From the Airport
So your flight landed in Austin; now what? Did that local friend you only talk to during South by Southwest neglect to pick you up? Just because someone leans over the passenger seat and says "Hey, are you in a band?" and offers to drive you anywhere does not mean you should get in that car.
If Downtown is your destination, the best bet is the Airport Flyer, with bus service every 30 minutes or so to within blocks of the Austin Convention Center and surrounding hotels. Best of all, it's only 1 measly dollar.
For those crashing outside of the beating heart of the city, there are the standard cabs, but also the slightly less-expensive SuperShuttle (512/258-3826). You'll likely be sharing the trip with others, but if you have the extra time for a roundabout trip it will only cost you about $13.
You might get the stink eye from other passengers if you decide to load yourself and your gear onto a public bus, but it only costs $1, and you can plan your trip easily at www.capmetro.org/planner. For bus info, call 474-1200.
You'll need a badge to hop aboard, but SXSW offers a few options for those wearing heels or trying to give their dogs a rest.
Filmgoers can likely hoof it to some of the screens in town. Free shuttles travel to and from the Convention Center, the Violet Crown, the distant Alamo satellites, and seemingly distant (when drunk at 2am) Paramount.
If you're lucky enough to have a room at one of the eligible hotels outside of Downtown, you can sign up for shuttle service to the convention center. Shuttles run every 30 to 45 minutes from 7am to 2:30am (9am to 3am during the Music Fest). You can ride à al carte for $20 a pop, but if you're going to use it a lot you might want to drop the $60 for unlimited Film and Interactive (March 8-12) or Music (March 12-16) rides; $100 for all three. Call 947-7433 or go online to see if your hotel is on the list or buy a pass at www.rrlimobus.com.
You must be signed up as a member (lifetime memberships cost $35) for the convenience of driving one of the many tiny cars you'll see all over our town. There are even valet parking drop-off spots around Downtown to help. To find out where those locations are you need to follow their Facebook page and hope they announce it soon. Learn about the associated fees and restrictions online.
New this year is a bike share program called SXcycles. You need to register online at www.sxcyclesbikeshare.com or in person at the corner of Red River & Cesar Chavez. Give them a deposit and you get a folding bike, lights, lock, and a helmet.
By the time you read this, most of the bikes will already be rented for the festival, but everyone we spoke with said there are usually a few early returns and last-minute cancellations. Try your luck at one of these fine bicycle shops:
Barton Springs Bike Rental, 480-0200, www.bartonspringsbikerental.com. They've been buying and building extra bikes in anticipation of the big to-do, but they're still going fast.
University Cyclery, 474-6696, www.universitycyclery.com. It's first come, first served at this reservationless bike shop.
Mellow Johnny's Bike Shop, 473-0222, www.mellowjohnnys.com.
If you have a dollar, you can get wherever you want to be; you'll need another dollar to get you back – as long as it's not too late. For two bucks, you can have a day pass. There are no changes to the usual bus schedule for SXSW. Most bus lines stop running around 11:30pm-12mid. However, Cap Metro also operates Night Owl lines that run every evening but Sunday from midnight to 3am, to select areas. Extra late night buses will be on call on Friday and Saturday of the Music Festival. Not sure which bus routes get you there? Try Capital Metro's handy online trip planner (www.capmetro.org/planner) or call the Go Line at 474-1200.
Yes, Austin does have a commuter train. And to get as many of you out-of-towners as possible to believe that it actually goes somewhere, the people behind the train made its line start and stop at the Austin Convention Center. You can, however, get to the first stop, Plaza Saltillo, just east of the highway near the East Sixth club district and many SXSW day parties. If you stay on the train, you'll get to our soon-to-be ghost mall Highland Mall. You can also go waaaaay up north to our commuter parking lots. MetroRail is operating Monday-Thursday, March 11-14, 6am-6:30pm; Friday, March 8 & 15, 6am-midnight; and Saturday, March 9 & 16, 10am-midnight. One-way fares are $1 unless you're going way north in which case you'll have to shell out $2.75. Passes and extended day passes are available online and at the stations. See their website for info on connecting buses.
Everyone has a horror story about calling a cab service only to be picked up after an hour or more of numerous phoned follow-ups. Well, with that many drunken out-of-towners flooding the switchboard, what do you expect? Rumors of official cab queues Downtown are greatly exaggerated. Honestly, your best bet is to stumble around, throw up on the curb, and hope some good-hearted cabbie takes pity on you. Call early, call often, and avoid peak hours like dinner and 2am.
Yellow Cab, 452-9999
Lone Star Cab, 836-4900
Austin Cab Co., 478-2222
It's handy, it's green, and it's a great way to look at a nice butt. And it's also a bit of a confusing racket, mostly because a number of competing businesses keep it from ever being consistent, regulated, or nonconfounding (yay, capitalism!). Most rides within Downtown should not cost more than a few bucks to $5 per person. If you go over five blocks in any direction, plan on more. It's probably best to tell the cabbie where you are going and get a rate in advance. Then throw in a few bucks according to your own opinion of the quality of service and quality of cabbie booty. Cabs cluster around the busiest intersections, just like real cabs in real cities.
No refusal: Okay, first of all: Don't be an idiot. Drinking and driving is so not cool. You have tons of transportation alternatives, so use 'em. And even if you're not driving, being wasted on the street isn't the best thing, either. Here's some extra incentive: During special times of year, like this one, the Austin police activate their "no refusal" policy – meaning if you are suspected of either driving while intoxicated or public intoxication and refuse a breathalizer test, police will take you straight to a judge in a trailer parked right there in the thick of things who will most likely deem that the police may draw your blood and test it right there on the spot.
Parking and Driving Tips: Cars are probably the worst way to get around the more populated SXSW areas, but if you must, you must. If you park illegally, you stand a good chance of getting towed. Downtown parking meters run all weekend. Don't park in the marked Car2Go spots. You can turn right on red, and left on red if you're turning on to a one-way street. There are lots of one-way streets Downtown. It is illegal to text while you're driving, but, remarkably, not to talk on your phone (though it's still a terrible idea).