Justine Johnson is the Chief Mobility Officer of the Office of Future Mobility and Electrification. Justine is an accomplished economic development and mobility executive with more than 10 years of experience in external affairs, strategy and government and community relations. Prior to joining Team Michigan, Justine was appointed to the Los Angeles County Aviation Commission to advise the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on the operations and development of the County’s five airports. She also served as the Director of Member Engagement at the California Mobility Center (CMC). Justine has also served as the Head of Mobility Engagement for the SoCal/Southwest Region at Ford Motor Company and as Vice President of Government & Community Relations for the New York City Economic Development Corporation, managing government and community relations for Mayor de Blasio’s innovative commuter ferry system.
Justine is a native of Los Angeles, California and holds two Master of Arts degrees from the University of Southern California in Urban Planning and Public Administration. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hampton University in Political Science and Government. She also served as an adjunct instructor at USC Sol Price School of Public Policy.
1. Your background is diverse, having participated in the corporate, government, and non-profit sectors. As someone with limited ties to Michigan, why did you decide to join OFME and how has your background informed your experience in the role thus far? How do you intend to leverage your past experiences in this role?
My path to Michigan has been shaped by more than a decade of immersion in economic development, mobility, community relations and academia. Serving on the Los Angeles Aviation Commission and holding the position of Director of Member Engagement at the California Mobility Center (CMC) provided me with a unique perspective on fostering collaborations between mobility companies and industry leaders in the pursuit of clean and sustainable mobility solutions. Through my time as an Adjunct Instructor at the University of Southern California, I introduced students to the exciting and promising career opportunities in mobility and innovation. My work on the “Boro Taxi” project, also known as the Green Taxi program which created a new for-hire vehicle and driver classification in New York City, and my time serving as the Head of Mobility Engagement for the SoCal/Southwest Region at Ford Motor Company, have all strengthened my understanding of the profound impact that transportation can have on individuals and societies.
Given all my past experience, Michigan, the place that first put the world on wheels and is now leading the next mobility revolution, was a natural choice for me.
2. What excites you most about the future of mobility? Are there any technologies, innovations, or trends you are particularly excited about in the coming 10 to 20 years?
I’m most excited about seeing how the future of mobility will impact all modes of transportation. At the Office of Future Mobility & Electrification (OFME), we think about mobility from a holistic perspective. We aren’t just investing our resources into EVs; we are pursuing electrified public buses, boats, micromobility offerings (scooters, bikes, etc.) and other mobility solutions designed to make people’s lives easier. I am a child of immigrant parents who rode public transportation in my formative years, so I know what it’s like to rely on public transportation. Mobility intersects with people’s lives in so many ways and it is the thread that connects communities, bringing people to their jobs, homes, and each other.
Because of this reality, we’re being intentional during this transitional period – a Mobility Renaissance, if you will – to deliver on clean tech ecosystems to ensure equity across the workforce and serve communities that rely on safe, efficient, and sustainable mobility offerings and services.
3. What are some of the challenges you and the OFME team expect to face when developing and implementing new policy initiatives in terms of mobility innovation?
The biggest challenge OFME faces is the scope of what it’s trying to tackle. We need to ensure that Michigan is shoring up its infrastructure, pursuing new technology innovations, and finding and growing relevant public/private partnerships, all while making sure the state’s regulations will enable environments that are friendly to the testing of future mobility solutions. Under the guidance of the Michigan Healthy Climate Plan, Michigan aims to ensure more sustainable, carbon-neutral operations by 2050 — and the mobility industry plays a big role in this goal.
The challenge in bringing clean mobility tech from concept to reality is twofold. First, continuing the work will require a behavioral change in the way we interact with mobility. 77% of U.S. adults want to live greener, and the majority of people agree urgent actions must be taken by governments, companies, communities and people to address climate change. Yet less than 10% of Americans drive EVs, and more than half (53%) say they still prefer gas cars. Second, we need to be intentional about the kind of innovation that impacts public spaces, resources, and daily life. Strategic partnerships are critical to bringing diverse levels of expertise and alignment on a shared vision.
4. How are you thinking about the advancement of mobility technologies and its impact on Michigan’s economy, particularly in terms of job creation and investment opportunities? What are your goals for growing Michigan’s economy and creating new employment opportunities in the mobility sector?
