Traffic engineering is an engineering discipline requiring a strong sense of what constitutes a reasonable solution in light of human behavior. It is not a black and white science (at least it shouldn’t be) and unfortunately, engineers in general are not known for being especially creative or even fun to be with.
Looking back on my specific experiences, talents, and passions, I think I could have just as easily been a custom woodworker or a career counselor or an author or maybe redrill bowling balls. Now I happen to do all these things (and traffic engineering involves elements of them all) but what I have observed is there’s that occasional gap between academia and reality. Traffic engineering provides an opportunity to fill that gap by solving problems in a fashion proportional to the issue and in light of available resources. And when a traffic engineer partners with a like-minded client, well, magic happens.
Many of my “firsts” are in fact due largely to my fantastic and trusted clientele including:
- 360-degree online photos of signalized intersections (decade before StreetView)
- Scanned aerial photography indexed and online (decade before Google Maps)
- Compiling traffic data from multiple resources for simultaneous viewing (online in 2009 – six years later I noticed Google adopting this same practice and in fact using my data on Google Earth…hmmm)
- First roundabout feasibility studies and designs in our county
- Consultant for TranSoft (AutoTurn) for their development of Online Traffic Impact Study Software (the goto standard for all traffic engineers)
- First to use GPS-enabled drones to analyze traffic congestion
- First roundabout in Indiana to include a signalized approach to accommodate an adjacent railroad crossing
My evolving role is becoming increasingly committed to helping cities, towns, counties, consultants, and developers, understand that solutions do indeed exist. Traffic congestion can be mitigated. Accessibility can be improved. Signal timings can be made more efficient. School arrivals and dismissals can be made safer. Roundabouts are [sometimes] a good idea.
And as tempting as new technology is, human behavior continues to be an overriding factor in making traffic safe and intuitive for drivers of all ages. We just have to different thinkly.