Recent talks at the Williamson County Growth Summit have turned the focus of transportation off of Austin itself and onto the city’s suburban communities. The panel at these discussions included ArgoDesign’s Jared Ficklin, RideScout LLC founder Joseph Kopser, Uber Technologies’ External Affairs Director Leandre Johns, and Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA) Executive Director Mike Heiligenstein.
The discussions between the panelists focused mainly on how technology is currently changing the world of transportation and how the Austin area needs to address the changes. Mike Heiligenstein of the CTRMA focused his point on the area’s need to meet mobility demands by growing its transportation capacity. While new technologies are on the horizon, Mike Heiligenstein believes that they still need to address the current transportation issues by building more, smarter roads.
When Round Rock Mayor Alan McGraw asked the panel a question regarding policymakers and what they need to do, Jared Ficklin from ArgoDesign stepped in. Ficklin believes that policymakers must stay flexible in the future to meet the needs of the transportation future. When autonomous vehicles become more popular, parking garages may only need to be five feet tall with charging stations on each level. Since there are no current building codes to fit that, Ficklin believes that policymakers must be flexible to address these necessary changes.
Mike Heiligenstein agrees with the future needs regarding transportation, but still believes that topic is a moot discussion if they cannot address the issues of now. With the population increasing dramatically, the area needs to improve their capacity for roads and buses. Leandre Johns from Uber also pointed out the needs of commuters within the region, by stating that commuters need flexible transit and ridesharing apps and company can help address that.
The CTRMA was created in 2002 and is an independent agency that was formed to improve the transportation systems within Travis and Williamson counties in Texas. The mission of the CTRMA is to create innovative transportation solutions that will help reduce congestion and create more choices within the transportation system.
Mike Heiligenstein is the Executive Director of the CTRMA, but has been working as an elected official of Williamson County for more than twenty years. He has personally helped lead the efforts to expand wastewater, transportation, and water infrastructures within the county. He chaired the Clean Air Force that assisted many other initiatives and sat on the Austin-San Antonio Corridor Council.