A-levels to Apprentice: my route into Transport PlanningLauren Larkin is an apprentice with infrastructure and engineering firm, AECOM. In this post she explains her route from sixth form into transport planning, what she works on and what she enjoys most about it.“As a Transport Planner you are improving the overall transport network and therefore making a positive contribution to people’s quality of life”What was your path into Transport Planning?I joined AECOM in 2015 as part of the company’s apprenticeship programme after leaving sixth form. Since 2015 I have been working in the Transport Planning team in Newcastle. I spent my first year at AECOM gaining experience in the workplace and working on a project called ‘Go Smarter to Work’. After my first year at AECOM I enrolled on the Transport Planning course at Leeds College of Building.What do you love most about being a Transport Planner?The best thing about the role is getting to see the success of projects you have worked on. As a Transport Planner you are improving the overall transport network and therefore making a positive contribution to people’s quality of life. I love seeing the success of projects and enjoy assisting with monitoring and evaluation reports most. Creating a monitoring and evaluation report includes undertaking data analysis to understand a scheme’s benefits. These benefits could include a reduction in congestion, improved journey time reliability or an increase in active travel.What does your role entail?My role is to assist team members on different projects. I have been given the opportunity to assist all members within my team so far, giving me experience on a wide range of different projects. Below are some of the projects I have worked on as well as the experience I gained.
Encouraging more sustainable commuting: Go Smarter to Work is a programme that encourages people to travel more sustainable to their place of work. My role within this project was to create personalised journey plans using AECOM’s Personalised Travel Planning (PTP) tool. I also got the opportunity to deliver these packs to participants at events and took part in the monitoring and evaluation of this project.
Collecting data for traffic modelling: I assisted with the data collection element of the Tile Shed Level Crossing Strategic Model. That meant conducting journey time surveys onsite for morning, afternoon and inter-peak travel periods. As well as this, I reviewed video surveys to calculate the travel times between key points.
Helping to build a traffic model: AECOM were contacted by Wolverhampton City Council due to problems with queuing and congestion within the Wolverhampton area. AECOM used VISSIM software in order to assess the impact of the proposed schemes. I got the opportunity to assist with the creation of the base model for the project. My role included adding side roads onto the corridor within the model as well as adding the bus routes which would run through the network. Working on this project gave me an introduction to VISSIM software.
Measuring the impact of corridor improvements: In 2014 AECOM were commissioned by South Tyneside council to develop a highway improvement scheme for the A194 Lindisfarne Corridor. The scheme was designed to alleviate congestion on the corridor. Once constructed, I was responsible for preparing the monitoring and evaluation report. I undertook data analysis, including turning counts, queue lengths and journey times, to understand the scheme’s impact. As well as preparing the report I also got the opportunity to be part of the site visit team, which allowed me to further understand and observe the scheme impacts. I then presented our observations at a meeting with South Tyneside council.
Building the case for corridor improvements in Bradford: I was responsible for setting out the evidence base report for the Bradford Corridor Improvement Programme. I undertook data analysis to outline the current transport network in Bradford as well as its economic, social and environmental context. To do this, I used official labour market statistic (NOMIS) and TEMPro. During participation in this project I also gained experience with geographical information (mapping) software ArcGIS; I analysed accident data and created a map displaying the severity and location of accidents, and specifically within the proposed scheme areas.
Modelling air quality in Gateshead: assisting on this project gave me the opportunity to experience modelling software. I was responsible for adding new links into the SATURN model, looking at speed flow curves and looking at traffic signal timings.
What is your favourite project you have worked on and why?My favourite project that I have worked on is Go Smarter to Work. It was the first project I was involved with and also the project I spent the most time on. The project involved creating personalised travel packs for employees at a range of businesses within Tyne and Wear and Northumberland. It also involved going into some of the businesses to deliver the travel packs and further encourage sustainable travel. I enjoyed this as I met with the participants to talk through the travel pack we had created for them. I particularly enjoyed taking part in the monitoring and evaluation as we saw the outcome of the programme and how we had influenced people’s lifestyles and encouraged them to use more sustainable modes of travel.How has the AECOM Apprentice programme developed your career so far and what are your plans for the future?Being part of the AECOM apprentice programme has not only given me multiple opportunities to get involved with different projects, but it has also allowed me to gain my EngTech qualification. I have now gained a level 3 qualification in Transport Planning as well. I plan to carry on developing my career by progressing onto the Transport Planning degree at Aston University. Throughout my time at AECOM, I feel like I am always given the opportunity to improve both my skills and knowledge in order to develop my career.Find out about a career in Transport PlanningDay in the Life is part of the Transport Planning Day Campaign