On December 15th, 2016, a summit was held regarding transportation issues in Williamson County, a suburb of Austin, Texas. The discussion included many transportation experts such as Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority Executive Director Mike Heiligenstein, and was based around the need for changes in transportation methods within the ever-advancing area of Austin.
The issue most discussed was how traffic could be reduced and made more efficient. Heiligenstein’s point was that, although new technologies such as driverless vehicles and ridesharing apps have, and will continue to transform transportation infrastructure, the Austin area should still be considering older forms of transit. He said that the city needs to invest in building more efficient roads to match the demands of a rapidly growing population. According to Heiligenstein, “It’s getting to a point where, the corridors we have remaining, we need to make them smarter, more efficient and more technically advanced”.
The Director also argued that there shouldn’t be too much of an emphasis on self-driving cars. According to him, the transition from autonomous to driverless cars will be slow and tedious, so an improvement on the area’s capacity for roads an busses is still needed. Heiligenstein believes this to be especially true since Austin’s fast rate of population growth will effectively nullify any increased use of mass transit. “Anything you win with a 5 percent transfer to other modes is going to beaten up by migration,” he claims, which is why he proposes an increase to twelve lanes on U.S. Highway 183 and State Highway 290.
Other members of the summit’s panel like Uber Technologies Inc. Texas External Affairs Director Leandre Johns suggested their own ideas. Johns said that commuters could use first-mile and last-mile options in accordance with public transportation, and that ridesharing companies such as Uber could provide such an option. With the opportunity to get a ride to and from mass transit, people would be more willing to use such transportation methods rather than crowding roads with their own personal vehicles. Johns said this could easily be done by creating “subsidies that help the rider and the transit agency”.