Most transit conferences in Austin are usually focused on the major city. However, the Williamson County Growth Summit was used as a platform to discuss the suburbs of the region. Among the panelists was Mike Heiligenstein, Executive Director of Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, Leandre Johns, the Director of Uber Technologies Inc.Texas External Affairs, Jared Ficklin, a transportation designer, and Joseph Kopser, the founder of RideScout LLC.
The discussion took place at the Sheraton Georgetown Hotel. It focused on the impact of technology on the transportation sector in the Austin area and globally. Heiligenstein noted that technology such as ridesharing apps and driverless vehicles would have an impact on the transport infrastructure. However, he noted there was still need to improve the capacity of transport infrastructure such as by building smart roads. It was the only way to keep up with the growing mobility needs of the residents of Williamson County.
Mike noted that Williamson County had done a lot to improve its roads in the past 15 years. However, these efforts were being outpaced by the current influx of people into the county. The solution, according to Mike, does not only lies in building more roads but also making the existing ones smarter and more efficient.
Additionally, Ficklin contributed to the discussion by talking about building and land codes. According to him, there is a need to keep these codes flexible. For instance, he talked about the future of parking garages. In his explanation, he explained that there are no building codes that accompany the design of garages that would be used for the cars of the future.
Mike Heiligenstein and the Mobility Authority
Mike is the Executive Director of Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority. The authority is contracted by Williamson and Travis counties to come up with solutions for traffic problems in the area. Some of the solutions they have incorporated include building fiber optic cables into the roads. They anticipate a day in which smart cars will be able to communicate with the infrastructure. For instance, if a vehicle is in the wrong lane a message can be sent to it.
The authority also builds toll roads as a way to increase the road capacity in the region. Other solutions that it has created include a highway emergency response unit. It patrols roads where there are major issues of congestion. By helping to get cars off the roads, it reduces congestion caused by car breakdowns.