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Transportation Engineering

24 January 2024

Transportation engineering covers all aspects of transportation-related issues. It includes determining the future transportation needs of a community or country and the performance of materials used to construct roads. Learn more.


All modes of travel are covered in transportation engineering, from pedestrians/cyclists to cars/trucks to buses/trains to ships and planes (although our programmes at Canterbury largely deal with land transport).

Find out more about transportation engineering at UC

Postgraduate qualifications in Transportation Engineering are provided in collaboration with the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Auckland.

Students are able to take:

Qualifications can be undertaken either full-time or by part-time study. Most courses are taught in 'block mode', allowing working candidates and those from outside Christchurch to complete their studies while remaining in full-time employment.

Full details about the study options see the Postgraduate Transportation Programme can be found below.

The Department has a comprehensive range of physical laboratory and field equipment for transport teaching and research, as well as a full suite of relevant software.

Transportation Laboratory Equipment
  • Bitumen viscosity, aging and penetration test equipment
  • British Pendulum Skid Resistance tester
  • Polished Stone Tester (accelerated weathering of sealing chips)
  • Gyratory and Marshall compaction of asphaltic concrete specimens
  • Indirect Tensile Modulus and creep testing of asphaltic concrete specimens
  • Vibratory compaction of unbound granular material specimens
  • Repeated Load Triaxial Testing of unbound granular specimens
  • Loadman Portable Falling Weight Deflectometer device
  • Real-time Traffic monitoring suite
  • MetroCount traffic counting and speed measuring equipment
  • Autoscope vehicle image processing camera
  • Handheld laser speed gun
  • TIRTL infrared traffic logger
  • Psion handheld data collection devices
  • Various other traffic measurement equipment (tubes, lasers, etc)Inside the transportation laboratory

Note: Some of this equipment is available for hire by consultants; contact the Lab Manager for further details.


Transportation Computer Software Available
  • PLUTO - analysis of transport policy options
  • TransCAD - GIS modelling of transport networks
  • SATURN - mesoscopic simulation and assignment of traffic in road networks
  • Paramics - microscopic simulation and visualisation of individual vehicles in road networks
  • SIDRA - analysis of intersection performance (priority/roundabout/signalised)
  • CAS - NZ Transport Agency crash database analysis and reporting
  • TRARR - rural road traffic simulation
  • TRIPS, TRACKS, QRS - macroscopic transport network planning
  • IHSDM - safety modelling of highway geometric designs
  • EEM - NZ Transport Agency project economic evaluation
  • ABAQUS - finite element modelling of pavements
  • CIRCLY - elastic analysis of pavement layers
  • 12D - geometric road design and layout

Canterbury Accelerated Testing Indoor Facility (CAPTIF)

A full scale indoor pavement testing facility, operated in partnership with New Zealand Transport Agency

Full-time students are also provided with a range of other facilities within the Department.

The following are teaching transportation engineering courses within the department:

  • Dr Mehdi Keyvan Ekbatani (Programme Director)
  • Dr Diana Kusumastuti
  • Professor Alan Nicholson
  • Associate Professor Mofreh Saleh (Sabbatical 2021)


Previous transport staff
  • Dr Glen Koorey (Planning Design)
  • Dr Bryan Pidwerbesky (Fulton Hogan)
  • Dr Shane Turner (Beca).

There is some teaching teamwork with the transportation engineering staff at the University of Auckland, assisting with teaching in each other's courses.

Canterbury University is fortunate to be able to invite many respected overseas academics to visit here, many courtesy of the Erskine Programme. In recent years, the transportation programme has included teaching by:

  • Prof Sue McNeil (Univ of Delaware) - Infrastructure asset maintenance and management, Disaster planning
  • Assoc. Prof Susan Tighe (Univ of Waterloo, Canada) - Pavement design and road asset maintenance and management
  • Professor Essam Radwan (Univ of Centrla Florida, Orlando) - Highway geometric design, driving simulation
  • Professor Bhagwant Persaud (Ryerson University, Toronto) - Road safety, Statistical methods, Highway design
  • Professor Michael Taylor (Univ of South Australia) - Traffic engineering, Intelligent Transport Systems, Simulation modeling
  • Assoc. Prof Shalom Hakkert (Technion Institute, Israel) - Accident analysis, road safety systems, Treatment of hazardous locations
  • Professor David Boyce (Univ of Illinois, Chicago) - Urban and regional transportation planning; Dynamic transportation system models for planning intelligent transportation systems
  • Professor Martin Snaith (Univ of Birmingham) - Pavement design and road asset maintenance and management
  • Professor Nick Garber (Univ of Virginia) - Traffic operations and highway safety, Speed management
  • Professor Michael Bell (Imperial College, London) - Transport network reliability, Intelligent Transport Systems

A number of local industry experts also assist with the teaching in the programme. We are grateful for their time and assistance.

