Robert C. Johns serves as associate administrator and director of the U.S. Department of Transportation's John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, a unique fee-for-service federal organization that conducts nearly $265 million in annual research and innovation projects for its customers, including all the DOT modal administrations and other federal and state agencies.
In his role as Volpe director, Johns has expanded outreach programs to the Center's many customers, calling for their ideas on how Volpe can best address the nation's transportation challenges. This has led to new and expanded sponsored research and innovation programs, including analysis and modeling for improving the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, technical assistance and oversight for high speed rail projects, development of transit safety management systems, and expanded research for the NextGen air traffic control system. Approximately 570 federal employees and 450 on-site contractors carry out these and other research programs at Volpe.
Johns has also led high-profile priorities for the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of the Department of Transportation, including helping define a strategic planning process for the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, facilitating monthly meetings of the Safety Council (chaired by the Deputy Secretary), and providing an objective analysis for pilot fatigue rule-making. In 2012, he received the Secretary's Partnership in Excellence Award.
Nationally, Johns is active in the Transportation Research Board (TRB) of the National Academies. From 2008 to 2011, he chaired the TRB Technical Activities Council, which oversees the research and outreach activities of 200 technical committees. In honor of his leadership for TRB, he was named a National Associate by the National Academies of Sciences and an Emeritus Member of TRB's Policy and Organization Group Executive Board. In addition, Johns has served on the boards of the Council of University Transportation Centers and the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, and in leadership positions for the Intelligent Transportation Society of America.
Prior to joining Volpe in 2009, Johns served as director of the Center for Transportation Studies at the University of Minnesota (2001 to 2009), after serving as deputy director and associate director. The University honored Johns by awarding him its Richard P. Braun Distinguished Service Award for Research Leadership. Before joining the University in 1988, he held research and management positions with the Santa Fe Railway, the Minnesota Department of Transportation, and the Metropolitan Council of the Twin Cities. He earned a BS degree in engineering operations from Iowa State University and MBA and MA degrees from the University of Iowa.