Getting Around Austin: SXSW Edition
Alternatives to driving your car (because that's a terrible idea)
By Eloise Kirn,
2:10PM, Thu. Mar. 3, 2016
Just as important as planning your SXSW calendar of panels and parties? Planning how to get there, and how to get home or back to the hotel in one piece.
Capital Metro provides a variety of inexpensive transportation options across the city. During SXSW, check for extended hours and “special offers” in the free CapMetro App. The app features travel information as well as discounts for multi-day passes during the festival. **Note: CapMetro is anticipating "major service delays" during President Obama's visit on Friday, March 11, so leave early and plan to arrive late.
Capital Metro’s Airport Flyer runs to and from the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA) every 30 minutes. Direct access to the downtown area is $1.75.
METRORAIL EXTENDED SERVICE
MetroRail Extended Service runs from Leander and Lakeline to downtown Austin. Many of the stations are also serviced by MetroBus, so it's a quick and easy jump for long distance travelers. The Downtown station location plops you right in front of the Convention Center, and a single ride on MetroRail costs $3.50.
Though typically on the weekends, MetroRail travels between Downtown Austin and Lakeline only, this year Capital Metro will be offering free shuttle service between the Leander and Lakeline MetroRail Stations.
MetroRail will operate a special schedule during SXSW. On Friday, March 11, the last train will depart the Downtown Station at 12:44am. On Saturday, March 12, the last train will depart Downtown at 2:30am. The train will run on March 13, with the earliest train departing from Kramer Station at 10:20am. and the last train departing from Downtown northbound at 12:03am.
Service will run Monday and Tuesday, March 14-15, until 12:44 a.m., and Wednesday through Saturday, March 16-19, until 2:30 a.m. There will be no MetroRail service on Sunday, March 20. Visit capmetro.org for more info.
LATE NIGHT TRAVEL
Capital Metro’s Night Owl and E-Bus services have you covered in any late-night pinch. While the Night Owl travels between popular late-night destinations and local neighborhoods, the E-Bus (Entertainment Buses) take students and other Dirty Sixth goers back up to the UT-Austin campus area. A single ride on either costs $1.25.
March 11-19, Night Owls will run every 15-20 minutes (depending on location) Monday-Saturday from midnight-3:49am. Night Owl buses pick up Downtown along 6th St. between Congress Ave. and Colorado St.
March 10-12 and 17-19, E-Buses will operate every 15-30 minutes (depending on location) Thursday-Saturday from 9pm until 3:30am. E-Buses travel between popular UT student housing neighborhoods and downtown.Check capmetro.org or call the GO Line at 512/474-1200 for more info.
This addition to the Capital Metro services now provides frequent transport to downtown via new and improved vehicles. Route 801 and 803 offer free onboard Wi-Fi and upgraded stations with real-time arrival information. Every vehicle is also equipped with a three-bike rack, so you can easily jump on and off with that handy dandy MetroBike. A single ride costs $1.75.
MetroRapid will operate until 2:30am Fridays and Saturdays during SXSW (March 11-12 and March 18-19). Hours will also be expanded on Sunday, March 13, with service running until midnight. All other days, MetroRapid will operate on its regular schedule (Monday-Thursday until 12:30am; Sundays until 10:30pm).
Hill Country Motorcycles Rentals
Rates are $218/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
Enterprise Rent-A-Car is the preferred rental car vendor for SXSW 2016. Enterprise and its sister company, National Rent Car, will be offering a variety of vehicles and convenient locations at the airport and around Austin. Check SXSW attendee rates and availability online or by calling 800-RENT-A-CAR. If booking directly, use group code L65SXSW (PIN: SXS) to receive a discount.
These easily recognizable electric cars are parked around most parts of Austin and are always available. Members 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.
Since you don’t want to spend SXSW circling for parking, Car2Go will have four Drop Zones around Downtown – essentially, a free valet service. Drop Zones will be open Friday, March 11-Sunday March 20, 11am-7pm at 90 Brazos St., 700 San Jacinto, 500 Comal, and 400 E. Fourth St. Car2Go is offering other perks during the fest, including free breakfast during Interactive (where you can sign up for the service and start driving 24 hours later), free minutes, and reduced signup fees for new members (just $10 with the promo code FEST1010). Find out more here.
We’ve listed the numbers, but hailing from the street is probably a better bet.
Austin Cab Company: (512) 478-2222
Lone Star Cab: (512) 836-4900
Yellow Cab: (512) 452-9999
Be sure to check surge pricing if you’re brash enough to take an Uber or Lyft during SXSW. Prices may be even more outrageous than last New Year’s Eve.
In addition to the standard rideshare option, there's Lyft Plus for parties of more than six. Use Lyft Line to share rides with fellow festivalgoers at a lower price.https://www.lyft.com/app
Feeling frisky? Hop on a bike from any number of local shops and public options to tool around town in style. For popular bike routes check out this map, BikeTexas, and BikeAustin. Note: Bicycle rental shops book up fast, so call early.
B-cycle stations are conveniently located throughout the downtown area near all the places you want to be during SXSW. Current rates are $8 for 24 hours and $15 for a weeklong pass. Download the B-cycle app to see bike and station dock availability. 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 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. Prices for daily rentals of one-seat bikes range from $22-45. Find the full list of prices here. All bike rentals come with a headlight, taillight, lock and key set, and an optional basket. To book a required reservation, call (512) 480-0200 or visit their website.
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 and $20 for kids bikes, with multiday, weekly, and monthly discounts. All rentals include use of in-house lockers and shower facility.
Mellow Johnny's, 400 Nueces, 512/473-0222
Bicycle Sport Shop
Bicycle Sport Shop offers 24-hour rentals for around $30-40 and half-day rentals for about $30. A multi-day discount is available: the third day and each additional day are half price excluding cruiser bikes. They have a wide selection of tri-gear, mountain, road, cruiser, kids, tandem, and cross bikes. Reservations are strongly suggested as they usually rent their entire inventory on weekends and holidays.
Bicycle Sport Shop, 517 S. Lamar, 512/477-3472
Spinlister is the bike equivalent of Airbnb. This bike-share app lets people rent out their spare bikes at an affordable price. Rental costs vary but with the large selection of bikes listed in Austin, it’s possible to rent for about $20 per day. Rental periods, pick up and drop off options are flexibly decided between the bike owner and renter.
Pedicab rates vary and are often agreed upon before the ride. They pedal relatively short distances and usually involve good tunes, friendly drivers ,and the chance to wave to pedestrians in slow motion as you pass them by. Below are some of the most popular pedicab companies.
Capital Pedicabs: 512/448-2227
DirtNail Pedicab: 512/844-4444
Metrocycle Pedicabs: 512/825-1276
Red Devil Rides: 866/366-9666
Roadkill Pedicab: 512/300-3784
Transportation Links and Apps
Note: Information may be outdated; call ahead to confirm rates and availability.
Track the latest SXSW news at austinchronicle.com/sxsw and @ChronSXSW, and sign up now for the Chronicle’s daily online editions during the fest, featuring interviews, the latest reviews, critic picks, photo galleries galore, and much, much more.