Attracting, Retaining, and Developing the Transportation Workforce: Transportation Planners

NCHRP Report 798: The Role of Planning in a 21st Century State Department of Transportation—Supporting Strategic Decisionmaking (available at defined planning as the “factual, analytical, and collaborative basis for reaching decisions to improve multimodal transportation system performance. Effective planning results in cost-effective, cooperative, and responsive transportation solutions that achieve desired societal outcomes by balancing costs and benefits to communities, the economy, and the environment.” Producing sound transportation plans, e.g. long-range transportation plans and corridor plans, is a core activity of state departments of transportation (DOTs) and other transportation agencies. Therefore transportation agencies have long staffed their planning programs with professional planners with the knowledge, skills, abilities, education, and experience (KSAEEs) required for plan making. Beyond these traditional planning activities, the KSAEEs of planners can be valuable for strategic decisionmaking in other functional areas of an agency. For example, a traffic operations unit can use the analytic skills of planners to identify needed safety improvements. Major reconstruction or maintenance projects can benefit from the insights of planners in identifying the impacts of the construction phase and designing the sequencing of construction-related closures to minimize negative socio-economic impacts on the community while maintaining traffic operations. Planners can contribute to right-of-way preservation programs by helping facilitate private developer initiatives while also preserving the transportation agency’s current and future assets. When agencies apply for funding opportunities, such as the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) Transportation Discretionary Grant Program or the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) program, planners can make important contributions to the required economic analyses (such as statewide investment scenarios or benefit-cost analyses). Although traditional planning competencies are well matched for these and other functions within a transportation agency, emerging forces are reshaping the transportation planning and decisionmaking landscape. These include: (1) Rapidly changing transportation technologies and services, e.g., connected and automated vehicles, Mobility as a Service, shared mobility; (2) Demographic trends that affect travel behavior and how agencies communicate with their customers and stakeholders; (3) Trends in the nature of data and data-driven decisionmaking, e.g., big data, data visualization, analytics, data governance; (4) New approaches to transportation plan making, e.g., performance-based planning and programming, scenario planning, multi-modal planning, coordination across required transportation plans; (5) Calls for greater precision in projecting the returns on transportation investments; and (6) An increasingly dynamic funding, regulatory, and political environments. To effectively respond to this evolving landscape, a transportation agency needs access to an array of professionals with different talent profiles. A talent profile includes a specific configuration of KSAEEs with associated levels of proficiency for each. Each talent profile aligns with a set of planning functions, whether those functions are located in the agency’s planning program or are strategic decisionmaking functions carried out elsewhere in the agency’s structure. Even when needed KSAEEs and talent profiles are identified, agencies frequently face challenges in gaining access to them. For example, job descriptions may reflect traditional transportation planning functions, thus limiting an agency’s ability to recruit the cross-disciplinary professionals they need. Once hired, traditional organizational structures may limit opportunities for planners’ advancement, making it difficult to retain planners with essential talent profiles. Research is needed to improve how transportation agencies attract, develop, manage, and retain transportation planning professionals who can strengthen organizational capacity in transportation planning as well as for strategic decisionmaking in other functional areas of a transportation agency. The objectives of this research are to (1) identify KSAEEs and talent profiles for state, regional, and local transportation planners that are aligned with existing and emerging agency needs; and (2) provide guidance on how agencies can attract, develop, manage, and retain planning talent. The results of the research can inform university curricula and will assist directors of agency planning programs, human resource managers, and transportation agency leadership in attracting, developing, and retaining planning professionals for near- and long-term transportation agency needs.


  • English


  • Status: Proposed
  • Funding: $300000
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project 08-125

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    National Cooperative Highway Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001

    Federal Highway Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590

    American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO)

    444 North Capitol Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001
  • Project Managers:

    Hartell, Ann

  • Start Date: 20190319
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01678122
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project 08-125
  • Files: TRB, RiP
  • Created Date: Aug 20 2018 3:03PM