. They may also work with colleagues from other countries, collaborating on projects related to international transportation planning and development.

Transportation Planners are also known as:
Transport Planner