Transportation planners

A transportation planner could...

Cut down on city traffic through innovative programs like public bike-rental stations. Bikes Determine exactly where the stops should be on a new subway expansion. Subway
Use models to explain to the public where new roads will be built and how they will improve traffic. City model Plan the location of a new airport to maximize usage while minimizing traffic problems. Airport
Find out more...

Key Facts & Information

Overview Do you spend time enjoying a city park? The next time you go, take a minute to look around and see how other people arrive at the park. Some people may walk to the park on a maintained pathway. Others may come via the subway, if one is located close by. Still others may be dropped off by car, at a designated curb. A few may even bicycle to the park. But who plans all of these different ways of getting to the park? Well, that would be a transportation planner, who figures out how to get all of these people to the park and how all of these forms of transportation affect the park's environment. The role of transportation planners is to study the use and operation of transportation systems and to gather, compile, and analyze data for proposed transportation projects. Transportation planners keep our cities, states, and nation moving.
Key Requirements Good analytical skills, aptitude for problem-solving, facility with numbers, teamwork skills
Minimum Degree Bachelor's degree
Subjects to Study in High School Biology, geometry, algebra II, calculus; if available, computer science, statistics
Median Salary
Transportation Planner
U.S. Mean Annual Wage
Min Wage
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) Little or No Change (-2% to 2%)
  • Ronald Kirby is director of transportation planning for Washington, D.C. In this article, he discusses the state of traffic in our nation's capital and ways to solve the problems.
  • In this interview, Deena Platman, a transportation planner in Portland, Ore., discusses how she started in transportation planning, what she does in her career, and the goals for transportation in Portland.
Related Occupations
Source: O*Net

Training, Other Qualifications

Transportation planning is a field that is rapidly changing with new ideas and new techniques. In order to keep abreast of all of the changes, transportation planners should attend classes and seminars.

Some employers prefer candidates who have earned American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) certification from the American Planning Association (APA). Candidates are eligible for AICP certification only if they are members of the APA, have met the required combination of education and experience, and have passed an examination given by the APA.

Education and Training

Most entry-level jobs in federal, state, and local governments and in private organizations require a master's degree from an accredited program in transportation planning, civil engineering, or a related field. Students are admitted to master's degree programs in transportation planning with a wide range of undergraduate backgrounds, such as a bachelor's degree in economics, geography, political science, or environmental design. Several schools offer a bachelor's degree in transportation planning, and graduates from these programs qualify for some entry-level positions, but their advancement opportunities are often limited unless they acquire an advanced degree.

In addition to formal education, employers favor candidates with internships in transportation planning.

Watch this video to find out what Eric does as a student transportation planning technician for the Toronto Transit Commission.

Nature of the Work

The transportation available in our city affects the way we live our lives. The right kind and number of systems make our cities and towns more livable and attractive. Transportation planning is about planning projects that satisfy our city's or town's transportation needs. Transportation planners plan, design, manage, and review transportation systems and projects, balancing the needs of society, the economy and the environment.

When reviewing future transportation projects, transportation planners try to integrate different modes of transportation and take into account land-use planning. They also try to understand the effects that new projects and proposals could have on the environment and the people living in the area. Transportation planners meet with the public to discuss future transportation projects, to inform them of the advantages of the projects, and to gather feedback.

Transportation planners manage studies required to understand the various aspects of transportation projects. They act as the authority on transportation issues for technical- and policy-advisory groups, and they facilitate community outreach efforts. They work with a variety of entities including engineers and local governments. When determining how an aviation, highway, or transit project should proceed, transportation planners develop and apply traffic simulation models and use geographic information systems software and databases.

Work Environment

Transportation planners often travel to sites intended for development or regulation to inspect the features of the area. Although most transportation planners have a scheduled 40-hour workweek, they frequently attend evening or weekend meetings or public hearings with citizens' groups. Transportation planners may experience the pressure of deadlines and tight work schedules, as well as political pressure generated by interest groups affected by proposals related to urban development and land use.

On the Job

  • Analyze information related to transportation, such as land-use policies, the environmental impact of projects, or long-range planning needs.
  • Define regional or local transportation planning problems and priorities.
  • Recommend transportation system improvements or projects, based on economic, population, land use, or traffic projections.
  • Analyze and interpret data from traffic-modeling software, geographic information systems, or associated databases.
  • Collaborate with engineers to research, analyze, or resolve complex transportation design issues.
  • Design transportation surveys to identify areas of public concern.
  • Develop computer models to address transportation planning issues.
  • Develop design ideas for new or improved transportation infrastructure, such as junction improvements, pedestrian projects, bus facilities, and car parking areas.
  • Document and evaluate transportation project needs and costs.
  • Participate in public meetings or hearings to explain planning proposals, to gather feedback from those affected by projects, or to achieve consensus on project designs.
  • Prepare reports and recommendations on transportation planning.
  • Produce environmental documents, such as environmental assessments and environmental impact statements.
  • Review development plans for transportation system effects, infrastructure requirements, or compliance with applicable transportation regulations.
  • Analyze information from traffic-counting programs.
  • Analyze transportation-related consequences of federal and state legislative proposals.
  • Define or update information such as urban boundaries and classification of roadways.
  • Develop or test new methods and models of transportation analysis.
  • Direct urban traffic-counting programs.
  • Prepare necessary documents to obtain project approvals or permits.
  • Prepare or review engineering studies or specifications.
  • Represent jurisdictions in the legislative and administrative approval of land development projects.

Companies That Hire Transportation Planners

Explore what you might do on the job with one of these projects...

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Science Fair Project Idea
How can you make a train without wheels? By using magnets! In this project you will build a magnetic levitation ("maglev" for short) train that floats above a magnetic track. How much weight can you add to the train before it sinks down and touches the track? Read more
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Science Fair Project Idea
Did you know that you can use magnets to build a train that floats above its tracks? In this project, you will also use magnets to make the train stop, preventing it from crashing into the end of the track. Will adding more magnets help the train stop sooner? Read more

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Additional Information


  • BLS. (2016). Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH), 2016 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved July 1, 2017.
  • NIH Office of Science Education. (n.d.). LifeWorks. Retrieved March 20, 2014.
  • O*Net Online. (2016). National Center for O*Net Development. Retrieved July 1, 2017.
  • Adelman, K. (2004, December 1). Washington commute: interview with director of transportation planning Ronald Kirby. Washingtonian. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  • Mehta, I. (2011, May 21). Interview with Deena Platman. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  • # Link Name="Transportation.Planner.6" Value="HtmlAnchor" HtmlText="" #]. (n.d.) Susan Cross, transport planner. CRAC: The Career Development Organisation. Retrieved June 26, 2011.
  • Waterloo's Faculty of Environment. (2011, July 5). Cool Job - Service Planning at the TTC. Retrieved April 29, 2014.
Free science fair projects.