2021 40 Under 40: Taylor Johnson

Nov. 23, 2021
Taylor Johnson, Transit and Parking Program Manager, City of Norman
  • One word to describe yourself: Loyal
  • Alma Mater: University of Oklahoma
  • Fun fact about yourself: I can solve a Rubik’s Cube.
  • Favorite station or stop that you have ever visited or frequent (and why): I love the Denver Union Station. It is a great mixed-use, multimodal hub where you can access RTD’s bus routes, RTD’s light rail, and Amtrak. I also appreciate that the area around the station was designed with ample pedestrian and bicycle facilities.

Taylor Johnson, transit and parking program manager for the city of Norman, has served central Oklahoma in several transportation capacities, including as the planner and grants specialist at Campus Area Rapid Transit (CART) at the University of Oklahoma, the multimodal program coordinator at the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments and the public transit coordinator at the city of Norman.

When CART decided to cease transit service and operate campus shuttles only, Johnson was instrumental in the transition of transit operations from CART to the city in under 10 months. The city of Norman continued the transition work into 2020, working with EMBARK, the local transit provider, and University of Oklahoma to ensure service continued. Johnson was the lynchpin that ensured the relationships between the city, the university and EMBARK developed and prospered during this time. Johnson’s ability to bring different parties together and carefully foster mutually beneficial relationships was key to Norman's ability to maintain continuity of service during the transition. The city was also required to develop a plan for relocating public transit operations and maintenance. The efforts of Johnson and other city and EMBARK staff are credited with not missing a single day of scheduled service during or after the transition.

Johnson also played a crucial role in the passage of the city’s Public Transit Sales Tax ballot initiative in November 2019, just five months after the city took over the operations of the service. The ballot initiative passed by more than 70 percent support and was the state’s first standalone public transit tax ballot initiative to pass. Johnson’s additional accomplishments include successfully soliciting and leading the development of the Go Norman Transit Plan, securing and programming the funds needed to build Norman’s first transit maintenance and operations facility and aiding in the development of the first Oklahoma Public Transit Policy Plan.

Johnson serves on the Board of the Oklahoma Transit Association (OTA) as the small urban at-large director, was named a co-chair of the OTA Urban/Small Urban Task Force and represents the city of Norman at regional and state levels.

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

Towards the end of my junior year of my bachelor’s degree, I was looking towards the future. I had switched my major to geography a year before and wanted/needed an internship, preferably paid because I was getting married that summer and needed some additional income. I wanted an internship to assist me in getting my feet wet in the areas of geography and urban planning, which is what I was planning to get my graduate degree in. I stumbled upon a transportation planning internship with CART, a department at the University of Oklahoma and then the transit provider in Norman. I applied, not knowing anything about transit or transportation planning. That internship opened up doors for me to pursue a career in public transit, which I had never considered. I am forever grateful for that opportunity.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I particularly enjoy that I am helping people in my community. We all have to get out and about to work, play, medical appointments, recreation, etc. Wherever it is or whatever the trip purpose may be, my hope is that public transit can get you there.

Accomplishment you’re most proud of and why?

I am most proud of being a part of the transition of service from the University of Oklahoma (CART) to the city of Norman. I am pleased that we were able to make the transition of the transit operations in such a short time, without missing a day of service.

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

I would most likely not be in a career in transit if it wasn’t for an internship. I would encourage agencies to provide paid internships and for students to go out and get them. This ensures we keep a pipeline open for the next generation to work in transit. I believe there are some, like me when I was a student, that don’t know you can have a wonderful, rewarding career in public transit.