Policymakers, community organizations, and industry leaders gathered at the Freeman Coliseum Expo Hall on Sunday to kick off the fourth annual Texas Mobility Summit, a forum aimed at developing collaborative solutions to the most pressing mobility challenges the state faces in the coming decades.
This year’s summit is hosted by the Texas Innovation Alliance in partnership with the City of San Antonio, VIA Metropolitan Transit, Bexar County, and Southwest Research Institute. It runs through Nov. 19 at the Hilton Palacio Del Rio and will focus on how partners can work together to make all modes of transportation safe and effective for Texas residents.
“The diversity of people in this room, from policymakers, researchers, to industry leaders represents how people in the transportation industry have to all come together to make a difference and prepare for the future of transportation,” said Kristie Chin, director of civic innovation for the Texas Innovation Alliance, a network of organizations working to address community mobility challenges.
Over the next two days, conversations at the summit will include the state of mobility in Texas, how policy changes can help and hinder development, and how to develop strategies and community outreach projects that might address the needs of changing cities. More information about the summit schedule can be found here.
“What we want to do is think critically about this socio-technical window of opportunity by working together,” said Greg Griffin, assistant professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Texas at San Antonio. “We want to focus energy on how transportation technologies can support a better life for your children” and how people who are struggling might experience life differently thanks to technological innovation, he said.
Brian Dillard, the City of San Antonio’s chief innovation officer, told the crowd of nearly 70 that the intention for the next three days of conversation is to talk about how transportation organizations and local governments can continue to focus on being community-driven.
“In San Antonio, we talk a lot about equity and how we can continue to have conversations about not just how to design smart cities from a [technical perspective], but also from the perspectives of those who are utilizing the services,” Dillard said.
Just outside the doors of the Freeman Coliseum, Lime scooters and a self-driving truck designed by Kodiak Robotics are parked to give forum-goers insights into how these transportation methods will enhance the future of local transportation. Inside the coliseum, organizations with virtual reality simulators show what “complete streets” might look like in the future and calculate and predict scooter traffic based on operator information.
Covering the table of the Ride Report, which handles micromobility data for cities and operators, was an assortment of Lego people with Lego scooters and stickers of bikes. Jess Stetson, the company’s head of growth, told the Rivard Report the items are meant to symbolize the essence of the mobility summit.
“When you pull different people together and have them look at transportation in a different way, you get to see how opposing sides of the conversations are truly like Legos: If we listen to each other we will always build something positive in the end,” Stetson said. “These conferences offer a chance for people on opposing sides to be heard, and it allows you to think of problems and potential solutions in a different way.”