The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, headed by Mike Heiligenstein, is once again looking to the future of Austin transportation. The agency’s goal is to provide innovative and smart transportation that can relieve traffic and enhance the quality of life for the citizens of Williamson County. They have already done so in countless ways. These include implementing variable tolling rates, working with new apps such as Carma to incentivize carpooling, and building one of the first toll roads in the country to have an automated, cashless system. On Thursday, December 15th Mr. Heiligenstein was accompanied by an all-star panel at the Williamson County Growth Summitt to discuss the region’s suburban communities and their most adamant transportation needs. Among the panel were Leandre Johns of Uber Technologies Inc., Joseph Kopser of Ridescout LLC.,and Jared Ficklin of ArgoDesign. The discussion was much simpler than the agency’s past endeavors and hinged on two primary solutions: Building more roads and encouraging public transportation.
Mr. Heiligenstein hails that the city of Austin needs to “build more and smarter roads”. Building more highways will need to happen in order to keep up with the growing population. However, building them isn’t the only issue. He claims, “…we need to make them smarter, more efficient and more technically advanced.” Although driverless vehicles was a popular topic of discussion, Mr. Heiligenstein emphasized that the technology still has a long way to come before if can be woven into the city’s infrastructure. What can government officials do to assist these efforts? According to Mr. Ficklin, maintaining malleable building and land codes is key. With new technologies and trends being invented every day,the agency’s ability to adapt is important.
The latest goal of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority is to to get people in the suburbs to use public transportation methods. “The percentage of drivers who drive alone in Austin equates to 900,000 empty car seats a day,” states Mr. Heiligenstein. Even if the closest bus or train station is a mile from their home, companies like Uber can help with those minor distances to and from the station. This helps keep the majority of vehicles from stopping up major highways and roads.