This spring, Movability is hosting Austin’s first-ever multi-modal, rush hour street race: The Austin Rush Race. No, there will not be any F1 vehicles involved, but we will be exploring Austin’s diverse, and growing, commute options. If you keep up with our newsletter, you’ll remember when we covered the Boston Rush Hour Race earlier this year, and how we were so inspired that we wanted to see it happen in Austin.
Remember, though, a good racer always knows the course and runs a few laps to get the feel for the twists and turns. As a pre-race test last week, Reese, our new communications coordinator, got firsthand experience walking, biking, and busing for the same trip. The same actions take place in three different sequences with three different outcomes. Sort of our version of the movie Run, Lola Run.
The Scenario: It’s Friday, 4:30pm, and Reese just got out of class at ACC Rio Grande. SXSW is hosting a panel on social media, or maybe provide a glimpse into the future of space travel, like it did with Elon Musk last year. The panel starts at 6pm and Reese has to get across downtown in the midst of rush hour traffic. He also has to accomplish one task on-line (like submitting a final paper) by 5:00 pm and make one stop on the way.
Here’s what Reese reported back on his trifecta of trips:
Trip #1: Walk, Reese, Walk
I really need to be at the convention center by 5:30 to get a decent seat at the panel. That gives me 30 minutes to find an internet connection, finalize edits on my paper and get it sent off to my professor before by 5pm. Google maps tells me it will take approximately 40 minutes to get to the convention center and I only have 30 minutes to get there for my “decent seat.”
I quickly consider using a car2go, but with the way traffic is at the moment, I can’t imagine getting behind the wheel.
I decide to take 13th towards the Capital building. I discover that it’s a really beautiful walk. I get a call from my girlfriend in front of the Capital, a DPS officer is laughing at the ensuing conversation. I check my cell and see the time. It’s 4:40pm, I got distracted too long. I walk more briskly, jogging slightly. I arrive at The Hideout Cafe and Theater with just a few minutes to spare. I double check that everything is accurate on my final paper, upload the files, and hit my time mark: 4:57pm.
Now, I am ready to head to the Convention Center. The rest of the walk is pleasant, but I get to the door later than expected because of all the crosswalks I encounter and the leisurely pace I took. I stand looking at a crowded room with no empty seats.
Trip #2: Bike, Reese, Bike
It’s 4:25pm, I unlock my bike from the long bike rack at ACC and strap on my helmet. I’m going to stop at Halcyon on 4th and Lavaca to turn in my paper, so I head toward Guadalupe and 12th, thinking it’s the most direct route, but find traffic badly backed up. Not wanting to get into all of that commotion and car traffic, I change routes and go back to Rio Grande, which is considered a “high comfort” bicycling street. I am trying to hustle. So, by the time I’m getting close to my stop between campus and the convention center I am starting to get sweaty.
I arrive at Halcyon at 4:32pm, about a ten minute trip. I probably could have made it in 8 minutes flat if I hadn’t started on Guadalupe first. There’s a bike corral on 4th street where I lock up my big, blue bike, go inside, order a “black eye” and get this paper knocked out. I’m a little sweaty from the ride and didn’t bring a shirt to change into, but no time to worry about that now. I send off the paper at 4:55pm, finish my coffee and pedal with all I have down 4th Street until I arrive at the beautiful glass entryway on Trinity. It only takes me a few minutes to find a spot to lock my bike. I get into the panel and find a decent seat near the middle. I’m sweaty, I’m a little amped up from the coffee and exercise, it feels great.
Trip #3 Bus, Reese, Bus
It’s 4:20pm.The #3 bus leaves at 4:35pm which I won’t be able to catch with the amount of work I still have to do, but I can probably catch the #5. I burn through my paper edits and send it in from the ACC computer lab at 4:37pm. I can now focus on getting to the panel at the Convention Center. I head out the door to the stop at 13th and Guadalupe when it starts to rain. The bus stop isn’t covered, but it is right in front of an office building with an awning. So, I watch the rain with my fellow travelers as we await our steel-blue chariot.
The #5 bus arrives right on time, 4:50pm.We all make the quick dash through the rain and onto the bus. The driver is in an exceptional mood, talking and laughing with a guy who is standing just as close as he can to that yellow line up front, without actually crossing it. The bus is cool, quiet, and calming. The rain streaks the windows and I get a message from a friend I’m meeting at the convention center: “ETA?”
“5:15” I reply.
When we get to Congress, the far right lane where the bus travels is pretty clear. Drivers tend to not want to be behind the bus in traffic, so people avoid the right lane which leaves the buses to remain on schedule. Pretty soon, I’ll be making this trip on Metrorapid and my trip across downtown will be even quicker.
At 5:05pm, I arrive at the corner of 4th and Congress, hop off the bus in front of Houndstooth Coffee, all in about the same time as when I was on my bike. Now, though, I’m not winded and my work is already done. I order a coffee to go and walk the 3 blocks to the convention center in about 5 minutes. I arrive at the convention center at 5:15pm exactly. My friend and I make our way into the panel with plenty of time to find good seats.
Final Thoughts on the Multi-Modal Matchup
I love biking and walking in Austin but, for me, the bus wins! Biking, walking, and the bus all got me to my destination on time during rush hour for a fraction of the cost of driving and a fraction of the stress. Each mode has its pro’s and cons, but I prefer these minor inconveniences to the cost of maintaining a vehicle and the stress of driving in Austin. The bus was cool, relaxing, and dropped me off just a few blocks from my destination, but I also had to wait in the rain. Walking was visually fun and interesting, but I had to rush a bit to make my destination on time. Biking is quick, efficient, and definitely the most fun, but I was also sweaty by the time I reached the convention center.
As our commute options continue to grow, it is important to understand how to use multiple options so that you can easily choose and use the one that fits your needs for each trip. It’s much easier to get around once you know your options and the more you know about options, the easier it is to customize your trip for the best possible experience.
DO YOU WANT TO CHALLENGE TRAFFIC?
We are hosting the Austin Rush Hour Race this spring. If you would like to participate and challenge Reese in his race across downtown, email him at Reese@movabilityaustin.org and explore the best ways in, out and around downtown. We look forward to hearing from you! Happy Commuting!