When I started to work on my ideas for a story featuring transportation planners, I didn’t think that it had been done before. I thought I should check before I go too far. So far I haven’t found anything quite like what I have in mind. I have found some movies and a novel that do mention transportation planning.
In the movie Mission Impossible III there is a scene where Tom Cruise pretends to be a transportation engineer. This isn’t really about transportation planning though. His character is really a spy and the transportation planning reference has no relevance to the story.
A transportation planner appears as a character in an episode of Law & Order. I think it was Pride, the final episode of season five, but I’m not 100 per cent sure. The story has nothing to do with transportation planning and the character could have been any other city worker.
I’ve read that a character in the movie Singles is a transportation engineer or planner. I haven’t seen the film myself, so I don’t know for certain. From the descriptions I’ve read, transportation planning is not an element in the story.
John Paizs’ 1985 film Crime Wave has a minor character who is a traffic counter and there is a brief scene where he counts some traffic. When I met John Paizs, I asked him where he got the idea. It turned out that he had worked as a traffic counter for a number of years.
The movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit has a transportation planning issue as a major element of the plot. The bad guys in the movie want to shut down the street car system and replace it with freeways. None of the characters is a transportation planner and bulk of the plot is the murder mystery.
The movie Chinatown was intended to be the first of a three part story. The second movie, The Two Jakes, but the third film was not made. The description I read of it sounded a lot like Who Framed Roger Rabbit and also features the Great American Streetcar Scandal. Since the movie was never made, we can’t know how much it would have gotten into transportation planning.
In the movie Quick Change Bill Murray plays an urban planner who robs a bank. He isn’t a transportation planner, and in any event, that has nothing to do with the plot.
Frank Osgood’s novel Region Aroused is a fictionalized version of his experiences when he was involved with the Southern California Association of Governments. I have only read a review of this book by Wendell Davis. This book comes as close to what I have in mind as anything else I’ve found. Although, it seems to me that the author’s objective is to use a fictional account to make it easier for non-planners to understand urban planning. The book is also available in a Kindle edition.
I am sure that these are not the only times that transportation planning has been depicted in fiction.