The 2016 transit discussion called Williamson County Growth Summit not only discussed pertinent issues concerning the transportation challenges of Austin but also looked at the area’s suburban communities. This was a break in tradition because often such discussion panels only focused on the larger Austin urban area. The Summit was held at the renowned Sheraton Georgetown Texas Hotel & Conference Center.
Among the panelists at the summit included Mike Heiligenstein, the long-term Director of CTRMA (Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority); Joseph Kopser from RideScout LLC; Leandre Johns who is Texas’ External affairs director at Uber Technologies; and Jared Ficklin, a product designer from ArgoDesign. The discussion focused on the role of technology in changing the transportation system across the globe and specifically in the Austin area. Learn more about Mike Heiligenstein: http://www.mystatesman.com/news/opinion/heiligenstein-mopac-project-one-many-mobility-solutions/xMGCtppQvuEzYlFe8FuhSK/
What the Panelists Proposed
According to Heiligenstein, new technologies (think ridesharing applications and driverless vehicles) could significantly transform the area’s transportation infrastructure. He added that the region needs to grow its transportation capacity by constructing bigger, smarter roads.
He said that such infrastructure investments were necessary because they serve the transportation demands of a fast growing population. Most of the growth occurs in the region’s suburbs like Williamson County.
Heiligenstein stated that despite the efforts to improve Williamson’s infrastructure in the last decade, the population increase in the county would eventually surpass the improvements made. This will put pressure on the transportation capacities. He reiterated that the only way to avoid this outcome would be to build smarter, technologically advanced, and efficient roads.
Jared Ficklin, on the other hand, held the opinion that the areas’ building codes should be flexible and adapt to changing construction needs. He said that the rise of autonomous vehicles would require new and efficient roads and parking garage spaces which are not accommodated in the present building codes.
Johns from Uber Technologies said that Austin commuters would need solutions to cater for their first mile and last mile transit needs. He added that his company has the capacities required to provide these solutions.
Mike Heiligenstein from CTRMA
Mike Heiligenstein has served on the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority since its creation in 2002. As the Executive Director, Mike is tasked with improving and setting up multi-modal transit systems that meet the area’s mobility needs. He has overseen all of CTRMA’s projects to date.
For 23 years, Mike served the residents of Williamson County as a dedicated public official. He has also served as International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association’s President as well as on the advisory board of several working groups and committees such as Texas A&M Transportation Institute.
DriverPete March 28, 2017