As a Master’s Student studying transportation planning, I was fortunate to intern at Fehr & Peers Transportation Consultants in Los Angeles, California this summer. It was a jam-packed three months of learning, exploring, and new experiences.
The commute alone exposed me to large-scale transit operations and active transportation infrastructure. I was able to commute to my downtown internship via the Metro Expo Line (light rail) or by bicycle facilities such as the Figueroa protected bike lane which I wrote about here. Los Angeles is known for its congestion and car culture, but many of my colleagues at the office also took transit, biked, or walked to the office from across the city. They are transportation consultants of course!
The position was great for exposure to transportation consultancy. Fehr & Peers is a mid-size transportation consulting firm with several offices, primarily along the West Coast. The Los Angeles office housed 35+ employees, making it one of the largest offices in the firm, but still small enough for me to be able to meet and work with almost everyone in my office.
Work at Fehr & Peers is more skill-based than department-based, so almost every employee (especially interns and entry-level employees) works on most current projects. Whether pitching in to edit a final report, or initiating the traffic impact analysis process, employees and interns are exposed to a variety of work. Autonomy and communication are highly valued at Fehr & Peers. Both were especially important for my work experience as almost everyone in my office delegated a task to me at some point during my time there. One person consulted on my workload and hours, but everyone else was my manager at one time or another due to task or work load. This work culture builds a strong sense of teamwork while also valuing autonomy. I loved this work style as it also removed hierarchy and rank barriers. I could as easily chat or setup a meeting with an entry-level employee as a Principal in the firm.
My internship work varied each week as I assisted with a number of tasks across projects. In consulting, project work is won, and time is primarily dedicated to project work through billable hours. I spent the majority of my time working on billable projects, but also spent significant time on research and development through the firm’s discipline groups, and market research. Memorable billable project work included LA DOT’s Vision Zero Avalon Corridor Open House with about 1,000 community members highlighting needed safety improvements along a six mile stretch of Avalon. Other memorable projects included fieldwork for 80+ intersections, Complete Streets Safety Assessment reports, and reviewing data and preparing resources for a large private development’s traffic impact analysis.
The internship experience solidified my desire to work in transportation consulting post-graduation, and especially what type of firm. I prefer small to mid-size firms for their ability to be more niche, to focus on employee development through work on a variety of projects, and the ability to really connect with colleagues across all offices. This approach is employee driven, which builds a community of passionate and highly-skilled transportation professionals who work hard to see their projects, their client’s goals, and the industry succeed.
About the Author: Tory is a second-year master’s candidate in the Department of City and Regional Planning with a concentration in Transportation Planning. A passionate advocate for accessibility in transportation, she actively promotes access and multimodal transportation as a volunteer and former board member of the Raleigh bicycle advocacy group, Oaks & Spokes, and Co-Facilitator of Plan for All. Tory received her undergraduate degree in Nonprofit Management and Fundraising from Indiana University. In her free time, she enjoys bicycle camping.