The future of the Austin regional transportation network was the hot topic at the Williamson County Growth Summit hosted by the Austin Business Journal. City planners, technology leaders and designers converged at the Sheraton Georgetown Texas Hotel & Conference Center.
Central Texas is facing the challenges of population growth, migration and strained infrastructure. The panel came together to discuss the influence of technology on these issues and city planning in general.
The panelists included Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority Executive Director Mike Heiligenstein, Texas External Affairs Director for Uber Leandre Johns, RideScout founder Joseph Kopser and ArgoDesign’s Jared Ficklin. The moderator was mayor of Round Rock Alan McGraw.
The panel agreed that technology was shaping human behavior and urban planning. However, technology was not the only solution. Existing infrastructure had to be improved to handle present needs.
Building codes and future road designs need to be analyzed and changed to accommodate riderless cars and new ride-sharing services like Uber. Roads must be built with the capability to interact with autonomous vehicles. Parking lots and toll stations need modifications to accept these vehicles.
Heiligenstein emphasized that planning should not ignore the limitations of today. He stated, “Williamson has done such an amazing job of structuring its infrastructure over the past 15 years or so. But you are still going to have more people coming here. Try building those roads. Try expanding those capacities. It’s getting to a point where, the corridors we have remaining, we need to make them smarter, more efficient and more technically advanced.”
Mike Heiligenstein is the first and current Executive Director of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority. He is committed to the ongoing development of a modern, multi-modal transportation system. He is a member of the advisory board of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. He was a public official for 23 years prior to joining CTRMA.
Created in 2002, the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority was given the mission to develop and modernize the central Texas transport network. By state law, the authority may implement airports, roadways, highways and all other transport services. It created the Highway Emergency Response Operator (HERO) program to provide free roadside assistance to stranded motorists and damaged vehicles. Working with application designer Metropia, CTRMA created a mobile application that provided faster, alternative real-time routing for commuters.