Civil engineers are vital in the delivery of the transport infrastructure that powers the modern economy and allows us to travel the globe.
Issues such as planning, design, construction and maintence of major transport infrastructure projects are just some of the issues that civil engineers are responsible for.
Planning our transport systems
The planning aspects of transport engineering relate to urban planning and involve technical forecasting decisions and political factors.
Technical forecasting of passenger travel usually involves an urban transportation planning model, requiring the estimation of data such as:
- trip generation (how many trips for what purpose),
- trip distribution (destination choice, where is the traveler going),
- mode choice (what mode is being taken),
- and route assignment (which streets or routes are being used).
More sophisticated forecasting can include other aspects of traveler decisions, including:
- auto ownership,
- trip chaining (the decision to link individual trips together in a tour),
- and the choice of residential or business location (known as land use forecasting).
Passenger trips are the focus of transport engineering because they often represent the peak of demand on any transportation system.
Designing transport systems for future
The design aspects of transport engineering include the sizing of transportation facilities, determining the materials and thickness used in pavement, and designing the geometry (vertical and horizontal alignment) of the roadway.
Managing transport infrastrucutre
Operations and management can involve issues such as traffic engineering - ensuring that vehicles move smoothly on the road or track. Older examples include:
- and tolling
Newer technologies involve intelligent transportation systems, including advanced traveler information systems, advanced traffic control systems, and vehicle infrastructure integration.
Human factors are also important aspects of transport engineering, particularly concerning driver-vehicle interface and user interface of road signs, signals, and markings.
Railway engineers handle the design, construction, and operation of railroads and mass transit systems that use a fixed guideway (such as light rail). Typical tasks would include determining horizontal and vertical alignment design, station location and design, and construction cost estimating. Railroad engineers can also move into the specialized field of train dispatching which focuses on train movement control.
Port and harbor engineers handle the design, construction, and operation of ports, harbors, canals, and other maritime facilities. This is not to be confused with marine engineering.
Airport engineers design and construct airports. Airport engineers must account for the impacts and demands of aircraft in their design of airport facilities. One such example is the analysis of predominant wind direction to determine runway orientation.