An American Urban Planner in Leeds

Dr. Ruth Steiner, a professor of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at UF, who is also affiliated with UFTI, spent the months of March and April 2014 as a visiting professor with the Institute for Transport Studies (ITS) at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom.

Dr. Steiner, who specializes in land use and transportation, sustainability, growth management, safety, and health and the built environment, went to Leeds to conduct comparative work on how the location of schools and their connection to the surrounding community affects the choices that children have about how to travel to school. She is currently working on a paper for publication with Dr. Greg Marsden, the director of ITS and professor of Transport Governance.

“ITS-Leeds was a great choice because they have such a multidisciplinary transportation research group,” she said. “Once I made the choice to move there the staff and faculty at ITS were helpful and welcoming.”

The ITS-Leeds is one of the largest transportation research institutes in the UK. Its mission is to advance the understanding of transportation activities and operations and to develop skills and best practice among transportation professionals and policy makers. It is a well-established entity, going back 42 years to 1972.

During her visit to the institute, Dr. Steiner gave two presentations – a lecture in the institute’s seminar series titled, “School Planning and Children’s Travel: How can we balance community and transportation goals?” and another one to a class on Sustainable Transportation titled “Florida’s Transportation Concurrency Management”. While at ITS, she also participated in other activities including Dr. Marsden’s Inaugural Professorial Lecture titled, “The Future of Transport Policy: Was Einstein Right?” on March 18, and she met with several faculty members to discuss opportunities for future collaboration. On weekends, Dr. Steiner traveled to other cities in Northern England and Scotland, including York, Manchester, Liverpool, and Edinburgh.

“It was nice to get out of Gainesville for a while and to experience living in another country,” she said. “It was great to be in a city, where I could walk around and use buses within the city and trains to get around throughout the country.”

Leeds is an old industrial city in the North of England that has a rich history dating back to the Celtic, Medieval and Tudor periods. During the Industrial Revolution, it prospered as a center for general manufacturing and the wool industry. Currently, the city has a vibrant economy with the second largest population for a local government district and major employment in retail, education and the financial and insurance sectors. It has five universities and one of the largest student populations in the United Kingdom (more than 250,000 students).