Many of our qualifications involve some kind of research component. This may range from a small (0.1-0.2 EFTS) research project to a major Masters or Doctoral thesis.

Teaching and research in transportation engineering within the Department covers a wide range of topics, reflecting the diversity and the important socio-economic role of the transportation system in a modern society.

  • Traffic and Safety research involves undertaking observations of traffic behaviour in the field (possibly before/after implementation of treatments) and analysing road, traffic and accident data using various computer software tools.
  • Pavements and Asset Management research involves using a sophisticated full-scale accelerated pavement testing facility, the Department's highway materials testing laboratory, and measurements of pavement performance in the field.
  • Transportation Planning research involves modelling travel behaviour using a variety of transportation planning software tools and predicting the effects (social, economic, environmental, etc) of policy, land use and transport network changes.

Refer also the Programme staff pages for an indication of specific research interests and areas of expertise. The list of current and previous student research will also provide some inspiration for research ideas. There is some flexibility in the topics, and the content and emphasis may change during such discussions.

We encourage you to consult the identified members of academic staff to discuss their interests in the topics listed well before your intended research period. Good grades in your previous coursework are generally required to undertake research of any kind.

The Department has a wide variety of transport facilities to help with your research, including testing and survey equipment and specialist software.

There is also a wide range of research resources via the Engineering Library.

Setting up roadside traffic detectorsPart of a Paramics traffic model. 

National Transportation Organisations


Universities and Other Transport Education Providers

Traffic/transportation engineers and other transport professionals undertake a broad range of duties, all in some way related to transport. These can include:

  • Designing new roads and other transport networks (e.g. rail, ports/airports)
  • Providing for sustainable transport modes (e.g. walking, cycling, public transport)
  • Investigating, auditing and fixing road safety problems
  • Maintaining and improving existing transport networks
  • Predicting future effects of land use and transport changes
  • Planning and undertaking traffic/transport surveys
  • Modelling the operation of traffic networks
  • Planning and managing freight and public transport operations
  • Undertaking research into transportation problems

Transportation practitioners are in great demand by consulting firms and government bodies in both New Zealand and around the world.

To find out more about some of the opportunities and challenges of being a roading/transport engineer, check out the KiwiCareers website.


Transportation Employers in New Zealand

The list below is not exhaustive. See also our page of transportation links, which includes many national agencies. If you know of other employers feel free to let us know.


Main NZ Transportation Consultants & Researchers
  • Abley Transportation Consultants
  • AECOM (ex Maunsell)
  • Arup
  • Aurecon (ex Connell Wagner)
  • Beca
  • Bloxam Burnett & Olliver
  • CPG Global (ex Duffill Watts)
  • Flow Transportation Specialists
  • Gabites Porter
  • GHD
  • McCormick Rankin Cagney
  • MWH NZ
  • Opus
  • Parsons Brinckerhoff
  • Resolve Group
  • SKM (Sinclair Knight Merz)
  • TERNZ Transport Research
  • Traffic Design Group
  • URS Consultants
  • ViaStrada

There are also many smaller transportation consulting firms and sole practitioners.


Major NZ Transportation Contractors & Suppliers
  • 3M NZ
  • CSP Pacific
  • Downer (ex Works Civil)
  • Fulton Hogan
  • Harding Traffic
  • HEB Construction
  • Higgins Contractors
  • Hiway Group
  • HMI Technologies
  • HTS Group
  • Transfield Services NZ

Most local and regional councils also employ transportation staff.

Postgraduate Transportation Programme

The Deptartment of Civil and Natural Resources Engineering and the Deptartment of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Auckland, are collaborating to provide postgraduate qualifications in Transportation Engineering.

The programme was established in consultation with the land transport industry and the engineering profession, to meet the demand for graduates with advanced skills in transportation engineering. Financial assistance has been provided by

Certificate of Proficiency (COP) papers

You may want to study a particular aspect of transport engineering without working towards a full qualification (e.g. for Continuing Professional Development puroposes). Candidates with suitable qualifications and/or work experience may enrol for an individual course and be awarded a Certificate of Proficiency on passing.

Candidates may also enrol in a COP paper to determine their interest in and suitability to completing a longer transport qualification. COP papers may normally be subsequently credited towards that qualification.

Students undertaking degrees at other universities (e.g. Auckland postgraduate transport programme) may also take COP papers at Canterbury and credit them back to their qualification (check first with your institution before enrolling in the COP paper).

Postgraduate Certificate in Transportation Engineering (PGCertEng)

The Postgraduate Certificate in Transportation Engineering involves 0.5 EFTS (typically 4 x 0.125 courses) from the Transportation Engineering programme or other suitable alternatives. Full-time PGCertEng study takes at least 6 months. A part-time PGCertEng can be completed in 2-4 years; typically one paper is completed every (half-year) semester.

