In December of 2016, experts met at the Williamson County Growth Summit to discussion the Austin area’s transportation challenges and the needs of the community. The panel included people like RideScout LLC founder Joseph Kopser, ArgoDesign’s Jared Ficklin, Uber External Affairs Director Leandre Johns, and Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA) Executive Director Mike Heiligenstein.
The discussion focused on how technology keeps changing the face of transportation in not only Austin but the entire area. Heiligenstein led the conversations away from technology however, stating that even though technology like driverless vehicles and ridesharing apps could certain transform transportation, the Austin area still has to grow its transportation capacity by building more roads that are also smarter. He believes this will be the only way to meet the demands of the rapidly growing population in the city and suburbs alike.
Heiligenstein knows that the county has done a tremendous job over the years restructuring transportation infrastructure, but the fact is that more and more people will be living in the area. The area needs to expand their capacities, making more efficient and technologically advanced roads.
In response to a question about what policymakers need to do to prepare for future transportation’s needs, Ficklin simply emphasized the need for flexible building and land codes. As he points out in an example, the future of autonomous vehicles will lead to the need for parking garages that will only need to be five feet tall, with charging stations on each level. That, for example, does not fit into any current building code.
Johns, from Uber, also made an emphasis on the necessary steps to help the commuters of the Austin area. Ridesharing apps like Uber can take the guesswork out of first and last-mile solutions for their daily lives. Companies like Uber can even work to create subsidies that help both the commuters and the transit agency.
The CTRMA is an independent government agency that was created to improve the transportation system in two Texas counties. The mission of the CTRMA is to use innovative transportation solutions to help reduce congestion and enhance the quality of life for its residents.
Mike Heiligenstein is the Executive Director of the CTRMA. He has had a distinguished career in the industry and has represented the citizens of Central Texas by serving as an elected official for 23 years. He has led efforts to expand the area’s water and transportation infrastructure.