SXSW Transit Tips

SXSW is in full swing. Capital Metro has added service on several bus routes and MetroRail, too, to help people get around. Here’s what you need to know:

First, bookmark  Maps, detours, schedules, etc.–it’s all there.

If you like printed-out stuff, here’s a handy downtown transit map showing detours through downtown and the special rail schedules.


Lots of streets are closed. Take a look at the city’s handy interactive map showing street closures. Most  of Capital Metro’s local bus service is detouring through downtown. Most routes will be detoured off of Congress Ave and available at 8 key stops on Guadalupe and Lavaca. Check out this map:

Because many bus routes are detoured away from Congress Ave., about 50 bus stops are closed. Look for the bright pink T-shirts covering the bus stop poles. There are signs at each closed bus stop, too, that will tell you where the nearest open bus stop is for your route.

The eight “super” stops on Lavaca/Guadalupe are marked with a bright green flag that says “Open Stop.”

Getting Schedule Info on the Go

Hey check it out, every bus stop has a unique stop ID. With a cell phone and this ID number, you can get specific next scheduled bus info for that stop.

MetroRail Schedules

MetroRail has expanded hours today and next Saturday, 10 a.m. through midnight. During the week next week, MetroRail daytime frequency will nearly double. Expect a train every 34 minutes, all day.

Full Trains? Full Buses?

As we move into the music portion of SXSW, trains and buses will likely be full. Have a backup plan if you encounter a full bus or train. Signs on each train station will point you to nearby bus service.

Riding with a bike? When trains are full, bikes are limited to 4 per compartment (8 total per train). All Capital Metro buses have a bike rack that holds 2 bikes each.

Late Night Riding

If you’re staying out past midnight, our late night bus service may be just the ticket. Six nights a week, catch a Night Owl to/from 6th and Congress and neighborhoods throughout town, from midnight through 3 a.m. On Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, you can also ride one of three E-bus routes, which begin service at 8:30 p.m. and run until about 3 a.m. Get late night travel details here.

THERE IS NO LATE NIGHT SERVICE ON SUNDAYS! You’ll need to make other arrangements on Sunday nights, folks.

Here’s a tip for evening riders: use your cell phone to help flag the bus down. A coworker told me about this tip, which works great especially if it’s not well lit at your bus stop, or you are wearing dark colored clothing. Turn your cell phone on and use that to signal the approaching bus.

Additional Resources

City of Austin City Stage 

Austin Chronicle SXSW Travel Tips

Navigating SXSW with Capital Metro

Since moving to Austin in 2008, I have become well aware of the problems that face our city. To me, public transportation will be the the most important factor in determining Austin’s ability to adapt to future changes. In the past year, I have been helping the MetroAmbassadors and the Alliance for Public Transportation educate and engage the public on local transportation issues.

With the endless lines of people on the road and at events during SXSW this past week, Austin began to resemble a theme park more than an actual city. This year, I have noticed that more people left Austin’s famous music, film and interactive technology conference with a Texas-sized traffic hangover than ever before. My quest was to gain a street-level perspective into how people overcame this massive transportation headache. Whether people were using a “bus, bike and brains” method or taking advantage of the MetroRail’s extended weekend service hours, public transit seemed to be the most effective way to get around.

Evan Olsen at the Austin Convention Center

One person I ran into outside of the Austin Convention Center was Evan Olsen, an ACC film student and frequent MetroRail rider. He uses a bike and rail combo to extend his reach beyond a normal walking distance.

“I use the MetroRail to get from the Lakeline Station to Downtown. It’s really nice having the late night services for SXSW. There’s a lot of drinking going on this week, so it’s good for those people to have a safe form of transportation.”

Hear more about Evan’s story:

Preliminary ridership numbers show that many people took full advantage of the MetroRail’s extended Friday and Saturday night services. In fact, the only real concern I received about the service extension is that people want more of it; especially on weekday nights.

Deanna Cluck and a friend at the Downtown MetroRail Station

Among the chorus of people saying “we want more” was Deanna Cluck. Deanna, a North Austin resident and SXSW volunteer who had to trade in a MetroRail pass for her keys during the weekdays, said that “it would be great if the train was running late during weekdays.”

Hear what else Deanna had to say:

When it comes down to it, Austin’s transportation network is already hard pressed to keep up with local demand. Taking on the +200,000 SXSW visitors last week only made this problem more apparent. By the end of the week, many people (including me) decided to stay home in order to save their sanity from the onslaught of people, cars and trash. Some bloggers have even claimed that SXSW has grown too large for Austin. I am not so sure that is the case. Austin is, in many ways, at a crossroads from being just a small state capital to becoming a key global economic power. The increasingly complex problems that come with rapid change need increasingly complex and innovative solutions. Capital Metro, in conjunction with the City of Austin, could invest in a number of transit solutions that would alleviate downtown traffic and ensure the future success of SXSW events. SXSW has always been a breeding ground for innovation in music, film and technology. With a little creativity, dedication and skill–attributes that exemplify the SXSW spirit–public transportation can surely be added to the growing list of industries that benefit from our great festival.

Announcing: MetroRail Friday evening and special event service dates

Editor’s note: This post has been updated to reflect that actual frequencies for most of the Saturday trains will be about 35 minutes.

So far, just about everyone who’s tried the MetroRail Red Line has really liked it. The ride is comfortable, reliable, and congestion-free. There’s interesting scenery and free wi-fi too.  As of last week, we’ve begun running midday service  and to a degree expanded the “market” we serve  beyond those  peak period commuters.  But we want to do more.

And we will. While funding limitations constrained the FY ’11 budget, our board of directors did have the foresight to include some trial service, namely four Fridays of extended evening service and three “special event” weekend service days. We’ve been evaluating how and when to best deliver this service, factoring in things like coordination with our freight rail operations, ensuring compliance with Federal Rail Administration requirements, ridership potential, and timing (we want to be able to evaluate the results and factor them into our FY 2012 budget development process which begins late Spring). And very importantly we wanted to give the community a chance to provide input, which we did over a few weeks via an online poll. As with other service adjustments, staff takes all the various factors into account and then makes a recommendation to the board.

We’re excited to announce our recommendation here at Capital Metroblog, and it’s as follows:

Friday Evening Extended Hours– every Friday in March (March 4, 11, 18 and 25) we’ll extend MetroRail service into the evening hours, with service running every 70 minutes from the Leander Station to the Downtown Station, and the last trip scheduled to depart the Downtown Station at 11:30 p.m. While we know that this is not as late as some might like, it will offer a broad range of the community the opportunity to try MetroRail to visit downtown or one of the other station areas outside of the typical commute period.

Special Event Service– All day service is slated to operate on the following days: March 12 and March 19 (take the train to SXSW!); and May 7 (take the train to the Pecan Street Festival!). March 19 and May 7 were both popular choices in the poll; March 12 was added to the planning discussion after the poll ended so that we could offer Friday evening and all day Saturday service for both weekends of SXSW. To provide more frequent service  and more people-carrying capacity on what we hope will be very busy weekends, we’re proposing to operate between Lakeline Station and the Downtown Station only. The reason for this approach is that it allows us to provide a train every 35 minutes for most of the day. If we were to operate all the way to Leander, due to track and train constraints, service levels could not run as often and capacity would be reduced.

Continue reading “Announcing: MetroRail Friday evening and special event service dates”