Mike Heiligenstein And The CTRMA Plan To Meet The Transportation Future Head-On

With the future of transportation issues looming overhead, the typical discussions about Austin itself have taken a backseat to concerns about the overall Austin area in the latest Williamson County Growth Summit. This December 2016 discussion focused on the transportation challenges and needs of the entire region, particularly Austin’s suburban communities.

 

 

The discussion’s panel included many experts like Uber Technologies’ Leandre Johns, RideScout founder Joseph Kopser, ArgoDesign’s Jared Ficklin, and Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority’s (CTRMA) Executive Director Mike Heiligenstein. The discussion, which was held at the Sheraton Georgetown Texas Hotel & Conference Center, focused on how technology has been and will be changed the transportation industry in not only the Austin area, but all over the world.

 

 

Mike Heiligenstein led the discussion, pointing out that even though new technologies could transform transportation (like driverless vehicles and ridesharing apps), the area still must focus on the immediate issue at hand by investing in transportation growth. He believes that the area must focus on growing its capacity and build more roads, in addition to smarter roads. The best way to serve transportation demands is to focus on where the population is growing the fastest- the city’s suburbs. While Heiligenstein believes that the county has done an amazing job thus far of structuring transportation, they still must meet the needs of the future population by building smart, more efficient roads.

 

 

When Mayor of Round Rock Alan McGraw asked the panel a question regarding what policymakers must do to prepare for the future’s transportation needs, Jared Ficklin from ArgoDesign had a few ideas. According to Ficklin, policymakers’ most important job will be to keep building and land-use codes flexible. He used driverless cars as an example, stating that the parking garages of the future will only need to be five feet tall and will need to have charging stations on each level. Those specifics do not currently fit into any building code, meaning that policymakers must keep their minds open to the flexibility of the future.

 

 

While Mike Heiligenstein agrees with flexibility being a necessity of the future, he believes Austin and the county still need to focus on roads. With the rate of growth they are experiencing, any current transportation work is being nullified, so they need to find a way to create smarter, efficient roads.

 

 

The CTRMA is an independently-run government agency that was founded in 2002 to help improve transportation systems within Williamson and Travis counties. Mike Heiligenstein is the Executive Director of the CTRMA and has been a representative of Central Texas citizens for over two decades. His work has helped many community infrastructures, expanding wastewater, water, and transportation infrastructure within the area.

Follow him @mheiligenstein

Austin Transport Problems

In the 19th annual Williamson County Growth Summit, experts offered solutions to the county biggest issue of traffic. The event was held at the Sheraton Georgetown Texas Hotel & Conference Center, and the main agenda was how technology is evolving and changing the way of life globally and particularly affecting the transportation sector. In the discussion panel was Mike Heiligenstein the Executive Director of Central Texas Region Mobility Authority, Joseph Kopser founder of RideScout LLC, Leandre Johns the Director of Texas External Affairs, and Jared Ficklin of Agro Designs.

Heilligenstein was able to point out the current problem in Austin regarding Traffic. The first thing he was keen to admit that Austin lacked the capacity, the population growth especially in Williamson suburbs further straining the existing road capacity, there is the immigration of people to Williamson that is continuous, the land-use codes and building codes need flexibility, the adoption rate of autonomous vehicles process being slow and tedious.

His suggestions and solution to those problems were particularly very interesting. On matters regarding capacity, Heiligenstein insisted that smarter roads were needed thus investment in this sector was crucial. He appreciated the current efforts being made to deal with the issue, such a ridesharing apps, and other technological advancements such as driverless vehicles that were transforming transport infrastructure. The road building would also solve the mobility problems of the rising population especially in the suburbs of Williamson.

The migration of people to Williamson would not be stopped as they keep coming for over 15 years, and for those 15 years the infrastructure has grown and has been restructured, but the population keeps growing. The only way out is more efficient, smarter and more technically advanced roads as well as the remaining corridors.

Alan McGraw the Round Rock Mayor, a panel moderator at the summit, was concerned about policymakers preparations for the future transportation needs. Heilligenstein insisted that the land-use codes, as well as building codes, had to remain flexible to deal with such future needs. He insisted that despite efforts to incorporate autonomous vehicles being made the process was to slow for him and instead that the main focus should be on road infrastructure improvement.

Heilligensten has a distinguished career in the development of infrastructure in Central Texas and is currently serving as the Executive Director of Central Texas Region Mobility Authority. He has put efforts in expanding water, waste water, and transport infrastructure. The region Mobility Authority is a government agency started in 2002 to improve the transportation systems in Williamson and Travis Counties.

Follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter