2016’s Williamson County Growth Summit was different as compared to the previous ones held. While the norm of the previous summits was discussing transit issues revolving around the Austin area alone, the 2016 summit set the stage to address the needs and transportation hindrances of the region’s suburban communities.
In attendance was a panel of transportation stakeholders, they included Mike Heiligenstein, Executive Director of Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA); Leandre Johns of Uber Technologies; Jared Ficklin of ArgoDesign; and RideScout LLC’s Joseph Kopser. The agenda of their discussion focused on how technology was changing the transportation sector not only across the world but also in the Austin Region.
Mr. Heiligenstein acknowledged that new technologies (like ridesharing software applications and driverless cars) could drastically change the transportation infrastructure. He, however, said that the Austin area needed to dedicate its resources toward increasing its transportation capacity. Specifically, he highlighted that building more hi-tech roads would be the best response to meeting the region’s increasing mobility demands.
Policy Preparation for the Future
The panel moderator inquired on the steps required by policymakers toward the preparation of future transportation needs. Mr. McGraw, the Mayor of Round Rock, responded by first commending Williamson County for their past decade of infrastructure development. He, furthermore, pointed out that the county’s population will continue to increase and urged the responsible stakeholders to invest in transport infrastructure and capacity. Citing the remaining corridors in the county, Mr. McGraw insisted they ought to be made more efficient and technologically inclined.
Mr. Ficklin also responded to the question by the panel coordinator, emphasizing that land-use and construction codes needed to remain flexible. Mr. Ficklin gave an in-depth view of what the parking structures of the future would look like, citing that future parking garages will have multiple levels each exactly five feet tall just an inch taller when compared to cars. The levels will also be equipped with charging stations. He emphasized that the expected future adjustments marry with none of the current building specifications.
Uber’s Leandre Johns identified that people commuting within Austin region needed first mile solutions to get them onto public transit and last mile solutions to get them off. He argued that ridesharing companies satisfy this niche.
Mike Heiligenstein and the CTRMA
Mike Heiligenstein is CTRMA’s Executive Director. Mr. Heiligenstein has worked with the company since its inception in 2002. He has overseen a variety of projects including the 183A in Williamson County which involved the transition to an all-electronic toll transaction system.
The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority is an independent government agency. The company’s mission is to make multi-modal and innovative transport solutions a reality. This helps improve transportation in the Austin region by expanding transportation choices and reducing congestion.