The annual Williamson County Growth Summit was held last December at the Sheraton Georgetown Texas Hotel. The main topic of discussion at the summit was how the county would meet the transportation needs of the residents in the suburbs. The summit featured a panel of professionals in the transportation sector including Jared Ficklin who is a product designer at ArgoDesign, Mike Heiligenstein who is the Executive Director at CTRMA, and Leandre Johns who is the Texas External Affairs Director of Uber. The mayor of Round Rock Alan McGraw was the moderator of the panel.
Heiligenstein said that he was aware of the impact that autonomous cars would have. He cautioned against depending on them since the adoption rate was very slow. He stated that the suburbs would experience an influx of residents in coming years and the need to improve the capacity of the roads was high. He also called for the development of smart roads which would help to improve the driving experience.
Johns mentioned that ride-sharing apps such as Uber would deliver first and last-mile solutions for commuters. These apps could help people reach their destinations by covering the limitations of public transit. Ficklin advised policymakers to amend the building and land codes so as to ease the adoption of autonomous cars. This is because the parking garages for autonomous cars would be very different.
Mike Heiligenstein has served as the Executive Director of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority since it was founded in 2002. He worked as a public official in Williamson County for more than two decades before joining the authority. Mike Heiligenstein is currently the president of the International Bridge, Tunnel, and Turnpike Association. The authority was started to design and implement innovative transportation solutions in Williamson and Travis counties.
CTRMA developed the 183A road in Williamson County which was one of the first roads to incorporate an electronic tolling system. They also partnered with Metropia to develop a mobile app that recommends alternative routes to motorists. The app is integrated with the traffic system in the region. It analyses data to show which other roads commuters can use. There are approximately one million empty seats on cars in Austin each day. The authority realized that filling these seats would help in decongestion. That is why they partnered with Carma (a ride-sharing app) to encourage more people to carpool.