Getting Around Austin: SXSW Edition
Alternatives to driving during SXSW
By Casey Rochester,
6:58AM, Wed. Mar. 4, 2015
The Chronicle lists the best alternatives to driving your own car in a town with legendary traffic.
Note: Information may be outdated; call ahead to confirm rates and availability.
Bikes and Pedicabs
Collaborating with Austin B-cycle, SXcycles is SXSW's citywide bikeshare. Starting on March 13th and ending on the 21st, SXcycles will be handing out complimentary B-cycle day pass vouchers to SXSW badgeholders at the SXcycles Driskill St. depot (one pass per badgeholder; there are a limited number of passes given out each day). The vouchers are good for rides 30 minutes and under for 24 hours after activation (over 30 minutes, standard Austin B-cycle rates apply; see below). There are over 45 stations Downtown, so finding a place to drop off your bike (or get a new one) should be fairly easy.
Even if you're not a badgeholder, you can still use Austin B-cycle's regular bikeshare program, which is run in partnership with the city of Austin. Sign up for 24-hour access at any station kiosk using your credit or debit card, or sign up online for a membership. Current rates are $8 for 24 hours, $25 for a weeklong pass, $10.99 for a monthlong pass (plus a one-time $15 enrollment fee), and $80 for a yearlong pass. Passes entitle you to unlimited 30-minute rides; each additional half hour costs $4. Find locations using the free B-cycle app. If you're a member of a B-cycle program in another city, you may be able to use your membership here in Austin. Check to see if your city's program partners with Austin's here.
Austin Tri-Cyclist provides cruisers and urban hybrid bikes for hourly and daily rental, at rates of $10 and $35, respectively. Sign up online, or call the Downtown location to make a reservation. Road and tri bikes available upon request.
Austin Tri-Cyclist, 923 Barton Springs Rd., 512/494-9252.
Barton Springs Bike Rental
Barton Springs Bike Rental rents single-speed and three-speed beach cruisers, mountain bikes, tandem bikes, pet trailers, kids' cruisers, kids' trailers, and more. You'll have to make a reservation, which you can do here. Prices for daily rentals of one-seaters range from $20-40. The full list of prices can be found here. All bike rentals come with a headlight, taillight, lock and key set, and an optional basket.
Barton Springs Bike Rental, 1707 Barton Springs Rd., 512/480-0200.
Mellow Johnny's Bike Shop
Mellow Johnny's Bike Shop rents road, mountain, and city bikes. Daily prices range from $30-50 with multiday, weekly, and monthly discounts. Update: They are all booked during the week of SXSW.
Mellow Johnny's, 400 Nueces, 512/473-0222.
Bicycle Sport Shop
Bicycle Sport Shop offers 24-hour rentals for around $30-40. Their half-day rentals are around $30. They have a wide selection of tri-gear, mountain, road, cruiser, kids, tandem, and cross bikes. They also rent wheels and a few accessories.Bicycle Sport Shop
Bicycle Sport Shop, 517 S. Lamar, 512/477-3472.
Jack and Adam's
Jack and Adam's offers two bike rental options (and a wetsuit, if you need one). They specialize in higher-end sport bikes, with pricing to match – between $60 and $75 per day with hourly and weeklong options.
Jack and Adam's Bicycles, 300L S. Lamar, 512/472-5646.
Spinlister is a bike-share app that lets people rent out their spare bikes. Austin, unsurprisingly, has a good selection to choose from. The prices vary, but bikes can usually be had for about $20 per day. They also have weekly or hourly options.
Pedicabs are legal in the city of Austin, and are usually plentiful in Downtown Austin. Rates vary and are agreed upon before the ride. The more popular companies are Capital Pedicabs, DirtNail Pedicabs, Metrocycle Pedicabs, Red Devil Rides, and Roadkill Pedicab.
CapMetro offers special multiday Interactive/Film/Music pass specials for SXSW ranging between $21 and $55. They’re good for unlimited bus and train rides for 3 to 11 days. CapMetro will also offer extended and late-night services from March 13-22. Finally, CapMetro has recently launched a real-time planning feature that allows web and mobile users to track the progress of any bus in CapMetro's fleet – iPhone and Android users can download the CapMetro app. CapMetro trip-planning can also be done using Google Maps, if you prefer.
Read the Chronicle's cover story about CapMetro's bus rapid transit program here.
Hill Country Motorcycle Rentals LLC
Rates are around $200/day with multiday discounts. A $2,000 security hold, a $150 nonrefundable deposit, and a valid drivers' license with a motorcycle endorsement are all required, and drivers must be at least 21 years old. Note that during SXSW, even motorcycle and scooter riders will find it challenging to park Downtown.
Hill Country Motorcycle Rentals, 900 Old Koenig, 512/645-6450.
Three hundred of these little blue and white electric cars are parked around most parts of Austin and are always available. Members only have to get in, turn the key, and go. No need to return it to where you found it, and no need to pay at meters – that’s included already. However, if you're not already a member, you'll need to sign up seven days in advance – once you complete the online registration, they mail you your card, which you need to get into a car. The sign-up fee is $35; rides are $0.41/minute with hourly and daily price caps.
During SXSW, Car2Go will have three free parking areas – or dropzones – located at Downtown at Eighth St. between Trinity and Neches, Fourth St. at the Convention Center, and the intersection of Brazos and E. Cesar Chavez. From March 13-16, the dropzones will be open from 10am-7pm; from March 17-21, they’ll operate 10am-9pm.
Austin has three main taxi services: Yellow Cab, Roy's Taxi, and Super Shuttle. Cabs are generally hard to come by during SXSW, of course.
Yellow Cab 512/452-9999
Super Shuttle 512/258-3825
While transportation network companies such as Uber are now legal in Austin, there's still a lot of gray here. Surge pricing will undoubtedly be in effect during SXSW, so be sure to check the estimated price on your phone before agreeing to a ride.
In addition to the standard rideshare option, there's Lyft Plus for parties of more than six, and Lyft Line, which allows you to share cars with people going in the same direction for a lower price.
Want more information about what it's like to actually use some of these services? Read Chronicle staff writer Chase Hoffberger's cover story about getting around without his own car, "My Life on Apps."