Most discussions about the challenges facing Austin’s transit system center only around the city. However, the 19thedition of the Williamson County Growth Summit, held in latter part of 2016, expanded this focus to the region’s surrounding suburbs. The recent round of discussions concentrated on how transportation in the region is being transformed by the increased integration of technological advances.

Members of the summit’s panel included Mike Heiligenstein, Executive Director of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority; Joseph Kosper, founder of RideScout LLC; Leandre Johns, Director of Extent Affairs at Uber Technologies Inc, Texas; and Jared Ficklin from ArgoDesign, which focuses on designing an aerial transportation system for the Central Texas region.

According to Crunchbase, Mike Heiligenstein noted that, while technologies like rideshare apps have the potential to revolutionize transport infrastructure, Austin must still solely focus on expanding its capacity in order to serve the rapidly expanding population’s needs adequately. He suggests that one way in which this can be done is by constructing more roads and making both the new and existing corridors smarter and more efficient.

Ficklin emphasized that policymakers can help provide adequate infrastructure by preserving the flexibility of building and land use codes. This is because, no matter how advanced vehicles become, cities will still need support infrastructures like roads and parking garages.

Heiligenstein supported this by noting that, because the uptake of new technologies like driverless vehicles is quite slow, there is still a need for better roads and bigger buses. Mike Heiligenstein is in a unique position to offer innovative, expert insight into Austin’s transit challenges. He currently runs the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, an autonomous government department mandated with improving the Williamson and Travis County transit systems.

A great example of this innovation in action is the MoPac Express Lanes, currently under development. Variable tolling integrating advanced technology has been integrated to improve the flow of traffic. The bureau works towards reducing congestion and develop multimodal transportation solutions that enhance economic growth and overall quality of life.

Johns emphasized that Austin’s commuters require both first and last mile solutions in order to increase the use of public transit. He argued that rideshare companies – like Uber – perfectly fit the bill. He explained that in this way, public-private organization partnerships could be utilized to solve the traffic congestion problem in Austin and its surrounding suburbs.

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