Institute for Transport Studies (ITS)

Profile

Lea Ruzic

Country: Slovenia  

Name: Lea R              

Company: AECOM

Position: Transport Planning Consultant

ITS Course: MSc Transport Planning 2012

I am currently employed as a transport planning consultant in AECOM, one of the biggest transportation consultancies in the world. I am based in Birmingham, UK in a transport planning team where we mostly work on projects for public sector bodies, such as local authorities, public transport authorities and Highways Agency. As cycling is my biggest interest in transport, I try to work on cycling projects as much as possible and help the UK become a cycling friendly country. For example, for the past months, I have been supporting one of the local authorities with development of a new cycle map, cycle parking and infrastructure, smarter choices measures and several other activities supported by the Local Sustainable Transport Fund. But my work doesn’t end at cycling as I support the team on transport strategies, travel plans, personalised travel planning projects and evaluation projects. For the geeky part of me, plenty of work with GIS takes care of it. What I really like in my job is the variety of national and international projects and greater degree of responsibility but also a young and international team that is great to work with.

It might sound dramatic but I must admit that the year at ITS was life changing for me. I got firstly enthusiastic about transport after a year of studying in the Netherlands which is fantastic in terms of sustainable mobility. Then, prior to studying at ITS, I was employed in Slovenia at the Urban Planning Institute where we had a small team on sustainable mobility where we did some very inspiring work. Namely, our country lags behind some western and northern European countries in terms of transport planning practices and we did some of the pioneering work on transport strategies and helped change the obsolete mentality in local authorities. As I am not an engineer (but a geographer) which is usually the only profile represented in transport in Slovenia, I wanted to get further knowledge from a country where transport planning has been an established professional field (not limited to engineers!) for decades. And as I wanted to obtain it from the very best institution, I chose ITS.

Masters in Transport Planning at ITS helped open my eyes as I realised how many skills are out there to learn, how approaches to planning differ here from back home and especially how much effort, expertise and resources are needed for efficient transport planning. To be honest, it was often scary, for example it was the first time I was introduced to modelling but with hard work, no mountain was too high! It was also lots of fun studying with people from literally all over the world and studies never got boring due to variety of courses and teaching methods. Diversity of modules was what I loved the most as it catered to all kinds of backgrounds but it also equipped us with a whole range of skills. Furthermore, from field trips to workshops, everything was delivered by great and enthusiastic experts. But it doesn’t end here – thanks to ITS who organise employer visits for students, I accepted an interesting position at AECOM; before I never even imagined I would work in the UK! Indeed, prior to joining ITS I thought I would return to Slovenia but somehow the course of events led to the fact that I now live here, work in a totally different environment and every day learn something new and exciting. That doesn’t mean I will not return at some point as I am still paying a lot of attention to what is happening in transport there and I wish I could contribute my knowledge gained in the UK. 

All in all, studying and working in the UK has been very beneficial but I also realised that even countries like the UK have their flaws. Slow decision making, over-reliance on cars and traffic modelling with a lack of provision for and often even ignorance of pedestrians and cyclists has sometimes disappointed me but it is therefore an interesting challenge to work in such fields here! Whilst some of the practices back home are years behind the UK, it also made me appreciate some of better approaches we use. Hence, if I ever return to Slovenia or any other country, I will be well equipped with the knowledge I gained at ITS and the job I got thanks to ITS.