The Williamson County Growth Summit presented an avenue where transportation stakeholders could relay infrastructural challenges about the needs of the suburban communities. The summit comprised of a panel of stakeholders including Mike Heiligenstein, CTRMA’s Executive Director; Jared Ficklin of ArgoDesign; Leandre Johns from Uber Technologies; and Joseph Kopser, head of RideScout LLC. The Sheraton Georgetown Texas Hotel and Conference Center hosted the summit.
During the discussions, Heiligenstein agreed to the notion that groundbreaking technology, such as ridesharing apps or the driverless cars, were quickly transforming the transportation sector. Williamson County’s suburbs have experienced rapid population growth which in turn led to high mobility demands. Heiligenstein advised that the Austin area needed to focus its resources on developing capacities through constructing smarter roads.
The discussion shifted towards policies specifically on how policymakers should strategize in the preparation of future transportation needs. Mr. McGraw, the Round Rock Mayor, responded by first commending Williamson County for their efforts in revolutionizing its transport sector since the past decade. He, however, stated that the population would continue to increase, and advised that the region should build more roads to expand its capacities. The Mayor cited that the corridors needed to be made efficient, smarter, and technically advanced.
Responding to the same question on policies, Mr. Ficklin insisted that it was important that land-use and building codes remain flexible. He tried to extrapolate on the future parking trends where he cited that future garages would contain levels that were five feet high, merely an inch taller than cars. The garages would provide multiple layers with individual charging stations. Mr. Ficklin hammered his point down by illustrating that all these specifications did not marry with any of the current building regulations, hence the need for flexibility.
Uber’s Leandre Johns identified the need for an end to end public transit solution for Austin region commuters. He continued that ridesharing companies can adequately provide transit for people looking to get to and fro the area’s public transit systems.
Mike Heiligenstein and CTRMA
Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA) was launched in 2002 as an independent government agency. It is headed by Mike Heiligenstein who has been with the mobility authority from day one. The aim of its creation was to better the transport systems in Travis and Williamson counties. The Authority’s mission is to enhance the region’s economic strength and quality of life through a variety of innovative transport solutions that will help reduce congestion and increase choices.