Most people in Austin talk of transit in terms of the city itself but during the Williamson County Growth Summit held on Thursday, more was discussed on the transportation challenges faced by suburban communities in the region. Among the people included in the panel was Mike Heiligenstein, the executive director of Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, founder of RideScout LLC, Representatives from Uber Technologies, the External Affairs Director for Texas, Leandre Johns and Jared Ficklin from ArgoDesign. The event was held at Sheraton Georgetown Texas Hotel & Conference Center.

Heiligenstein embraced the benefits that come with new technologies in the transport industry such as ride sharing apps but noted that investment in the growth of transportation capacity in terms of more and smarter roads would improve transit in Austin. He added that such an investment would help serve the increasing population adequately in the suburbs of Williamson County.

Alan McGraw, the Mayor of Round Rock, said that policymakers are supposed to be prepared to meet transportation needs in the future. Jared Ficklin insisted that it is essential for the building and land-use codes to be always flexible. He argued that every driver even if using an autonomous vehicle will always require a parking, a garage and the road, thus the need to have flexible services that are useful even in the future.

Even if Heiligenstein agrees with the idea of driver less cars, he still emphasized on improving on road capacity first because either way the adoption rate of the autonomous vehicles will be slow and tedious. He says that a strong focus on the road is what is required because improvements in other areas will end being nullified by Austin’s population growth rate.

Uber representative, Mr. John commented that Austin requires a first and last mile solution to encourage people to use public transit. He added that ride-sharing companies such as Uber could be of help because people will not have to walk to fro the bus stop.

About Mike Heiligenstein

Mike Heiligenstein serves the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority as the Executive Director. The mobility authority is an autonomous government agency which was created in 2002 to prepare a modern regional transportation system for Central Texas. The authority’s projects are designed in a way to help meet the different transportation needs in the region.

Mike Heiligenstein has worked with the authority since 2002 and was able to oversee 183A project in Williamson County as their first project aimed at transitioning the country towards cashless toll collections. Mike previously worked as a public official for about 23 years before joining the authority. He is the president of International Bridge and also serves different advisory committees and boards such as Texas A&M Transportation Institute.