While most discussions on transit in Austin emphasize on the city, the growth summit by Williamson County provided an opportunity to edge transportation obstacles around the suburban communities’ needs. The panel comprised of the executive director of Central Texas Regional Mobility (CTRMA), Mike Heiligenstein, Uber Technologies Inc., Founder of RideScout, LLC Joseph Kopser, Jared Ficklin of ArgoDesign, and Leandre Johns, who is the Director of external affairs in Texas. At the event, their discussion based on ways technology is transforming transportation in Austin and the world.
Heiligenstein explained how emerging technologies such as ridesharing apps and driverless vehicles are radically transforming the transportation infrastructure. Based on his explanation, he gave his thoughts as to why Austin needs to put more resources in boosting its capacity in transportation, especially through increasing the capacity of roads and making them smarter. Heiligenstein insisted that more smart roads were the only way in which they would be able to meet the mobility demand of a fast increasing population.
Ficklin insisted that land-use and building codes ought to remain flexible. This was in response to the panel moderator, Mayor Alan McGraw, when he asked about the position of policymakers in preparation for the future transportation needs. Ficklin explained that the future parking garage would be 5’ tall, which will be taller than a car by just an inch. The garage will come in various levels, with a service station on one level, and a charging station on the other. Something that Ficklin highlighted not to fit in the existing building codes.
Heiligenstein maintained his cool on the idea of autonomous cars. He pointed out that the adoption rate of the driverless cars was going to be slow and tedious, and what was important at the moment was an upgrade in the capacity for buses and roads. He insisted that roads still needed more focus since Austin’s growth rate would cancel out any advancements from an increased usage of mass transport.
Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA) is a government agency that acts independently. It was started in 2002 with the goal of improving the transit system in Travis and Williamson counties. The agency’s mission is the implementation of innovative and multi-modal transit solutions that will help curb congestion and provide transportation choices capable of enhancing economic vitality and life’s quality.
CTRMA current executive director is Mike Heiligenstein. Mike also sits on the Texas A and M Transportation Advisory Board among other committees involved in transportation matters. Prior to taking the seat at CTRMA, Mike was a public official in Williamson County for over two decades.