Austin, Texas, transit discussions focus mostly on the city itself, but the recent Williamson County Growth Summit outlined transportation challenges affecting the region’s rural communities. The panel consisted of RideScout founder Joseph Kosper, Mike Heiligenstein of CTRMA, Uber’s Leandre Johns, and Jared Ficklin of ArgoDesign. Their discussion focused on the role of technology in the evolution of the transportation sector in Austin as well as globally.
Expanding the Area’s Infrastructure
Mike Heiligenstein stated that although new technologies like the driverless vehicles could wholly change transportation infrastructure, Austin still needs to invest in advancing its transportation capacity by constructing more and smarter roads.
Land-Use and Building Codes
Ficklin emphasizes that the flexibility of land use codes and building is necessary. He further states that even with the self-directed vehicles, there is still need for parking garages and roads. The future parking lot levels will be five feet tall as opposed to today. The lots will also have several levels with charging and service stations, however, such construction is presently not possible because of the existing codes.
Heiligenstein’s View on Driverless Cars
Though the idea of driverless cars was raised several times in the discussion, Mike did not share the panel’s excitement in the approach. He said that he was not confident that autonomous vehicles because their implementation would not be as quick as presently expected. Instead, it is going to be slow hence the need to still expand road capacities to accommodate more traffic.
Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority
CTRMA is a government agency that was created in 2002 with Mike Heiligenstein heading it as Executive Director. Its core purpose is to develop the transportation system in Travis and Williamson counties. It aims to reduce congestion and create transportation choices that improve the region’s quality of life and economic vivacity through the implementation of innovative multimodal transportation.
Apart from his duties at CTRMA, Mike Heiligentein also heads the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association. He is also on the Texas A&M Transportation advisory board as well as other working groups that deal with transportation matters. Mike worked for 23 years as a public officer before joining the Mobility Authority.