A lot of transit discussions held in the Austin area have solely focused on the city and a recent Williamson County Growth Summit was no different. It presented an opportunity to outline the challenges in transport to the county and the suburban communities’ needs. The panel involved in the discussion included Mike Heiligenstein (executive director of Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority), Joseph Kopser (founder of RideScout LLC), Jared Ficklin (ArgoDesign) and Leandre Johns (Uber Technologies Incorporated, external affairs director Texas). The event took place at Sheraton Georgetown Texas Hotel & Conference Center.
How Technology is Changing Transportation
During the discussions, the panel centered on the way technology is influencing changes in the transportation sector in the Austin area and globally. Heiligenstein acknowledged that fresh technologies like ridesharing apps and driverless vehicles can transform transportation radically. However, he added that in spite of these transformations, the Austin area required to invest more in expanding its transportation capability. He stated that the area needs to have additional smarter roads built. He stated that this would be the only way the mobility demands of the rising population in the area would be served adequately. Heiligenstein added that the county had done an exemplary job in the past 15 years but he stressed the need to build more roads and expand its capacities due to the swelling population.
Actions to be taken by Policymakers
Ficklin, while answering a question from Alan McGraw (Round Rock Mayor) on what causes of actions policy makers ought to take, emphasized on the need to make land-use and building codes flexible. He pointed out that stuff like roads and parking garages would still be required by the autonomous cars. Ficklin said that future parking garages ought to have multiple levels.
CTRMA is an autonomous agency of the government that was created in 2002 to help in improving the Travis and Williamson counties’ transportation systems. Its mission is implementing multi-modal and innovative transport solutions to reduce congestion as well as offer transportation options that will enhance economic vitality and life quality. It is overseen by a Board of Directors that is made up of seven members. The Governor is responsible for appointing the chairman of the board and the two counties appoint three members each. The authority employs professional staff albeit in a small scale who are led by the executive director, Mike Heiligenstein.
About Mike Heiligenstein
He has been with the authority since it was incepted in 2002 to oversee the designing of a regional and modern transportation network in Central Texas. He is also the current International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association’s president.
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