The National Academies

NCHRP 08-125 [Active]

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

  Project Data
Funds: $300,000
Staff Responsibility: Ann M. Hartell
Research Agency: WSP USA, Inc.
Principal Investigator: Dr. Michael D. Meyer
Effective Date: 6/5/2019
Completion Date: 3/4/2021


NCHRP Report 798: The Role of Planning in a 21st Century State Department of Transportation—Supporting Strategic Decisionmaking (available at http://www.trb.org/Publications/Blurbs/172210.aspx) 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. Although traditional planning competencies are well matched for many functions within a transportation agency, emerging forces are reshaping the transportation planning and decisionmaking landscape. These include:

  • Rapidly changing transportation technologies and services, e.g., connected and automated vehicles, Mobility as a Service, shared mobility;
  • Demographic trends that affect travel behavior and how agencies communicate with their customers and stakeholders;
  • Trends in the nature of data and data-driven decisionmaking, e.g., big data, data visualization, analytics, data governance;
  • New approaches to transportation plan making, e.g., performance-based planning and programming, scenario planning, multi-modal planning, coordination across required transportation plans;
  • Calls for greater precision in projecting the returns on transportation investments; and
  • An increasingly dynamic funding, regulatory, and political environment.

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.


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.

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