InTrans / Feb 02, 2010

Careers in public transit

Go! Magazine

Public transportationposted on February 2, 2010

You might be interested in becoming a transit maintenance director or a transport planner. Or you might consider working as a graphic designer or a marketing specialist for a city’s transit agency.

Director of maintenance for a city transit system

A director of maintenance makes sure all the vehicles in a fleet are running smoothly in all types of weather. Generally, a director of maintenance is in charge of one type of transit system, like a city bus fleet. Some of the responsibilities of a director of maintenance include:

  • Working with maintenance employees to prevent and identify mechanical problems
  • Providing oversight and coordination of daily and long-term vehicle maintenance
  • Purchasing vehicles for the city’s fleet
  • Purchasing parts and inventory control
  • Establishing policies and procedures
  • Directing maintenance of transit facilities


Working as a director of maintenance requires broad knowledge in both management and vehicle maintenance. Many employers require a bachelor’s degree or equivalent in business administration, public administration, management, or a related field at a four year university. This job is not typically an entry-level position. Employers usually require at least 4 years of experience in public transportation and experience in a vehicle maintenance environment.


In a large city, a director of maintenance can expect to earn more than $100,000, according to

Transport planner

A transport planner predicts travel patterns, taking into account environmental and social aspects of road transport.

The goal of a transport planner is to promote the use of public transport by making it a more convenient and reliable option for commuters. A transport planner helps improve public transport systems in several ways, including

Conducting studies of existing transport systems

Creating surveys to gauge rider experience

Using computer software to simulate the effects of new methods of public transportation


If you think you might be interested in becoming a transport planner, you will need to obtain a 4-year college degree with the following coursework:

  • Engineering
  • City planning
  • Mathematics
  • Geographical information systems
  • Business studies
  • Environmental science
  • Economics

A graduate degree is not required but greatly increases your chances of success. Employers seek employees with a graduate degree in transportation planning, management, or engineering.


An entry-level transport planner makes $35,000:$54,000 per year depending on level of education. Employers pay more to employees with a graduate degree.

Marketing specialist

Promoting a transportation organization’s image is an important part of the business. As a marketing specialist, you could be required to:

  • Research data, create ideas, and write press releases
  • Create brochures, fliers, posters, maps, schedules, and work with printing services
  • Oversee the organization’s website and social media
  • Coordinate, design, and write copy for newsletters
  • Represent the organization at community, governmental, or business meetings
  • Assist in planning and supporting marketing strategies and objectives


A bachelor’s degree from a four year college or university in marketing, public relations, or a related field is often required, in addition to 3 years experience for non-entry level positions.


Marketing specialists average between $40,000 and $60,000 per year depending on education, experience, and location.

Graphic designer

Departments of Transportation, University Transportation Centers, and other public transportation centers and institutions frequently employ graphic designers to work for in-house media and publication departments. Graphic designers are required to have:

  • The ability to read and critique system and station layouts and architectural drawings
  • The ability to develop visual identity systems for documents, such as reports, posters, and brochures
  • Some positions require skills in signage and illumination


Two years of training in a technical school of design is the minimum usually required. Some organizations might require a 4-year degree in graphic design.


The pay scale for graphic designers varies greatly depending on experience and region. The scale ranges from $31,000 for entry-level designers working for organizations in less populous regions to as much as $88,000 for associate designers working for major metropolitan transportation organizations.

By Bennett Stone, Go! Staff Writer

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