A relevant Bachelors degree (Engineering, Science, Planning, Geography, etc) is the normal requirement for entry. Candidates without a relevant Bachelor's degree will be considered for enrolment, subject to adequate qualifications and experience. Candidates for the MET programme may initially be enrolled into the PGCertEng programme with the option to upgrade to an MET, subject to good grades (typically a "B" grade average or better).

Master of Engineering Studies (MEngSt)

The Master of Engineering Studies involves 1.0 EFTS (typically 8 x 0.125 courses) at 400-level or above, with at least 0.625 EFTS from 600-level courses, and no more than 0.375 EFTS from other approved courses. Students may also be able to undertake a small (0.125 or 0.25 EFTS) research project as part of their studies. Full-time MEngSt study takes at least 1 year (2 teaching semesters). A part-time MEngSt can be completed in 2-5 years.

Candidates must normally have completed a Bachelor's degree in Engineering with at least 2nd Class Honours, or a BSc(Hons) degree in relevant subjects. MEngSt students with good initial grades can also apply to upgrade later to the MET programme.

Master of Engineering in Transportation (MET)

The Master of Engineering in Transportation normally involves 6 courses (0.75 EFTS) plus a 0.5 EFTS research project, or fewer papers and a (1.0 EFTS) research thesis. Full-time MET study takes at least one calendar year (longer with a thesis). A part-time MET can be completed in 2-4 years; typically one paper is completed every (half-year) semester, followed by a year for the research project.

The preferred entry requirement is a Bachelor's degree in Engineering with at least 2nd Class Honours. Candidates with relevant science degrees (e.g. geography, psychology) or other qualifications (e.g. planning) will also be considered.


Doctor of Philosophy in Transportation Engineering (PhD)

A Doctor of Philosophy in Transportation Engineering involves an advanced research project in a specialised area; the results of which are presented in a thesis that is examined by international experts in the project area. There is a minimum period of enrolment of 2 years, but the degree typically takes at least 3 years (full-time) to complete (or up to 7 years if part-time).

Candidates must normally have completed either a relevant Bachelor's degree with good honours or a relevant Master's degree.

The Postgraduate Transportation programme caters for a wide variety of students with many different backgrounds and circumstances.

Our programme provides a range of appropriate entry points and progression paths, depending on the interests and ability of the students. Prospective students need not be put off study because of their background or for fear of committing to too much initially.


Engineering Graduate (BE)

Graduates with a suitable 4-year engineering degree from NZ may enrol full-time or part-time in a transportation Master's (MET/MEngSt) or PGCertEng (at least 2nd-class Honours is normally required for a Masters). If you have a good honours degree or subsequent postgraduate qualification you are also welcome to apply to enrol in a PhD (doctorate). A range of scholarships are available to help financially support good students.



If you have another relevant degree qualification (e.g. planning, geography, psychology, economics, science) you are welcome to apply to our programme. You will generally be enrolled in our PGCertEng programme first, with suitable bridging courses in basic transportation topics and the option to "upgrade" to the MET degree later, subject to good grades (typically a "B" grade average or better). Some courses in other relevant University programmes may also be included in your qualification.  Entry will be considered on a case by case basis.


Working Practitioner

Full-time working practitioners are able to study part-time for any of the postgraduate transportation qualifications on offer (subject to their previous qualifications and experience); many employers financially support employees doing this. One paper per (half-year) semester is common; this typically entails attending two 3-day teaching blocks during the semester, with background reading and assignment work done outside of these blocks in your own time. Practitioners are also able to enrol in one-off papers for a Certificate of Proficiency (COP), to obtain Continuing Professional Development training or to initially gauge their ability and interest to complete a longer qualification.


Distance (non-Christchurch) student

Our "block-mode" course teaching allows people from all over New Zealand (and even Australia) to take part in the programme. Students typically attend two 3-day teaching blocks on campus; away from these, background reading, assignment work and the final exam can all be undertaken at their home base. Support is also provided for off-campus students via our library distance services and our "Learn" online teaching content system. Some relevant courses from other Universities may also be included in your qualification (subject to our approval).


Overseas student/graduate

If you have obtained suitable engineering or other relevant degrees from outside New Zealand (incl. NZ Residents with overseas qualifications) you may apply to our programme (you need to apply first to the University for ad eundem statum admission). Depending on your background, you may be enrolled in our PGCertEng programme first, with suitable bridging courses in NZ transportation topics and the option to "upgrade" to an MET/MEngSt degree later, subject to good grades (typically a "B" grade average or better). Note that full international course fees may apply. Some funding support may also be available, particularly for research (MET, PhD) students.