I believe that the future of mobility isn’t solely about technological advancements – it’s about enriching lives, creating equitable opportunities and connecting communities to a brighter future. This perspective drives my commitment to fostering people-centric mobility solutions, enhancing goods distribution networks and preparing our workforce for the jobs of tomorrow.
As we move into the future of mobility, my mission is to build upon these foundations and amplify our impact, not only across the state, but the nation and the world. Here are just a few of my priorities:
- Promoting sustainability and clean technology through electrification. This preparation is not just about electric vehicles (EVs); it’s about fostering an ecosystem that supports clean tech industries, from battery innovation and recycling to manufacturing and storage capacity.
- Developing our mobility workforce for the jobs of the future. This means creating pathways for everyone — from young talent to assembly line workers — to understand and ensure job readiness for careers within the mobility industry.
- Increasing economic impact. To date, OFME has facilitated more than $485 million in mobility-focused revenue and initiated $163.5 million in follow-on funding for local companies.
- Supporting Michigan businesses. OFME has provided more than $3.1 million in grant funding to over 40 companies.
5. How are you planning to ensure OFME is addressing issues of equity and accessibility in mobility, especially for underserved communities?
Planning for equity and accessibility begins with acknowledging our past policies and planning practices that have led to inequitable outcomes. This work requires our team to be humble learners and center our work on the lived experiences so that we can build a more equitable and accessible society for all. We must make sure that equity and accessibility are not just surface level considerations, but are woven into every aspect of our work.
6. What advice would you give to young professionals or entrepreneurs working and building at the intersection of mobility and emerging technologies?
It’s important to push away from your comfort zone and challenge your mind to think differently. With technology, it’s easy to get caught up in the latest trend or gadget, but it is important to remain focused on the impact we want to make in the world. Creativity is key in finding solutions that truly make a difference. Know that you will face obstacles or rejection, so it’s important to find time to regroup and reset, and recommit to dreaming bigger!
7. Can you speak to any infrastructure developments that are critical for supporting the future of mobility in Michigan or elsewhere in the country?
When we discuss mobility related to automobiles, range anxiety is a term that is often brought up. Honestly, this term is less about the driving range and more about infrastructure developments including accessible and reliable EV charging stations.
Mobility leaders in Michigan, in partnership with OFME, are paving the way for EV charging with initiatives such as:
- Electreon’s public EV-charging roadway which recently debuted at the Michigan Central innovation district in Detroit. This is the nation’s first wireless EV-charging roadway, which features inductive-charging coils embedded into the pavement. These coils charge EVs equipped with Electreon receivers while they are in motion on the road, making charging an EV easier and more efficient than ever.
- The Lake Michigan EV Circuit, a network of EV chargers spanning more than 1,100 miles of drivable shoreline around Lake Michigan, developed in partnership with Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin. Dubbed an “electric Route 77,” the multi-state partnership aims to build and maintain chargers along the route, and market the new eco-tourism attraction.
- OFME, in partnership with Daimler Truck North America and DTE Energy, are spearheading the development of a new Mobility Charging Hub location for freight trucking designed to enable the transition of companies’ fleets to electric vehicles (EVs) and modernize the truck stop experience. The project is deemed the “Truck Stop of the Future.”
8. How do you see the State of Michigan leveraging public policy to drive mobility innovation? What key policy initiatives does OFME plan to implement to enhance the future of mobility and electrification in Michigan?
Michigan’s legacy as a beacon of innovation in the automotive industry is undeniable, and now we are on the cusp of an era of disruption, defined by the growing demand for clean energy. The synergy between our state government, academia and private industry creates an ecosystem ripe for nurturing the emerging technologies and businesses that will help ensure the long-term resilience of our mobility ecosystems. Because of this network of opportunity, our state stands poised to lead the charge in shaping the electrified mobility landscape.
In 2022, the state of Michigan unveiled its MI Future Mobility Plan, which will help define new standards for EV adoption and facilitate deeper collaboration between government, industry, academia and the people they serve. This is a unified, cross-departmental approach designed to strengthen Michigan’s economy and enhance communities across the state through responsive policy and dynamic programming that prepares Michigan for the future of EVs. The MI Future Mobility Plan creates the clear goals necessary for our state to be successful and the transparency required for alignment, broken into three pillars:
- Transition and grow our mobility industry and workforce
- Provide safer, greener and more accessible transportation infrastructure
- Lead the world in mobility and electrification policy and innovation