Case study

Transport planner — Becky Cox

Becky's background in behaviour change and her interest in transport planning, led to her securing a job as a transport planner. Find out how she hopes to develop the use of sustainable transport

How did you get your job?

After graduating with a BSc Sports Science, I worked in healthcare for a number of years, promoting healthy lifestyles as a means to reduce risks of long-term health conditions.

After a period of travelling I took up a role promoting sustainable (active) transport to people using Swindon Railway Station. Following this, I became a cycling officer at Swindon Borough Council (SBC), working on a behaviour change programme to encourage more local people to cycling for transport.

This led me to apply to the University of the West of England for a part-time MSc Transport Planning. Once the funding for my post at SBC ceased, I got a job as a transport planner at a private transport and engineering consultancy. My company then covered the fees of my MSc and supported me in working part time alongside my course.

What's a typical working day like?

It's a typical nine-to-five office role most days, with the occasional site visit and flexible working options. I mostly work on reports such as transport statements, travel plans and transport assessments. These reports are required to support planning applications for a range of different developments from residential to educational.

Our job is to assess the transport impacts of the proposed development and propose mitigation measures to encourage the use of more sustainable modes of transport (walking, cycling and public transport) and discourage single occupancy car use. A few times a month I'll go out on site visits and attend events to promote walking, cycling and public transport.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

My company is fairly small and I feel that I can really make a difference. I'm able to work in the area which interests me the most - behaviour change - promoting sustainable transport. I try to practise what I preach and cycle, walk and take public transport wherever possible as an alternative to driving.

What are the challenges?

It is still quite a male dominated environment where traditional views on car use prevail. However, this is changing and I believe that with more women and people of different backgrounds coming into transport planning there are great opportunities to make changes for the better.

In what way is your degree relevant?

Although my undergraduate degree is not typical of a transport planner, I feel that my background in health and social science gives me a different perspective on the role.

You don't need a specific degree in transport planning, but it does help to have relevant work-based experience, even on a voluntary basis. We have lots of students take summer placements here, which more often than not leads to them being offered a permanent position following the end of their course.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

I have been able to specialise in my area of interest and now work mainly in promoting sustainable transport, rather than junction design or modelling which I have less interest in. I wouldn't say that I have strong career aspirations, I'd just like to contribute to making a healthier and greener future for my son and future generations.

What are your top tips for choosing a Masters?

I would advise against going straight from an undergraduate degree to a Masters unless you're sure of your future career. I valued and appreciated my MSc course much more from having experience of working and really figuring out what career I would be interested in.

What advice can you give to others wanting to get into this job?

  • Transport planners are in demand so it is a good area to seek employment in.
  • It's a pretty accessible career path as you don't need a specific degree in transport planning and many employers will support or even fund further training.
  • The sector would benefit from more diversity so I would very much encourage people from different backgrounds to consider becoming a transport planner.

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