What Is a Transportation Modeling Specialist?

A Transportation Modeling Specialist examines masses of acquired information (big data) to solve complex transportation issues.

What Does a Transportation Modeling Specialist Do?

Planning and organizing our transport network is a complex task. With an ever-growing human population, we need an infrastructure that reflects transport requirements. This means using the roads, topography and geographic distribution the best we can. It means in the planning and siting of new roads and transport links in and out of new towns and cities to cope with the new demand. In public transport, it means ensuring that buses, light rail, trams and other transport methods are using effectively - providing sufficient capacity at the right times, that they adhere to the right routes to deliver the most efficient and profitable service.

This is where Transportation Modeling Specialists come in. They are a combination of mathematicians and data analysts, public service planners and IT technicians. No matter where they work, their basic task and function is the same - to compile and present data sets into models that are digestible for decision makers and the public. The may produce a map (in the form of a GIS), a scatter graph or bell curve graph, statistics and numbers, and any manner of graphical representation to show problems and faults in the problem. Some may even be responsible for providing suggestions and possible solutions.

Where Does a Transportation Modeling Specialist Work?

Transportation modelling is one small part of an area that comes under Operation Research Analyst. Although their skills are in transportation modelling, their education area provides transferable skills that mean they can work in almost any area where big data analysis and processing is required. According to BLS data, 26% worked in insurance and finance, the majority area employing this type of data analyst. 11% work in manufacturing and 9% in business management.

Most relevant to transportation modeling specialists, some 23% work in technical consulting services. They will either work in a specialist department for a business, or independently as a third party consultancy providing analytical services for decision makers in infrastructure. They may work on a contract basis for both private and public sector organizations.

Federal government employs 6% of this type of data analyst. Where Transportation Modeling Specialists are concerned, they will largely work in developing transport infrastructure where Federal government owns or manages owns these services, or those publicly owned but franchised to a private business. They may be involved in analyzing existing routes or planning new ones.

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What Is the Average Transportation Modeling Specialist Salary?

According to the BLS, transportation modeling specialists, who fall under the broader BLS category of urban and regional planners, earned a median salary of $75,950 as of May 2020. The lowest 10% earned around $46,830 and the highest 10% earned in excess of $118,280 during this time. Salary is dependent on experience and location.* States and city areas with greater population density can expect more demand. Those with little economic growth and general infrastructure development will see lower demand.

Transportation Modeling Jobs & Job Description

A transportation modeling specialist examines large amounts of data and constructs models that solve complex transportation problems. Their work combines some of the traits of a transportation planner, an operations research analyst, and a mathematician. A transportation modeling specialist at the beginning of his or her career may perform the following job tasks:

  • Formulate mathematical or simulation models of transportation problems, relating constants and variables, restrictions, alternatives, conflicting objectives and their numerical parameters
  • Perform validation and testing of models to ensure adequacy and reformulate models as necessary
  • Collaborate with senior managers and decision makers to identify and solve a variety of transportation related problems and to clarify management objectives
  • Interpret data from traffic modeling software and incorporate into transportation models
  • Apply transportation methods, planning principles, standard industry and new evaluations and analysis to support the planning, design and implementation of transportation projects
  • Develop knowledge of and familiarity using travel demand modeling and analysis, project-level alternatives analysis and traffic operations analysis
  • Develop professional experience using traffic forecasting software (e.g. Cube, TransCAD) and traffic analysis software (e.g., Vissim, Synchro, HCM)

A transportation modeling specialist who has accrued several years of experience would likely take on the following job duties, in addition to those listed above:

  • Develop and maintain strong client relationships
  • Use critical thinking and problem-solving skills to proactively and reactively solve transportation and supply chain issues including recommend system improvements based on modeling
  • Apply strong written and oral communication skills in presentation of work activities to internal project teams and external client and stakeholder groups
  • Mentor junior staff development, including educating them on the use of transportation modeling software

What Is the Job Demand for Transportation Modeling Specialist?

Demand for transportation modeling specialists is expected to increase at a rate of 7% between 2020 and 2030. Growth in this field it tied to more organizations (public and private sector) now relying on big data.* Most of this demand is expected to come from finance, so those wishing to enter Transportation Modeling Specialist roles may find more options, but not to this extent. Big data is useful to everyone in the planning process and as technology such as GIS becomes more widespread and cheaper, potential employees will see more work opportunities.

What Are the Education Requirements to Become a Transportation Modeling Specialist?

High school students will need a strong background in math with particular interest and aptitude for statistics. IT skills are also a strong requirement, and this should put the student in good standing to study a relevant degree course. Degrees to choose include math and IT again, but for this type of role an environmental planning degree may also be suitable. Where possible, take IT and math minors and electives to support the main degree. It may be wise to take GIS and anything that involves computational science. Geography and some elements of geoscience should be useful. Any subject that permits the student to use a statistics package such as SPSS will certainly be useful.

In most cases, a good degree from a good college in the right subject should be enough for this type of role. There is likely to be a skills shortage in data science in the next decade. Students should, where they have the ability, study for a master's degree that will allow them to engage in the sort of project work on which they will work every day during their career. Relevant masters degrees include analytics, statistics, some engineering courses and computer science, and of course GIS (which will include relevant elements of the subjects discussed here). Ongoing training will be a requirement of this role, so it's important that the student keep up to date with the most relevant technologies and processes.

As with most other roles, doctorates are suitable for those students who wish to teach a relevant subject. As Transportation Modeling Specialists work in an area of applied science, it is perhaps unnecessary to take your studies as far as a PhD. However, some high level decision-making roles may require it.

Transportation Modeling - Related Degrees

What Kind Of Societies and Professional Organizations Do Transportation Modeling Specialists Have?

This type of role is a niche within and across several disciplines. These groups and organizations may be relevant to your role.

  • Certified Analytics Professionals: Based on Catonsville MD, this global organization is there for any and all Analytics professionals no matter where they work, promoting ethics and standards, and listing professional resources for members, and offering certification
  • Digital Analytics Association: Their vision is to create a better digital world for everyone using big data analytics. Formed in the early 1990s, this professional body saw a growing need for future data processing, promoting its importance in commerce
  • Data Science Association: Another international body, they offer education and ongoing training for what is a fast-moving and technology heavy industry

*2020 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary figures and job growth projections for urban and regional planners reflect national data not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed September 2021.

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