2021 40 Under 40: Eleanor Leshner

Nov. 23, 2021
Eleanor Leshner, Transportation Consultant, Leshner Planning & Transportation
  • One word to describe yourself: Curious and tenacious
  • Alma Mater: Middlebury College (BA), UC Berkeley (MS/MCP)
  • Fun fact about yourself: I speak four languages and have never owned a car.
  • Favorite station or stop that you have ever visited or frequent (and why): I have fond memories transferring at the Châtelet-Les Halles metro station in Paris as an exchange student in college. I loved listening to the classical music and accordions echoing down long tiled corridors as throngs of determined commuters rushed between trains.

Eleanor Leshner is dedicated to making cities more walkable, bikeable and transit-friendly in this era of new and emerging mobility. She recently founded her independent consulting practice after working as a project manager and senior planner for Fehr & Peers Transportation Consultants for six years. Leshner says she is looking forward to growing her business and continuing her work to create “people friendly” communities that are more resilient to climate change.

Leshner completed her dual Masters of Transportation Engineering and City Planning at University of California, Berkeley. Her career includes managing diverse transit and safety-related projects such as helping local agencies in the development of Vision Zero policy frameworks, identifying opportunities for transit-oriented development and planning and implementing various complete street improvement projects.

Leshner continues to be on the cutting edge of asking how new mobility is impacting and can improve transportation networks and transit services. She led Fehr & Peers’ automated vehicle readiness practice and is exploring how AVs may improve or hinder new safe systems approaches to road safety. She also led a first-of-its-kind study exploring rideshare’s effect in the U.S. by examining the role these companies play in the urban travel market.

Leshner is well known in the local San Francisco planning community for her dedicated leadership to advancing women and other underrepresented groups in the field. She has been a board member of Women in Transportation Seminar’s San Francisco chapter since 2014 and served as the chair for Student and Younger Members between 2015 and 2019. In her current role on the Program’s Committee, Leshner identifies relevant topics and speakers for panel discussions and networking events to support the organization’s larger mission to advance women’s careers to strengthen the transportation industry.

Is there a specific experience that led you to where you are today?

I got my start in transportation when I was teaching English in Brazil after college. I was curious about the role transportation and urban planning play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and persuaded the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy (ITDP) to take me on as an intern. Helping design, implement and evaluate new bus rapid transit lines and bike facilities - and seeing the impact made on people’s daily lives and emissions - inspired me to dedicate my career to creating “people friendly” communities that are less dependent on automobiles.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I continue to be motivated by improving people’s lives through safer, more convenient and more environmentally friendly transportation options and making a positive impact in my community. More recently, I’ve been proud to help contribute to and shape the conversation around planning for new technologies like ridesharing and autonomous vehicles. Mostly, I love collaborating - and geeking out - with so many bright and dedicated people working in transportation and developing creative strategies to address complex challenges that don’t have clear solutions.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

As someone eager to make an impact, one challenge has been practicing patience with the sometimes slower pace of transformation and celebrating small wins along the way.

Best advice/tip/best practice to share from your area of expertise?