SXSW: A Case Study for our Next 70,000 Residents?

The crowds may seem like a distant memory now (or maybe one you are trying hard to forget!), but just a few weeks ago, 70,000 festival-goers flooded into Austin for SXSW music, film, and interactive. While some locals opted to leave town or just stay home, our visitors got into and around downtown by train, plane, automobile, and everything in between. Despite some gnarly traffic around street closures, there were a large number of participants NOT contributing to the traffic problem. We saw record-breaking usage for all manner of transportation modes:

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With road closures and congestion, the most reliable way to get around the festival was on your own two feet – or your own two wheels! Throngs of pedestrians swarmed the streets of downtown, and bikes were locked to every available surface. Austin B-Cycle broke its own record, with 21,177 trips during the festival and a one-day peak of 3,032 trips on Thursday, March 19.

Packed into Public Transportation

To accommodate commuters, locals, and visitors during the week, Capital Metro extended certain bus and rail services throughout the festival, and offered free MetroRapid rides during the final weekend as a safe way home. Ridership increased 15 percent from last year’s SXSW – riders took over 163,000 trips on MetroRapid and MetroRail during the festivities.

Sharing Cars and Rides

Cars were also an important part of festival transportation, but many opted to use vehicles more efficiently by carpooling or utilizing services such as car2go, ZipCar, Uber, Lyft, and taxis. Those who carpooled using the Carma app shared over 20,050 miles and saved 953 gallons of gas. The number of trips taken by car2go members during the festival was about twice the number taken during a non-SXSW day in Austin.

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The Next 70,000 Residents?

While the downtown traffic can get appreciably worse during SXSW with all of the street closures, one can only imagine how bad it could have been if all those people on bikes, trains, buses, and carpools had been driving alone instead. The influx of approximately 70,000 festival participants gives us a glimpse into Austin’s future as it continues to grow at one of the fastest rates in the country. How will the next 70,000 residents get around? It won’t work for everyone to drive alone all the time; today’s traffic congestion is already proving that. Now is the time for us to start learning from our visitors, and become options-savvy travelers – make a bus pass and B-cycle membership your new platinum badge.

Did SXSW affect your commute? What options helped you avoid the hassle? Tell us in the comments below!

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