Careers in Transportation Planning

Introduction

Each month APA's Transportation Planning Division selects a member at random to interview. Here are four from their archives.

Transportation planners fill valuable roles in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. Whether we notice it or not, their efforts directly shape the way we get from one place to another. These difficult choices, made by weighing many competing factors, are made by people who are passionate about the work they do every day.

Planners get involved in transportation from a variety of different paths. Some study it as an undergraduate or graduate student. Others may have worked in another area and grown into the role over time or it simply became a passion later in life. There is no single route to transportation planning, just interesting stories on how you got there.

The Transportation Planning Division aims to connect those involved in transportation planning as well as provide support for those who aspire to improve, change, and redefine transportation planning as we think of it today. The division encourages all who are interested in transportation planning to become members. If you have questions about finding your place in the field of transportation planning, you are also encouraged to take advantage of Vanguard, the division's Emerging Professionals Group.

Highlighted are four of the division's monthly Member Spotlights:

Amy Ford Wagner, Transportation Planner at Oahu Metropolitan Planning Organization

Bradley Strader, Senior Associate at MKSK Studios

Keri Tyler Isaac, Director of WalkNYC Wayfinding Program at NYC Department of Transportation

Kwentin Eastberg, Regional Planner at Apalachee Regional Planning Council

Interviews

Interviewee

Amy Ford Wagner

Transportation Planner at Oahu Metropolitan Planning Organization


Read the Interview with Amy Ford Wagner

What is your professional/academic role?

I'm a community planner at the Oahu Metropolitan Planning Organization (OahuMPO). Yes, we really do start (and end) professional emails with "Aloha."

Tell us something (transportation related) we may not know about.

My family and I wish to buy a stand-up paddle board, but the thing that's hanging us up is what sort of rack to get for our car/bikes. Last-mile problems in water-borne recreational travel are tough!!

What inspires you about transportation planning?

It's central to so many issues — environmental sustainability, climate change, equity and social mobility, housing and affordability. By working in transportation, I feel I can make a difference.

Who is your transportation hero?

This was the hardest question for me to answer and I'm afraid I'm going to cop out a little and say I have too many to name! I admire so many people working directly with transportation and outside of it; at all levels of government; in the the private, public, and academic sectors. Well, hmm, I have to name one, and that's Prof. Donald "Parking Guru" Shoup, who shows how a laser-like focus on a little-examined issue, conveyed in a friendly and logical way, can begin transformation of cities.

Planes, trains or automobiles?

Trains, no doubt! I just rode the Exposition Light Rail from downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica, California, last month and I hope to ride Japan's Shinkansen by the end of the summer.

 

Interviewee

Bradley Strader

Senior Associate at MKSK Studios


Read the Interview with Bradley Strader

What is your professional/academic role?

I head up the transportation planning studio and the Detroit office for MKSK, an urban design and planning firm. Typically I serve as the Project Manager or technical advisor on comprehensive and downtown plans, corridor plans, access management, redevelopment projects, and many types of transit, non-motorized and highway projects. I am also a frequent instructor on transportation and zoning topics for many organizations.

Tell us something (transportation related) we may not know about.

When it comes to transit and complete streets ideas, many planners see the traffic and transportation engineer as their adversary. But I have found a growing number to be very creative problem solvers who like to collaborate with transportation planners. (But not the ones I am working with this week!)

What inspires you about transportation planning?

How changes in transportation can have such a dramatic impact in transforming a street or district into a more vibrant place. And the excitement we generate at workshops, charrettes, and small group discussions about those types of projects.

Who is your transportation hero?

I am from Cincinnati so the Wright Brothers come to mind first. As a planner, I admire the engineers who are exploring innovative approaches and ignite my creativity and resilience, like Ian Lockwood of Toole Design Group, Andy Kilpatrick from the City of Lansing, Michigan, and contacts I have made through the TPD, ITE, and TRB committees.

Planes, trains or automobiles?

I use all modes but my favorite is trains. And being located in the Great Lakes District, boats are a close second.

