Brian Taylor is director of the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies and Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies as well as a professor of urban planning. Before participating in a panel on the future of the 710 Freeway, he talked about what it’s like to be stuck in traffic with a traffic expert and why he’d like to have Magic Johnson’s talent in the Zócalo green room.
What’s your favorite plant or flower?
I don’t believe in picking favorites. Especially when it comes to the plant world. So I tend to be very neutral on all things related to cellular life that doesn’t involve a spine or live birth.
How do you pass the time when you’re stuck in traffic?
I actually try to think about why I’m not given priority as a traffic expert. My kids love to say, “Who’s responsible for this, Dad? What kind of moron is responsible for a system that’s chronically clogged every day?” But I’m not in traffic much because I live very close to where I work.
What inspires you?
Public radio, laptop computers, people asking off-the-wall questions, photographers trying to get candid shots in very artificial situations. Those things all inspire me.
How many pairs of shoes do you own?
I actually don’t track that particular line of data. I’m guessing on the order of—are we counting sandals? What about swimming shoes? [Any footwear.] About a dozen. Two dozen shoes—a dozen pair.
What do you do to clear your mind?
I’m not great at clearing my mind. I’ve tried meditation; it doesn’t work for me. I suppose I enjoy just getting out and walking my dogs, honestly.
What’s the last live performance you saw?
I was on a quiz program last night, so does that count? I was a participant. We have a quiz bowl at UCLA. Before that, I was at the Louvre, and I saw some artists in residence doing some work.
Did you win the quiz bowl?
We came in second this year. Won it last year.
When and where did you learn to ride a bike?
1964; the Los Altos area of Los Angeles, California. I did well for a while, but then the road curved, and I went into the bushes. Sort of a rocky end to that first ride.
Whose talent would you like to have?
Without question Magic Johnson’s. I was cursed to be a 5-foot-by-9-inch endomorph when I really needed to be a 6-foot-9 ectomorph. There’s only one thing in the world I like more than transportation policy and planning, and that’s basketball.
When did you last get a traffic ticket?
I had a day about 10 years ago, and I got three tickets in one day. Two parking and one moving. So for some reason that I don’t understand, I got a ticket for not having a parking permit in my car at UCLA even though I had a parking permit. Then I went to a parent-teacher meeting at my daughter’s elementary school, I parked on a street, and I came out of the meeting and all the cars were gone for street sweeping, and I had another ticket. And then I took my kids to an art class and on the way back, they’d just put in a no-right-turn sign, and I got a ticket for that. We got home, and my younger daughter said, “Dad’s not usually grouchy, but he is today, so don’t say anything to him.”