Jürgen Sorger, BSc MSc

Jürgen Sorger is a transport planner and mobility researcher. He designs sustainable living environments and is also working on his doctoral thesis on cycling at the interface of transport planning and urban development. He explains in an interview what his working day is like.


Key data

Job description: Transport planner and doctoral student

Company: Verkehrplus

Photo: Verkehrplus

You studied Energy, Mobility and Environmental Management. When did you start your studies?

I started studying for a Bachelor’s degree in Energy, Mobility and Environmental Management in 2012 and then enrolled on the Master’s degree programme in Energy and Transport Management in 2015.

How did you find your course at FH JOANNEUM? What did you enjoy in particular?

The atmosphere was one of pleasant cooperation, both between the students of all year groups and with the lecturers and staff at the institute. I personally found the unusual breadth of subjects covered in the curriculum to be positive – for example, this range resulted in me shifting the focus of my interests during the course. I particularly valued the open discussion sessions, the inclusion of external experts in teaching practice and the selection of sports offered by the FH sports club.

How would you describe the course in a sentence?

The course is characterised by its diverse content, practical focus and friendly interaction.

Was it clear to you from the beginning that you wanted to study something in this field? What were you interested in as a youngster?

My vision as a youngster was to work in a job where I could really contribute something positive to society. And so the environmental and social sectors stood out to me from an early age. After school, I was interested in the topics of renewable energy and energy efficiency because they make a significant contribution to protecting the environment.

I didn’t start studying until six years after completing my secondary education and I placed my focus on the energy sector. I developed my interest in transport planning, mobility and mobility research during my Bachelor’s course, based on a mindset of protecting the environment.

How did the course prepare you for your career? What skills and expertise could you take with you from your course?

The classes and group exercises relating to spatial planning and the testimonies from external experts sparked my interest in wanting to understand the links between space and transport and the decision-making processes involved. The semester I spent abroad in the Netherlands further developed my understanding of the topic of cycling as a form of mobility in everyday life.

What does your current job actually involve? What does it cover exactly?

I am a transport planner and mobility researcher. As a transport planner, I support the regional authorities such as communities and also transport companies in deciding why, when, where and for whom certain infrastructures and transport services should be offered. I personally work primarily in the multimodality and cycling team. We develop cycle networks to promote cycling as an everyday form of transport, calculate both the optimal location for bus and train stops and the optimal service frequency of public transport as well as working with land use planners to develop specifications for opening up new areas. The interfaces between individual modes of transport as part of multimodal mobility management are also a major key factor.

As a mobility researcher, I focus on the behaviours of people within the context of mobility. I analyse empirical research or historic developments in relation to space and transport or collaborate in workshops with various players and interest group representatives to identify any challenges or stumbling blocks standing in the way of mobility transitions. Ideally I also develop solutions or demonstrate approaches to finding a solution. I am currently writing my doctoral thesis on the topic of cycling at the interface of transport planning and urban development, focusing on the transition of public spaces in small and medium-sized cities and the associated effects.

What is a typical working day for you? What projects are you working on at present?

A typical working day consists of planning discussions within the team, emails and phone calls with clients, research, planning activities, writing project reports and preparing for presentations. I am currently working on devising several cycle traffic concepts in Styria, implementing multimodal hubs for various communities, a public transport concept for a transport association and a comprehensive transport concept for a community in Salzburg. And I am also working on my doctoral thesis.

How has your career changed as a result of the course?

My career as a transport planner was only possible because of the course. Before completing the course, I worked in the social sector and in machine and plant engineering.

What do you enjoy most about your job? What is of particular interest to you? What are the challenges in your job?

The best thing about my job is that I can observe how we as a team take small steps towards transforming mobility and getting this transition going in the communities. When multimodal transport hubs or cycle paths or even bridges we have planned are finally implemented and give people cause to think that there might be an alternative to their car – that is truly motivating!

The challenge lies in people’s individuality. Not everyone sees the need to change transport and mobility in order to address future challenges in terms of quality of life. It is a particular challenge to take these people with us.

What are the skills required for this profession? What do you need to do to be able to work in your field?

Alongside accurate, structured and methodical working methods, self-management is important. As with many professions, in transport planning too you have to work with and for many different people. It is important to keep an eye on agreements, processes and schedules. In consultancy roles, it is certainly also helpful to tackle one’s environment with positive energy. This works automatically when the right quality is provided. Getting the quality right also involves having a personal interest in the project in question making sense to you. And that only works if you do what you are interested in.

What tips would you give newcomers to the profession?

First and foremost, the interest must be there – genuine interest. Then I recommend asking yourself: is the job right for me? This does not mean finding out whether the job will give you a good image or bring prestige or whether you can make your mark in the job. A little like: the job is a good fit for me because it looks impressive and I’ve worked hard for it.

Instead you need to identify your own needs in a job – these usually do not differ greatly from one’s own life philosophy, I think. You might even sense it during the job interview. Closed office doors, long corridors and whispered talk in the communal kitchen are perhaps not right for a restless or communicative person.

Are you still in contact with your former fellow students?

Yes. I even share an apartment with one of them. And I meet the others regularly.

What do you want for the future? What would you like to achieve professionally?

In the future, I would like my bike, the power of imagination and courage. Then everything will work out.

The interview with Jürgen Sorger was carried out by Karin Kuchler, lecturer at the Institute of Energy, Transport and Environmental Management.