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When it comes to getting around Austin during SXSW, options abound. Movability Austin staff tell their stories to show how stress-free SXSW can be with extended transit service and a combination of other options that work in concert with the bus and train. Here are the strategies each used to get around for work and fun without wasting time in traffic jams.
This year I got to experience SXSW as both a commuter working during the festival and as a participant in some of the activities. Transit was my core mode during SXSW. I would start the day headed into work on the MetroRapid bus. It was minimally affected by the traffic, and even if we got stuck in a jam, I could catch up on emails the whole time. After work, I was a pedestrian – in the thick of the festival, only your own two feet or two wheels could safely navigate the people, traffic, pop-up art installments, barricades, and long lines outside of venues.
I did hop in a car a few times during the festival – but it was never my own car! I used the Carma Carpool app, and hitched rides with family and friends. My other car during SXSW was a car2go, which was a great way to get downtown thanks to several valet “drop zones” set up for SXSW.
With extended late-night service, and even free rides on the second weekend, transit was a great and reasonably-priced choice for a safe ride home. Real-time arrival made it an even more feasible option – I have to admit that my favorite bus stop is right outside the Ginger Man pub, where I can finish my beer before running out to catch the bus at exactly the right moment!
There wasn’t just one mode or service that I relied on during SXSW. Instead, I used my smartphone and an options-savvy sense of adventure.
There are plenty of ways to get to work during SXSW without being impacted by the additional traffic, and I was one of many in Austin who chose telecommuting. Downtown meetings were handled over the phone, and it was nice to know that I wasn’t wasting any time during the workday sitting in traffic.
When it was time to venture out, taking the bus was a no-brainer for our whole family. My 5-year old and I took the #803 to Republic Square Park to check out the light garden, and it was easy to walk to our stops, use the real-time information to see when the bus was coming, and watch the sights go by as we rode downtown and then back home. My husband, who was covering some of the musical acts for the Austin Chronicle, also took advantage of the #803’s extended schedule to get to the downtown shows he needed to see and back safely.
On most days, I commuted downtown on the #3 or the #803 bus. From there, walking or using Austin B-Cycle are the easiest ways to get to around, especially in the midst of street closures and people walking everywhere during SXSW.
My bus trips are usually predictable: people quietly reading, typing emails, or watching the city go by. Sometimes riders break up the routine: a father and his young daughter occasionally ride this route, and it’s always interesting to hear her stream of questions and observations.
Without fail, though, the most interesting rides happen during SXSW, when groups of people visiting from all over the world intersect on the bus for just a few moments. This year, I ended up sitting across from a German couple during one of my SXSW afternoon rides. They were trying to match landmarks they’d seen with the route map. I asked if I could help, and after a minute of discussion we figured out which stop they were looking for. Another reason to love bus travel –you never know who you’ll meet!