 

Interviewee

Keri Tyler Isaac

Director of WalkNYC Wayfinding Program at NYC Department of Transportation


Read the Interview with Keri Tyler Isaac

What is your professional/academic role?

I am the director of the WalkNYC Wayfinding Program for the New York City Department of Transportation. WalkNYC is the City's standardized, primarily map-based, wayfinding system serving pedestrians, transit users and cyclists. The range of products includes free-standing totems with pedestrian and transit maps, cycle-focused maps on the Citibike bike share kiosks, neighborhood maps in subway stations and printed maps, including the New York City Bike Map, the Official Visitors Map to New York City, in addition to other borough, neighborhood and Business Improvement District maps. Select Bus Service Station totems display real time passenger information in addition to the maps.

Tell us something (transportation related) we may not know about.

My dad was a car guy. He built hot rods and I grew up going to car shows all over the Pacific Northwest. I didn't catch that bug, to say the least. His dad owned a gas station and was a school bus mechanic for the Tacoma School District. My mom's dad was a toll collector on that engineering marvel, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. I have been told that my great-grandfather was streetcar driver or conductor, so in a sense I am following both sides of my family's footsteps with my career choice.

What inspires you about transportation planning?

Transportation is central to nearly everything; it impacts the environment, the economy and quality of life for everyone. I love to travel and truly enjoy the journey as much as the destination. On a personal level, growing up in a city with a decent public transit system (shout out to Tacoma, Washington, Pierce Transit, and Sound Transit!) was my ticket to independence from a young age. Smart transportation policy and planning can't solve all of our problems but an expansive, accessible, multi-modal network is key to supporting sustainability and equity.

Who is your transportation hero?

It's difficult to narrow this down to one hero! As both a UCLA graduate and a NYC DOT staffer, obviously Don Shoup and Janette Sadik-Khan are on my list. But equity was a major reason I wanted to become a Transportation Planner and the Los Angeles-based Bus Riders Union was an inspiration to me for their success in forcing LA to shift from expensive rail projects to improving bus service for transit-dependent communities. Another transportation hero is Wendy Feuer, the Assistant Commissioner of Urban Design, Art and Wayfinding at NYC DOT. Streets and sidewalks comprise a huge chunk of public space in NYC and Wendy has played a key role in helping DOT evolve it's mission from moving traffic to a truly multi-modal, active design-oriented, and public space expanding organization. She has overseen some of our agency's proudest accomplishments, including the development of the Street Design Manual and creation of the WalkNYC Wayfinding and the DOT Art Programs.

Planes, trains or automobiles?

Planes are wonderful for the long-range travel opportunities they make possible but I have to say trains.  Some of my fondest travel memories are of cross-country train trips with my friend Angela in the late 90s. We had a lot of time and very little money so riding Amtrak from west to east and back again we were able to see so much of the country. Viewing Glacier Bay National Park from the Observation Car was a magical experience.

 

Interviewee

Kwentin Eastberg

Regional Planner at Apalachee Regional Planning Council


Read the Interview with Kwentin Eastberg

What is your professional/academic role?

Transportation Planner / Transportation Disadvantaged Coordinator

Tell us something (transportation related) we may not know about.

Efforts are under way for the Port of Port St. Joe, Florida, to again become an active deep water seaport to receive freight shipments. This initiative would utilize the transportation network of the Port of Port St. Joe, the AN rail line, Apalachicola Airport, and I-10 corridor to establish a multimodal Freight Logistics Zone in north Florida.

Who is your transportation hero?

The entire country of Germany, well Europe as a whole. I am in awe at how flawless and symbiotic their transit system functions; from passenger rail to bus to autobahn to bike, it's amazing.

Planes, trains or automobiles?

Trains, hands down. It's too bad America doesn't utilize them like Europe and Japan do ...

Why do you TPD?

#ITPD Because it is a great way to stay involved and up to date on Transportation Planning topics. Additionally, it serves as a platform of continuing education and allows for the ability to network with my peers.