Transportation engineering is a part of civil engineering and may also be referred to as transport engineering. It is the application of scientific principles and technology in the planning, design, function, operation as well as the management of various facilities for different modes of transport. The objective of transportation engineering solutions is to provide for the efficient, safe, rapid, economical, environmentally compatible and convenient movement of people and goods.
What is transportation engineering?
This is a very important sub-discipline of civil engineering. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has created a number of sub-divisions within the broader framework or transportation engineering. The six divisions are – highway, air transportation, pipeline which includes waterway coastal, ocean and port, urban transportation and aerospace.
Regardless of the field, the planning aspects of this branch of engineering involve technical forecasting decisions, urban planning as well as factoring in political factors. The technical forecasting aspect of passenger travel typically includes an urban transportation planning model; this involves:
• Estimation of trip generation (the number of trips and for what purpose)
• Mode choice (the mode being taken)
• Trip distribution (destination choice, to where is the traveller’s going)
• Route assignment (which routes and streets or are being used)
In addition, the sophisticated forecasting processes can include various aspects that involve traveller decisions such as trip chaining, auto ownership as well as the choice of business or residential location (this is referred to as land use forecasting). The primary focus area of transportation engineering is passenger trips because they tend to represent the peak demand in any transportation system.
What is a transportation engineer?
A transportation engineer is involved primarily in design and planning, maintenance, operation and in the construction of various transportation facilities. These facilities support highway, railroad, water, pipeline air as well as space transport. The different designing aspects that transport engineers handle include:
• Sizing of transportation facilities
• Determining the thickness and materials used in pavement design
• The geometry (horizontal and vertical alignment) of the track or roadway
• Even before the planning stage commences, the transportation engineer has to take an inventory the previous system and area.
• This database helps the transportation engineer create detailed business models to design accurate forecasts of future conditions of this system.
• The engineers also handle operations and management and these are part of traffic engineering; this helps vehicles move very smoothly on the track or road.
• They use traditional techniques such as signals, signs, tolling and marking and more current technologies such as advanced traffic control systems including ramp meters, and intelligent traveller information systems like variable message signs
• Human factors are also a very important aspect of transportation engineering and these are specifically related to the user interface of signals, road signs, and markings and the river-vehicle interface.
Duties that a transportation engineer performs
The duties that a transportation engineer performs depend on their specialisation and the field they operate in:
• Highway engineer-Handles Planning, design and construction, as well as the operation of roads, highways & other vehicular facilities. They also estimate the transportation requirements of the public and secure project funding.
• Railroad engineer- Handles design, planning, construction, as well as the operation of mass transit systems and railroads that use any fixed guideway (e.g.- light rail/monorails). These professionals may also move into train dispatching that focuses on the aspect of train movement control. These engineers focus on building safer and cleaner transportation networks by revitalising the existing railway system to meet future demands.
• Port & harbour engineer- These professionals handle the designing, construction, and the operation of harbours, canals, ports and various other maritime facilities. This field shouldn’t be confused with the marine engineering field.
• Airport engineer- An airport engineer designs and constructs airports. They account for the demands and impacts of aircraft in their designs of facilities at the airport. They analyse the predominant wind direction in determining the runway orientation. This information will also be used in determining what the size of the runway border will be, the wing-tip to wing-tip clearances for gates and other safety considerations.
Systems and tools that transportation engineers use
Since transport engineering is a broader field that encompasses different transportation systems, the tool and software used will vary from one field to the other and from one project to the next. However, some of the systems and tools that could be used include:
• Advanced specialized computer software to analyse these transportation data .
• Simulation tools are used to study the effects of using and materials and structures
• 4D traffic simulation programs- these are used for modelling of corridors, expressways, interchanges, roundabouts, transit centres, roundabouts, and pedestrian and bicyclist interactions with motorised users
• SIDRA (level of service at intersections)TCDI (Traffic Control Devices Inventory)
• HCS software
• Microscopic traffic flow and multi-modal simulation software like PTV Vissim
• CAPSSI- Comprehensive Analysis Program for Singly Signalized Intersection)
• TDPI (Traffic Data Input Program)
• SIS (Sign Inventory System)
● Marine Cartography, Mapping and Digitising
● 3D Terrain Modelling & Volume Calculations
• Airport simulation software
• Cartographic Presentations
• Airport pavement and runway design software
If you are seeking employment as a Transportation Engineer, click here. For the list of all our current openings, or even to register for emails notifications of new job listings with us, use the career listing page.