Students studying at other institutions

Students studying for qualifications at other institutions (e.g. Auckland's postgraduate transportation programme) may be permitted to credit some papers from our transportation programme. Such students should enrol in a Certificate of Proficiency (COP) for each Canterbury paper and then apply later to their institution to credit them.

Note: Check with your institution beforehand that the papers are acceptable to their requirements.

Our courses feature a mix of traditional lecture presentations and more interactive tutorial, discussion and laboratory sessions. Class sizes typically range between about 6 and 20.

Some assignments involve practical investigation of real-world cases and such fieldwork can often be tailored to suit the students' interests and locations. Group project work and in-class presentations also feature in many courses.

Courses run for a (half-year) semester, and are mostly taught in 'block mode' (typically two 3-day blocks about six weeks apart), with background reading and assignments in between. This allows full-time practitioners and students from outside of Christchurch to take part while still working. Arrangements can also be made to sit final exams in their home town.

Assistance with traffic modelling labs by expert Tim WrightThe programme also makes use of Canterbury University's Learn online learning system. This allows students to remotely access course information and background reading, as well as taking part in electronic discussions with both staff and classmates.

Note: Course structure, content and assessment is the normally same for the whole class, irrespective of which qualification each student is enrolled in.

Research projects have no formal class sessions, but will usually require regular meetings (face-to-face or by phone) with your supervisor(s). With the guidance of staff, students will be expected to prepare a research proposal, undertake some research tasks (e.g. literature review, field work, lab testing, computer analysis), and prepare a final report and possibly a presentation.

One of the regular postgrad transport forumsOut-of-town students can also still make full use of Canterbury University's library facilities using their distance services, with documents sent to them on request and an array of online databases.

A regular feature throughout the year are transport research forums. Held during block courses, these social events allow students, staff, and visiting academic/industry guests to get to know each other better. There are also usually some brief presentations about recent or current transport research within the Department, as well as an opportunity for passing on other programme news.

The following can all count towards either a Master of Engineering in Transportation (MET), a Master of Engineering Studies (MEngSt), or Postgraduate Certificate in Transportation Engineering (PGCertEng):

Full-time working practitioners may also apply to take UC Transportation Engineering postgraduate courses as one-off Certificate of Proficiency (COP) papers.

Most courses are taught in "block-mode" (typically two 3-day teaching blocks plus background reading and assignments), making it easier for full-time and non-local practitioners to take part - see block course dates below.


Enquiries are welcome from candidates with Engineering and other relevant degrees (e.g. geography, planning). Candidates without a relevant degree will also be considered, subject to adequate qualifications and experience (e.g. NZCE and substantial transportation work experience). To enrol please click here.

Postgraduate Scholarships and Awards

A number of scholarships are available in New Zealand for Transportation students:

UC Scholarships website

In addition, there are many other general scholarships and prizes available at Canterbury for covering tuition fees, living expenses, and conference or research costs.

Note: Some scholarships are not available to either international or part-time students - please check the Regulations concerning each one.

Department Funding and Support

As well as scholarships, the Civil and Natural Resources Engineering Department also has some funding available each year to assist postgraduate students:

  • Regular contestable funding is offered for research expenses, e.g. field work, surveys, testing materials - discuss this with your supervisor.
  • Department funding is also available for conference travel/attendance by PhD students.
  • Full-time students can also be employed by the Department as Teaching Assistants. These involve helping run laboratories, tutorial sessions, or marking undergraduate assignments. Students can earn up to NZ$3000 annually this way.

Details of other facilities offered by the Department to postgraduate students


Industry Research Funding

For specific research topics, funding may be available from industry to cover research expenses and student costs. For example, an organisation may have a particular research problem that they would like investigated, but lack the human resources to do so.

Possible funding is available from:

If you are an industry organisation and would like a student to undertake some research for you, contact Alan Nicholson, Director of the Transportation Programme.

NZ Transport Agency's Annual Research Programme provides about $5 million each year for transportation research projects of national interest. There are opportunities to submit proposals to this programme to assist with student research - discuss this with your supervisor.

Note: Initial Expressions of Interest usually close around Mar-Apr each year for research starting the following July.

Employer Support

Many of our part-time postgraduate students are sponsored by their employers to undertake their studies. To date, a wide range of consultancies, contractors, councils and central Govt transport agencies have supported staff through our programme. It is worthwhile therefore to discuss the potential for this with your employer.

Our block courses are particularly good opportunities for Continuing Professional Development (CPD) by practitioners.

Typically employers pay students' enrolment fees and travel costs, as well as providing time off work to attend. Work resources (e.g. data, computers, photocopying) may also be made available for completing assignments and research, particularly where the subjects are of relevance to the organisation.

Note: There may be a requirement to successfully complete and pass the courses before receiving reimbursement and you may also be required to be bonded to the organisation for some time afterwards.

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