My 1st year as a Transport Planner

As the youngest member of the KTC team, and the first graduate to start their transport planning career with the company, I have been asked to provide an insight on my first year (and a bit) as a Transport Planner.

Before joining KTC I had never used AUTOCAD and, from my first day, I quickly found out it was like learning a whole new language. While terms such as ‘Line’, ‘Circle’, ‘Hatch’ and ‘Layer’ appeared to be fairly self-explanatory in their meanings, others such as ‘Paper Space’ (which to me sounded like a name my mum would mistakenly call Facebook..) weren’t as immediately obvious. It emerged that the term ‘properties’ is more likely to refer to the thickness of a line than to a new housing development in Weston-super-Mare and that ‘Wipeout’ definitely has no correlation to the T.V. show presented by Richard Hammond. By the time I was asked to ‘Explode’ a drawing I was positive that that command should not be taken literally!

However, language barrier aside, by lunchtime on my first day I had managed to draw my first T-Junction – a very exciting moment! Although elementary in its design, it had tangential six metre radii, two metre footways on both side and perfectly placed road markings.

My newly constructed layout was later subjected to some very dodgy driving as I learnt how to use AUTOTRACK. It had never occurred to me previously that someone in an office somewhere would ‘drive’ a computerised image of a car or bus around the plans of a new development to make sure it would work. After a quick flick through the vehicle library I concluded that a Stretch Limousine would be the first vehicle to navigate my feat of highway engineering brilliance- I mean, who else can say they drove a limo on their first day of work?!

Eager for me not to be overwhelmed with CAD work, it was decided that I should accompany others on a number of site visits to get a better overview of the work the company is involved with. My first weeks saw me touring the South West, with site visits and meetings in Paulton and Sherborne (or Sh-Bun, as I was told the locals pronounce it!).

Along with helping to design a ‘Walking-bus’ route for Paulton Schools’, I was excited to find out that one of my other first projects would be to help design highway improvements necessary for the construction of a wind farm in Mid-Wales. I had gained an interest in renewable energy from my Geography degree and it was one of the key factors in why I originally wanted to get involved in planning. My newly gained AUTOTRACK skills saw me navigating forty-five metre long turbine blade carrier vehicles down little Welsh country lanes and highlighting where improvements were likely to be needed. Almost eleven months later, when the construction access and highway improvement drawings for various routes were complete, they made my initial T-Junction drawing look rather insignificant. These drawings were sent to Welsh Government and later accompanied Peter to a Public Inquiry.

Felicity with a Gromit

Meeting a Gromit as part of a networking event

In October 2013 I started a Traffic Engineering course at UWE. Having reached a point where I was capable of drawing various things, the general consensus in the office was that it would be good for me to further my knowledge of transport. I started with a module called ‘Travel Demand Analysis’. I learnt about the principles underlying transport models and how to monitor and evaluate changes in travel demand. Coursework for the module involved estimating the number of commuter trips that would be generated by a new development in the Isle of Wight and whether the introduction of a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) link would affect modal shift. I had to use OmniTRANS to assign the commuter trips generated by various modal split scenarios to the Isle of Wight transport network and then evaluate the impact the new development, the BRT or both would have on the network.

The understanding that I gained from the module has helped me with my work in the office. I have now had to write many Transport Impact chapters for Transport Assessments and understand how to examine and incorporate speed survey data, as well as TRICS trip generation data, to investigate the possible impacts that a development might have on the local highway network. I have now had to use ARCADY, PICADY and LINSIG on a number of projects at work to assess the capacity of roundabouts, priority controlled junctions and traffic signal controlled junctions respectively. I feel having done the Travel Demand Analysis module I had a good basic understanding when starting to look at transport models, and this also meant (slightly) less questions for Matt and David to answer.

In January of this year I went back to UWE to do a second module, this time entitled ‘Changing Travel Behaviour’. Although rather psychological in its approach, I gained some useful insights into how to design questionnaires and the most effective ways in influencing peoples’ choice (this usually comes down to social norms- in other words just tell them that someone else is already doing something and they will likely want to do, or at least to be seen by others, to do that thing also).

I feel this module was helpful, especially with the increasing focus on sustainability and sustainable travel these days. In the office I have put together Sustainable Travel Packs for various developments and this module has helped me to consider several questions or issues people might consider when evaluating whether to change their mode of transport. It has also been useful meeting a fellow post-grad on the course who subsequently had to approve a KTC Travel Plan in her day-job for a local authority.

Felicity steering The Matthew in Bristol' class=



Felicity steering The Matthew in Bristol’s Floating Harbour

When my friends ask me what I do, I always struggle with how to answer, because (as cliché as it is) two days at work are never the same. Since starting at KTC I have had to: watch hours of video footage of traffic to work out how many buses per hour travel around the University of Bristol and locate where cars parking in the area cause problems; examine and edit a football clubs training timetable so that cars attending the ground never overflow out of the car park and onto surrounding residential roads; write Transport Statements to accompany planning applications for residential developments, new medical centres and hotels; investigate the accessibility of various sites for a proposed new supermarket; walk countless miles on Site Accessibility Audit visits; help design shared space schemes; produce various car park layout options for railway stations; and undertake junction capacity modelling to support Transport Assessments. There have been many more projects but I can’t make it all sound like hard work- working at KTC does mean an endless supply of ice-creams in the office and the opportunity to sail The Matthew down the Floating Harbour!