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Traffic Engineer


Description

Traffic has become a major cause of stress in many people's lives. It is slowly infiltrating every city, like an infestation of aphids, making our work commutes unbearable experiences. Clearly, traffic congestion is a serious infrastructural problem in our society. To help combat this problem, traffic engineers try to find solutions and alternatives to our traffic woes.

Did you know that roads, bridges and other transportation sources are the products of traffic engineers? We easily take these transportation structures for granted because most of us have grown up with the luxury of paved roads and bridges. Even the coordination of traffic lights on streets, which provide people with safe and more efficient travel require the expertise of a traffic engineer.

Traffic engineers plan and design systems for the safe, economical, efficient and environmentally friendly movement of traffic. Using scientific principles, they supervise the construction and maintenance of traffic patterns, volumes, traffic flow, traffic sign placement, carpool lanes, traffic calming zones and the number of accidents on streets. They must have an understanding of the economic and social factors involved, as well as the engineering principles.

Traffic engineers have an effect on everyone's lives because the transport of goods and people help fuel our economy and make our lives run smoothly. If it were not for their necessary work, our world would have no safe traffic infrastructure. Furthermore, without traffic engineers, who would study why people are getting so ticked off in traffic? Also, with our growing impatience when driving in our cars, we depend on these engineers to find solutions to help tame our "road rage".

Most traffic engineers specialize in a particular area once they become established. Areas such as traffic calming zones, traffic growth predictions and passing lanes are a few different options they can choose from. Nevertheless, all specialized traffic engineers perform similar duties. They meet with architects, urban planners, lawyers and contractors in order to make sure that design plans are safe and will withstand a number of conditional variables. Safety is one of the most important issues that traffic engineers must contend with for they must consider not only the accident rate between vehicles but also with pedestrians and bikers.

They research and create engineering plans on computers which test and predict possible problems with a traffic system. Since the number of cars on the road is increasing in rapid numbers thus creating traffic congestion, engineers must generate plausible and creative solutions to deal with these growing traffic and rush hour problems. Although most design work takes place on the computer, traffic engineers travel to the road sites to see their work in progress.

Traffic engineers use traditional and high-tech tools like Intelligent Transportation Systems and Smart Systems, to solve problems and meet challenges such as rush hour traffic, exhaust pollution and urban development in relation to our road infrastructure. In another area, traffic engineers are hired to examine the need for passing lanes and their effect on the level of traffic. Accordingly, their research evaluates each project to find the most cost-effective solutions, while still maintaining recognized standards.
 
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Norwich University - Online
Earn your Master's degree online from Norwich University.
Programs Offered:
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  Interests and Skills  
Traffic engineers must be safety conscious and practical in decision making. They possess good communication skills because they work closely with contractors, architects and clients. Traffic engineers can analyze difficult scientific and mathematical data, review calculations and prepare cost estimates and have the ability to visualize three-dimensional objects from two-dimensional drawings. They must be dedicated to their projects, be creative in their designs and be as knowledgeable as possible in the engineering field. Finally, they should enjoy being innovative, doing work that requires precision and making solid decisions.
 

  Typical Tasks  
  • Plan and design traffic systems on highways and streets
  • Investigate and minimize the effects of new developments and proposed highway projects on air and noise pollution, wetlands and other aspects of the environment, as well as socio-economic impacts
  • Implement ways to relieve traffic congestion, such as bus and carpool lanes on roadways and encourage the use of public transportation
  • Plan, design and operate parking facilities for airports, shopping centers, recreational, industrial, office and residential developments
  • Prepare traffic impact studies for new developments and determine transportation improvements to mitigate the additional traffic
  • Plan and design pedestrian circulation systems at universities, malls, and other busy pedestrian areas to ensure safety
  • Design and control a computerized traffic signal system to allow for efficient movement of traffic
  • Invent ways to increase the capacity and safety of roadways through the use of Intelligent Transportation Systems
  • Working environments for traffic engineers are as varied as their projects. Most spend the majority of their time in offices on the computer, making mathematical calculations, and phone calls. They also get to travel to project work sites and they sometimes must testify in front of a public hearing. They usually work anywhere between eight and 10 hours each day and longer hours may be required if there are any emergencies. They often work with a team that may include professionals from other engineering and scientific disciplines, contractors, urban planners, architects, bankers, lawyers or government officials.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Traffic engineers work in both the public and private sectors. They are employed by government agencies, especially in the municipal sector, transportation engineering consulting firms, parking lot companies, research and educational institutions, communications companies, airports, marinas and many other industries. Some traffic engineers are self-employed and own their own engineering consulting firm or a related business.

  Long Term Career Potential  
With experience, traffic engineers can become project managers and eventually advance to the senior management of very large projects or companies. They can even become the chief traffic engineers on projects like a major highway traffic improvement project. Some experienced traffic engineers may decide to branch off on their own and establish their own construction, transportation, parking lot or consulting companies. Those with PhDs might teach at a university or conduct research.
 

  Educational Paths  
Due to the nature of the job, traffic engineers require a university degree in traffic or transportation engineering or in a related field of civil engineering. They must also become registered as a professional engineer (PEng) within an association of professional engineers to secure employment and practice in their field. Some traffic engineers also get master's degrees in their specific area to open up as many job options as possible.

The Institute of Transportation Engineers offers a certification program with the designation of professional traffic operations engineer (PTOE).
 

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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Norwich University - Online  Online
Earn your Master's degree online from Norwich University.
Programs Offered:
  • Master of Civil Engineering Online
Campus Locations:
  • Northfield, VT

 
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