Professor of Urban and Regional Planning
College of Design, Construction and Planning
The appeal of cities like New York and Chicago is their easy access to shopping, entertainment, schools, housing, parks and other amenities.
This same idea of “New Urbanism” is popping up in many growing cities, bringing popularity to a spirit of community with less driving and more walking. And that’s where Ruth Steiner, professor of urban and regional planning and development, takes to the street.
Steiner’s biggest challenges in urban planning are transportation systems that focus strictly on the automobile; she says mass-transit users, bicyclists and walkers are often considered secondary.
“It is a constant battle between building cities for cars and building cities for people,” says Steiner. “We have to build communities for all modes of transportation instead of focusing solely on the automobile. Otherwise, we will never relieve the traffic strain on our roads, and we will continue to build outward to deal with congestion.”
Steiner is part of a team of UF researchers that develops tools to integrate all modes of transportation – cars, buses, bicycles and pedestrians – in order to form a more balanced transportation system. She has attracted more than $1 million in funded research on policies directed at facilitating alternative modes of transportation.
“Dr. Steiner has been instrumental in developing computer-based tools that have allowed city and regional planners to better plan for alternative modes of transportation,” says Paul Zwick, associate professor and chair of the urban and regional planning department.
With funding from the Florida Department of Transportation, Steiner and her team have worked with local governments throughout the state to implement the urban planning tools that are being tested in Gainesville, Orlando, Deland, Key West and St. Lucie County.
“A more diverse mix of people, places and activities within neighborhoods will bring activities of daily life closer, reducing traffic and congestion,” Steiner says. “A grid street network offers more route choices and more access points to all areas of the city, instead of relying on a few busy roads.”