What SXSW Attendees Can Teach Locals About Getting Around Our City

Breathe a deep sigh, Austin, SXSW is over and the crowds have gone home. But before we jump back into our cars and go back to business as usual, let’s reflect on how we all got around during March 7-16.

A quick review: Austin B-cycle shattered its ridership records, with more than 17,000 bike checkouts. Metrorail trains, which ran on an extended schedule, were packed, as were the buses. MetroRail ridership totaled 57,000, compared with 49,000 during the festival last year. MetroRapid ridership during the festival was up 110 percent on March 9 and up 40 percent March 10-12, compared to regular service.

Many opted to stay close to the action and walk around. Visitors took advantage of Zipcar, car2go and RideScout, too.

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Many more people found that the frustration of trying to drive into downtown for work wasn’t worth it. A KXAN story on public transportation quoted one commuter who decided not to drive into work for the rest of the week: “I drove to work Monday and I think it took me an hour and a half to get home… It’s worth taking [MetroRail.] It moves fast. It’s a little packed this week but overall I’ve been able to get a seat and enjoy myself on my way to work.”

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SXSW attracts visitors from all over the world, and some of the festival attendees came from cities where transit and bike use is the norm. Naturally, they sought out and used those systems in Austin, and aren’t you glad they did? As bad as traffic was, imagine how much worse it would have been if those visitors were driving alone in a car!

But why wait until SXSW rolls around once a year to take advantage of options? SXSW regularly has 300,000 attendees. Austin’s population is growing, and growing fast. In just a few years we will have that many new permanent residents. If all those people drive alone, our already bad gridlock will get even worse. SXSW shows us how we can all retain mobility, even as the crowds get bigger.

One Response to What SXSW Attendees Can Teach Locals About Getting Around Our City

  1. richard zelade says:

    SXSW taught me more than a decade ago (when I started to work downtown) to either leave town for a week or take a long, out-of-the-way ride home. This year, I chose to work SX with a local events firm (for money!) and I rode my bike to my work assignments on the east side.