The Williamson County Growth Summit saw some interesting proposals for solving the traffic problems affecting Central Texas. Williamson County is one of the suburban countries surrounding the city of Texas. It is one of the counties that is seeing the most growth in the area. As the area expands the transportation needs will be under greater stress. The summit highlighted current problems, projected future trends and what could be done to reduce traffic and increase public transit ridership.
One of the proposals, which is a bit far fetched, was an aerial gondola system. It would basically be like a ski lift that would transport people from one part of the city to another above roads and buildings. This idea was proposed by Jared Ficklin, a transportation product designer who spoke at the conference. Other futuristic proposals included autonomous vehicles to transport people to and from bus stations. This is idea was pushed by Uber’s Texas external affairs representative, Leandre Johns. He argued that Uber can help increase mass transit ridership by offering people an easy solution to get to and from the bus stop from their homes.
A more realistic and practical proposal was given by Mike Heiligenstein. He argued that Williamson County must continue to make its roads smarter and more efficient. It has accommodated growth so far in the past 15 years. New growth will place additional stress on the roads that could create traffic jams. Mr. Heiligenstein also made the argument that even if mass transit ridership increased, the fact that more people would come would still lead to clogged roads if they were not improved.
One of Mike Heiligenstein’s proposals to improve mobility in Central Texas is to expand both routes 183 and 290 that lead into Austin from three lanes each to six lanes each. This should greatly increase the capacity of these roads to handle additional commuters during rush hours. Improving capacity for buses on Austin and Williamson County roads is another priority for Mike Helligenstein.
Mr. Helligenstein is the executive director of the Central Texas Mobility Authority. This is a position that holds much power over the future transportation direction of the Central Texas region. The Central Texas Mobility Authority plans and implements infrastructure projects in the region. They are responsible for building and maintaining mass transit, roadways, highways and tunnels in the area. Mike Heiligenstein has been with the CTMA since 2003.