What More Than 100 Transportation Planners Said About Their Jobs

Crowdsourcing salaries and perks of the people who plan our grids.

Second Avenue Subway

People check out the newly opened Second Avenue Subway 86th Street station in New York on Jan. 1 in New York City. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

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With doctors or lawyers, your average Joe or Jane Public probably has a decent (if somewhat stereotyped) idea of the profession’s perks and pitfalls — along with salary, benefits, etc. Not so for the humble transportation planner, who does very important work but probably isn’t going to be the topic of a Shonda Rhimes serial any time soon.

A small new survey provides an insightful peek into this data-driven world. Paul Supawanich, director of customer success at Remix (and a Next City Vanguard), used Google to crowdsource a spreadsheet that offers a snapshot of employment in the sector — from salaries and paid time off, to education levels and benefits. More than 150 people, many from the San Francisco Bay Area, participated anonymously.

“We didn’t have a good comparison point since we’re not a public agency or a consulting firm and wanted to better understand the industry in whole,” Supawanich writes of the project’s impetus in an email.

The salaries of respondents range from $52,000 to $200,000 (remember, many of the survey respondents live in the Bay Area). More than 40 make upwards of $100,000, while only seven bring in an annual haul below $60,000. Education and experience naturally seem to be factors in how salary is broken down: Many of the professionals with the highest salaries have master’s degrees and have been working in the field five or more years. These highest earners can be found in both private and public companies, with the highest recorded number, $200,000, coming from a government employee.

As for what they have to say about their benefits, the respondents list health insurance, pensions, shares in the company and work-life balance as perks (and don’t forget those free transit passes!). In a section of the spreadsheet that asks about each company’s top employee benefit, a few participants did leave the space blank and one answered: “none.”

When asked about three areas of focus on the job, 64 included bicycle/pedestrian planning. Many listed transit planning alone.

Initially, the data was gathered through Supawanich’s digital circle, including LinkedIn, Twitter and a Bay Area email list with the curious name of Transit-Oriented Beer.

“I was impressed by how much interest there was in the information and willingness to openly share,” he says. “Most planners don’t get into it for the money, but it’s certainly helpful to know how they’re compensated relative to their peers.” He adds that Remix plans to share the data with its customers (about 150 transit agencies).

Overall, it seems like a good first effort, especially considering what was previously available.

“There was little to no comprehensive data out there before,” Supawanich says. “I do think this is a solid start.”

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Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian

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Tags: urban planningtransportation spending

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