A panel discussion recently took place on the traffic issues that affect Austin, Texas and its surrounding communities. Among the panel members there was Mike Heiligenstein, the Executive Director of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, executives from Uber and Ridescout, and Jared Ficklin who is a product designer for ArgoDesigns. The focus of the panel was on how technology is changing transportation and ways to make use of that change in order to improve traffic flow around the region.
Heiligenstein said that, despite the existence of ridesharing apps and the upcoming release of automated cars, the focus should still be on increasing road capacities as well as having smarter roads. He said that much of the population increase in the region is occurring in the suburbs around Austin and the only way to address the needs of citizens in the area is to have more transportation capacity.
The mayor of Round Rock, Alan McGraw, commented that they needed to make building and land-use codes more accommodative of newer technologies.
The executive from Uber, Leandre Johns who serves as the company’s Texas External Affairs Director, said that the region needed first and last mile solutions developed so that people feel comfortable using mass transit. He said that Uber and other ride-sharing services can provide that service which will encourage people to leave their cars at home. He added that subsidies could be created in order to entice people to use mass transit which will greatly help reduce traffic congestion.
The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority was created in order to address transportation system improvement in the Central Texas region of Williamson and Travis counties. Their goal is to design and implement transportation solutions that reduce congestion in the counties. The Authority is headed by Mike Heiligenstein and contracts with private contractors in order to complete projects.
Heiligenstein has been an elected official in the region for over 23 years, including as both a Round Rock council member and as a Williamson County Commissioner. He has headed the Mobile Authority since it became started in 2003. Throughout his career he has been a leading voice on transportation, water, and wastewater issues that are faced in the region.