While most transit talks in Austin focus on the city itself, Williamson County Growth discussion was an opportunity to air out transportation obstacles around the needs of the region’s suburban communities.
Present in the panel was RideScout LLC founder Joseph Kopser, Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority Executive Director Mike Heiligenstein, Texas External Affairs Director Leandre Johns, ArgoDesign’s Jared Ficklin who is a transportation-focused product designer, and finally Uber Technologies Incorporated.
The event was at the Sheraton Georgetown Texas Hotel & Conference Center. Their theme of the discussion focused on how technology is changing transportation in Austin and across the globe.
Mike Heiligenstein noted that new technology like the driverless cars and Uber have radically transformed the transportation infrastructure, but Austin still needs to invest in smarter roads so as to increase its transportation capacity.
Mr. Ficklin responded to a question from the panel moderator, Mr. McGraw on what policymakers need to do to the transportation requirements of the future is to make building and land-use codes to remain flexible. Even autonomous vehicles need parking garages and roads.
While the idea of driverless cars came up several times in the discussion, Heiligenstein was reluctant on the notion of introducing driverless vehicles saying that the adoption rate was slow in his county.
He continued to say that if they don’t expand the roads, migration of people into the county will make autonomous cars useless as they will have no freeways to use. What they need is 12 lanes of traffic on Highway 183 and 129 in Austin. Learn more about Mike Heiligenstein: http://ibtta.org/sites/default/files/documents/Heiligenstein_Mike_formatted%20with%20Picture_2014.pdf
Uber’s manager also said that Austin passengers need first- and last-mile solutions so as to get them onto and off of public transport. Mr. Johns from Uber incorporated also said that people need to make options that get individuals to think that it is not hard to get someone to the bus stop because they have the first and last mile met.
This meeting was the 19th year of the Austin Business Journal’s annual Williamson County Growth Summit.
About Mike Heiligenstein
He is the Executive Director of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority. According to Crunchbase, since its birth, Mike Heiligenstein has served this organization. While in office, he has realized the firm’s growth from a startup agency to a leader in toll road operations, and the development of the road known as 183A which has video billing and electronic tolling.
About The Mobility Authority
The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA)is a government agency formed in 2002 to improve the transportation system in Travis and Williamson counties. Their mission is to reduce traffic and make transportation options that enhance economic vitality and make the quality of life better.