Student Spotlight: Amanda Dillon, University of Utah

Student Spotlight - Amanda Dillon.png

Amanda Dillon, University of Utah

Amanda Dillon is a research assistant in the University of Utah's Metropolitan Research Center. She has received both NITC and WTS scholarships, and has recently been hired as a community planner in the urban design studio of MHTN Architects, a major architecture firm in Salt Lake City.


Tell us about yourself?

I’m a second year dual master’s student in city and metropolitan planning and real estate development at the University of Utah. I came to Utah via New York City where I spent 6 years working in the nonprofit sector. Prior to that, I did community development in the U.S. Peace Corps for two and a half years in Mauritania and Mozambique. Utah is an exciting place to study planning, transportation, and development because the population is growing and the built environment is changing so fast. I became interested in transportation and our (unhealthy) relationship with cars at a young age growing up in Los Angeles. Now that I’m in Salt Lake City, I’m focused on researching and creating more sustainable relationships between transportation and land management.

What (or who) has influenced your career path in transportation?

As I mentioned, I grew up in Los Angeles, and went to undergrad in Orange County. I formed my early impressions of transportation sitting in bumper to bumper traffic on freeways where everyone was driving alone. I would always think to myself, there has to be a better solution for moving around.

At the University of Utah, I’ve had the great fortune of working with Dr. Reid Ewing. He has been a tremendous inspiration and source of knowledge for all things transportation related. His research has influenced my appreciation for compact development (and its health and socio-economic benefits), transit oriented development, and how a jobs-housing balance can be a travel demand management strategy. 

You're a research assistant at the UU's Metropolitan Research Center; tell us about the work you do there? 

I love working for the Metropolitan Research Center (MRC) because I’ve been exposed to many different topics and people in transportation planning. The research I’ve done has complemented my courses and been a huge asset in my graduate education. We’ve worked with several local governments, consultants, the local MPO Wasatch Front Regional Council, and the Utah Department of Transportation on several real-life planning projects. I’ve researched and conducted studies on subjects ranging from parking demand and generation, transportation land use connection programs, TOD development and readiness tools, H+T (affordable housing and transportation), mixed-use developments, and the fiscal impact analysis of sprawl.  Earlier this year, two MRC students and I had a peer-reviewed research article accepted in the Transportation Research Record journal on transportation land use connection programs around the U.S. These are MPO programs that provide funding to local governments for land use planning that promotes more sustainable, livable environments.

After graduation, what future work do you envision doing in transportation?

I would like to continue my trajectory and focus on the intersection of development and transportation. I’d love to work on transit oriented development projects, station area planning, and creating healthy neighborhoods linked by transit. I plan to stay in Utah, and hope I can be part of the solution for how to maintain and elevate quality of life for everyone here, and for those yet to come. 

This is an installment in a series of monthly Student Spotlights we'll be shining on students and alumni that are involved with National Institute for Transportation & Communites (NITC) universities. NITC is a university transportation consortium funded by the U.S. DOT, and is a Portland State-led partnership with the University of Oregon, Oregon Institute of Technology, University of Utah, University of Arizona, and University of Texas at Arlington.

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