Most transportation discussions in Austin focus only the city and ignore the suburban communities around Austin. The Williamson County Growth Summit provides an opportunity for transit challenges to be discussed based on the needs of suburban communities in the region. The panel is comprised of prominent Texans in the transportation industry. There is Mike Heiligenstein, who is the director of Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, RideScout founder Joseph Kopser, Jared Ficklin, a designer from ArgoDesigns and Leandre Johns the Texas External Affairs Director for Uber. Participants of the event, which was held in Sheraton Georgetown Hotel, discussed technology and how it’s transforming transportation globally and in the Austin region.
Heiligenstein noted that Austin was in urgent need of investment in upgrading transportation capacity and making the roads smarter. He also pointed out that upcoming technology such as ridesharing apps and driverless cars would change transport infrastructure. He said most of these changes would have to be in suburbs such as Williamson County, which are experiencing unprecedented growth in mobility demands. He praised Williamson County for doing an excellent job in building infrastructure that was adaptable and efficient.
Alan McGraw Mayor for Round Rock emphasized that land use and building codes would need to be flexible to accommodate transit needs for future generations. He observed that autonomous vehicles would still need roads and parking spaces. He came up with an interesting idea whereby future parking spaces would only need to be one inch taller than a car. Additionally, electric cars would need charging stations within parking spaces to boost efficiency.
The CTRMA is a state level independent government agency that was created in 2002. The main aim of the agency is to improve the transportation systems in Travis and Williamson counties. CTRMA is tasked with implementing inventive transport solutions that promote economic vitality and reduce congestion. The Mobility Authority is run by a board of directors that has seven members. The Governor of Texas appoints the chairman and the two counties nominate three members each. CTRMA has a small staff and uses specialized private contractors for different projects.
Mike Heiligenstein is the current chairman of the CTRMA. He has served with the authority since its inception and has lead its first project, 183A in Williamson County. He also supervised the opening of the 290 Toll Expressway project. Prior to his appointment as chairman of CTRMA he served as public official in Williamson County for 23 years. In addition to his role at CTRMA he serves on the Board of The Texas Transportation Institute.