Ways in which technology is transforming the face of transportation in the Austin region and across the world took center stage at the Williamson County Growth Summit. The 19th Austin Business Journal’s annual event was held at Sheraton Georgetown Texas Hotel & Conference Center. The panel discussion was composed of Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority Executive Director, Mike Heiligenstein, Uber Technologies Inc. Texas External Affairs Director Leandre Johns and RideScout LLC founder Joseph Kopser. Also in attendance was Jared Ficklin, a transportation products designer with ArgoDesign who has suggested an aerial gondola system for Central Austin.
Speaking at the event, ArgoDesign’s Jared Ficklin emphasized that buildings and land use codes need to remain flexible to cater for future transportation needs. Ficklin pointed out that with the emergence of autonomous vehicles, there will be a need for parking garages of the future.
Uber’s Leandre Johns noted that commuters in the Austin region needed a first- and last-mile solution to complement the available public transport. Ridesharing companies like Uber were bridging this gap by offering commuter services to get passengers on and off public transit. Johns added that these businesses could work together to create subsidies which will help the rider and the transit agency.
While noting that new technologies like driverless vehicles and ride sharing apps could dramatically change transportation infrastructure, Heiligenstein emphasized that the Austin area needs to invest more in growing its transportation capacity through the introduction of smarter roads. He commended Williamson for its great work in structuring its infrastructure and called for an expansion of the available capabilities to cater for more people. Heiligenstein called for the remaining corridors to be made smarter, more efficient and technically advanced.
The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA) is a government authority created in 2002. The Authority works independently to design a modern, regional transportation network in Williamson and Travis counties. The Mobility Authority is managed by a board of directors composed of seven members. The chairman is appointed by the Governor while the Williamson and Travis counties Commissioners Courts appoints three members each to the board.
Mike Heiligenstein is an expert in transportation issues; his other board services include International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association where he serves as the president. Before being appointed to the Mobility Authority, Mike Heiligenstein served as a public officer in Williamson County for over two decades.