Pablo Alvarez

Pablo Alvarez

I am working at AECOM in the St Albans office, within the transport planning department where I am part of the Model Development & Research team. I work in the development of multi-modal transport models, demand modelling (including parking models), statistical analysis and parameter estimation, forecasting and research. My team is very technical and that means that I have to use different software. For example I work with GIS (MapInfo and MapBasic), VBA, Access and SQL, R and SPSS, and Saturn. We are also using mobile phone data to build origin-destination matrices. The use of Big Data for transport modelling is something quite new and interesting that will lead to some pieces of research! Before joining my current team, I worked in the Urban Space team undertaking the pedestrian planning and crowd modelling for major pedestrian projects such as the Glasgow Commonwealth Games 2014, the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, and Riyadh Metro.

When I started at the ITS I knew how limited my knowledge of transport planning was (even after studying civil engineering!). In every lecture I learnt something new, but I really enjoyed the ones that were more technical, like transport modelling and traffic network modelling. In the Masters I learnt to use different software, and all my lecturers were experts of their fields so I didn’t just learn the theory behind transport planning but also started thinking like a real transport planner. In my first week at work I realised that people from ITS had a deep and practical understanding of transport planning and modelling, and that has been very useful to start my career.

I was sponsored by the government of my county in Spain, but to get the scholarship I had to choose one of the best Masters in the world. I was looking at different universities and I asked different professionals from the UK, and they recommended that I study at ITS in Leeds. I also found information about the number of publications from ITS, and I saw that almost all the lecturers teaching there were also researchers working in very important and new projects… so I made the right choice.

My advice to students interested in this course and a career in transport is if you like transport, go for it! For me transport is one of the most social fields that you can find. It is very wide and complex, so that gives you different options to focus on during the Masters but also during your career. If you like something very specific, for example road safety or psychology applied to transport you will be able to focus on that, but if you prefer to see the whole picture in which transport, engineering, sociology and economics join together you can also do it! I think you won’t regret it. 

I took part in the ITS Employer Visits and I would recommend them. When the employers came I didn’t have any previous experience at interviews, so I was a bit nervous. The employer visits are a fantastic opportunity to get a job, but also to learn about how to act in an interview and to gain more experience of it. I had a few interviews at ITS followed by more interviews in the company offices. By May I had two different offers, and all my colleagues that went to these employer visits and interviews got a job before finishing the Masters! When it came to finding and applying for jobs people at ITS are all very helpful and always happy to give advice. ITS brought several companies to the Institute for us to attend interviews, so thanks to that I am working now.

The highlight of my career so far has been this time at AECOM, which has been perfect so far. I am learning new things every day at work and I have participated in very important projects such as the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 or the Riyadh Metro. But maybe, the most important thing for me is that I have the possibility to do research, and I have co-authored one paper that was presented at the European Transport Conference 2014 and another article for Transportation Professional. I like research, and working here and with the skills gained in the Masters at ITS I can focus on what I really like.

The atmosphere on the campus is great for a European or international students. There are dozens of different nationalities so you won’t learn just about the modules you take, but also from other cultures and people’s experiences. Secondly, this Masters course will give you a very good background to start your career in transport or to continue and improve your current career. You will be able to apply all the knowledge in your country if you want to go back. Also, some international students (non EU) got a VISA and now they are working here in the UK with me!

Pablo has recently co-written an article that has been published in the Transportation Professional magazine of the Chartered Institution of Highways & Transportation (CIHT). "Nowadays, decision makers are placing a greater importance on crowd modelling techniques at complex locations including stadia, stations, shopping centres and schools. Capturing data in these places through traditional methods such as interviews or surveys is difficult as people interact with the space and each other in very complex ways. That is why new technologies are being developed based on Big Data, for example the use of mobile phone data or video recording through CCTV systems. It is an exciting time for the crowd modelling sector. The need to understand and predict pedestrian volumes, movements and behaviours for cities, mega events and emergency planning will continue to increase in prominence in order to design more efficient and safer cities for pedestrians, and Big Data stands out as the next necessary step for pedestrian planners to effectively and efficiently shape the cities of tomorrow." Read the publication here.

Pablo also wrote “Understanding How Big Data and Crowd Movements Will Shape the Cities of Tomorrow” for the European Transport Conference 2014.


Links to publications: - Modelling large scale evacuation scenarios to build safer cities.
- Accuracy of traffic count data used for calibration and validation of highway models (presented at the Transport Practitioners’ Meeting 2016).
- Big data helps pedestrian planning take a big step forward.