A majority of the transit discussions held at the Austin area mostly focus on it. However, a recent Williamson County Growth Summit discussed about the challenges in transportation based on the requirements of the suburban communities in the region. The panel involved in the discussion included Mike Heiligenstein, executive director Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, Joseph Kopser, founder RideScout LLC, Leandre Johns, Uber Technologies Texas external affairs director and Jared Ficklin. Jared is from ArgoDesign and is a product designer focused on transportation. Jared has proposed the construction of an aerial gondola system for the Central Austin area. The event took place at Sheraton Georgetown Texas Hotel & Conference Center. The discussion mainly focused on the changes technology is bringing to the Austin area and in the world at large.
Mike Heiligenstein noted that the new technologies like ridesharing apps and driverless vehicles will transform the transport infrastructure but Austin area will still need to invest in this sector further. Mike held the opinion that the roads in Austin area have to be developed to add to the number and make them smarter. He added that this would be the best option to satisfy the demands of the fast increasing population in the area especially in the suburbs like Williamson County.
Steps to be taken by Policymakers
Ficklin stressed on the importance of ensuring land-use and building codes remain flexible. He was responding to a question asked by Alan McGraw, the Round Rock mayor and panel moderator on how the policymakers ought to prepare to curb future transportation needs. Ficklin addressed the issue of autonomous vehicles requiring roads and parking garages. He stated that the future garages will measure five feet tall, just an inch taller than the vehicle and have multiple levels. That does not fit into any present building codes and hence the need to ensure their flexibility.
About Mike Heiligenstein
Heiligenstein is the executive director of CTRMA (Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority) in Austin, Texas. Mike has worked with the authority since it was incepted and was in charge when it completed its first development project, 183A based in Williamson County. This was the first project to change to an all-electronic cashless method of toll collection. Mike is the current International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association president and serves on the Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s advisory Board. He also works with a number of working groups and committees that deal with transportation-related issues.
CTRMA is a self-governing government agency that was incepted in 2002 to oversee the designing of a modern and regional transport network for the Central Texas area. The authority’s present and future projects are part of a well planned multi-modal transportation structure designed to satisfy the various mobility needs of a fast-growing region.