The Williamson County Growth Summit was recently held at the Sheraton Georgetown Texas Hotel. The summit brought together different stakeholders to the future of Austin’s transportation system including Mike Heiligenstein who is the Executive Director of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority and Jared Ficklin who is a product designer at ArgoDesign.
Ficklin is notable for proposing that Austin uses an aerial gondola system as an alternative means of transport. The members of the panel answered questions from the audience and lent their expertise in the transportation sector. Heiligenstein noted that self-driving cars would play a significant role in the future of transport but said that more projects would have to be built in the area. This is because the suburbs would continue to experience a ballooning population and more roads would have to be put up. Ficklin called for the updating of building and land codes. This is because of the inception of driving cars and the type of parking space and system that they will use. Current codes do not accommodate the development of these buildings. It could be a hindrance for the integration of autonomous cars in the future.
Mike Heiligenstein is also the current president of the International Bridge, Tunnel, and Turnpike Association. He is also heavily involved with numerous transportation committees. He is on the board of the transportation institute of Texas A&M. Mike worked for over 20 years as an official in Williamson County before joining the Mobility Authority.
CTRMA is based in Austin. It was started to improve the transportation system in Williamson and Travis. CTRMA developed the 183A in Williamson. It was one of the first roads to have a cashless and electronic tolling system in place. It is collaborating with other regional organizations to develop expressways in Central Texas. The authority built the 290 toll road whose capacity was three times that of the previous road and which helped to decongest other neighboring roads.
The administration is also looking to make ride sharing easier by partnering with Carma, a carpooling app. This is because there are close to a million empty seats on cars every day. They are collaborating with Metropia to develop an app that analyzes traffic data to recommend alternative routes that motorists can use. The Mobility Authority worked with the Capital Area Metropolitan Organization to start a highway response team to help motorists with car problems. This is because breakdowns are one of the biggest causes of traffic congestion and getting people going as fast as possible is a step in the right direction.