Most discussions about traffic problems in the Austin area tend to focus solely on the city. However, the recent Williamson County Growth Summit provided a forum to discuss transportation issues in the suburbs.
Among the experts was Mike Heiligenstein, Executive Director of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority; Leandre Johns, Texas Eternal Affairs Director for Uber Technologies Inc.; Joseph Kopser, the founder of RideScout LLC; and Jared Ficklin, a designer from ArgoDesign. The discussion occurred at Sheraton Georgetown Texas Hotel & Conference Center, was focused on the impact of technology on transportation.
Heiligenstein said that technology needed to be combined with increasing the capacity of infrastructure. This would result in smarter roads, which according to him, was the way to meet the demands of the growing population in the suburbs.
Ficklin said that land use codes needed to be kept flexible, in response to a question from Round Rock Mayor, Alan McGraw, the moderator. According to him, even with autonomous vehicles, roads and parking garages would still be needed. However, he said that parking garages would be radically different from how they look today. Thus, there is a need to keep land use codes adaptable to the future infrastructure.
Heiligenstein was, however, not optimistic about the future of driverless cars. For one, he thought that the adoption rate of such technology was going to be quite slow. He said that the growing population would nullify any improvements to existing roads. Thus, there was a need for more roads.
Johns from Uber also contributed to the discussion. He said that first and last miles capabilities from firms such as Uber were essential for the increased use of public transportation. If people had the first and last mile taken care of, it would increase use of public means, according to him.
About Mike Heiligenstein and the Mobility Authority
Mike is the Executive of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority. Its goal is to come up with the plans for a modern transportation network to serve the people of Central Texas. Mike has worked at the mobility authority since its founding. He oversaw the development of its first project, the 183A, a cashless toll collection point.
Mike is on the advisory board of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. He is also the President of the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association. He has been working as a public official for the citizens of Williamson County for 23 years.