Transportation Options at SXSW
How to get around during the clusterfuck of festival season
By Katarina Brown,
8:00AM, Wed. Mar. 1, 2017
SXSW is upon us once again, which means the city is not only packed with things to do, but also packed with people to navigate around. With so many travel options, we’re here to give you the rundown, that way you can be sure transportation plans won’t hit any speed bumps.
Capital Metro offers a wide variety of inexpensive options for those looking to get around town. For the best way to plan your transportation schedule daily, download the CapMetro App, which allows you to buy tickets, see bus routes in real time, and find out about possible deals.
During SXSW, schedules are expanded across all services to accommodate those late-night and early-morning concerts. From March 6 to 18, increased services and longer hours make cheap travel possible even after a long day of partying. The Downtown Night Owl buses will run until 3am at double capacity for most nights during the two weeks.
Should you be in town for the entirety of the festival, weekly and monthly tickets are available at cheaper rates.
For your first ride into the city and last ride back out to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, consider taking Capital Metro’s airport flyer. Access to and from Downtown is $1.75, and buses run every 30 minutes.
Offering transportation from Lakeline and Leander right to the center of Downtown, MetroRail is a great option at $3.50. Many of the stations also connect with the CapMetro bus lines, making it easy to mix and match routes. The Downtown station drops you right in front of the Convention Center, putting you in the middle of the festival action. Trains will run with longer hours daily, and Saturday and Sunday service begins before 10:30am during the festival.
In addition to the normal buses on the CapMetro fleet, Route 801 and 803 buses offer speedy transport every 12-30 minutes. Free wi-fi is available onboard and stations are equipped with electronic, real-time arrival schedules. Each bus has a three-bike rack, so you don't have to leave your two-wheeled companion at home. The 801 and 803 run every 12-15 minutes on weekdays and every half-hour on weekends, but expect them to be packed during SXSW, meaning you may have to wait a cycle or two to squeeze in. During the fest hours extend to 12:30am on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, with hours continuing until 2:30am on other nights.
SXSW has their own official shuttle service that will take you from the Austin Convention Center to most of the festival venues. During conference hours, shuttles run every 10 minutes and can be found outside of the Convention Center on Trinity. The shuttle only follows one route, so you don’t really need to keep track of it, but should you want to, you can print out a map to take with you, or view the map online to see everything in real time.
Ridesharing and Taxis
Since Uber and Lyft left Austin after residents voted against accommodating them last May, an assortment of similar ride-sharing alternatives have risen up to take their place. Consider it the Austin experience that you have to go local even for your transportation apps.
The official rideshare company of SXSW this year, as well as the most popular option for most Austinites, Fasten is offering $5 off your first ride with the promo code RIDEON. For a standard car, Fasten charges $1.10 as a base fare, 19 cents per minute, and $1.10 per mile. A six-seater car is also available for customers at higher rates. From the app, you’re able to track your fare as you go and anonymously tip your driver at the end of a drive. While Fasten doesn’t charge surge pricing, it does offer the option to boost your request for more money, which bumps your request to the top of the driver waiting list.
While you can use Fare like any other rideshare app, one of the benefits of it specifically is that you can easily schedule rides for the future (from 30 minutes to seven days in advance). The base fee for a standard car is $2, with 25 cents per minute and $1.20 per mile. However, be aware that each ride also charges an additional $2 for your ride as a “Fare Fee.”
Collect your music festival karma while in a car! RideAustin sets itself apart by allowing you to round up your fare to donate to local Austin charities. The base fare for a standard ride is $1.50, 99 cents per mile, and 25 cents per minute. The minimum fare is $4 and SUV, premium, and luxury cars are available for higher rates ($2.65 to $3.75 per mile).
Another local app offering, GetMe can be used both for ridesharing and delivery. Like the other apps mentioned, GetMe doesn’t engage in surge pricing, and a selection of vehicles are available (SUVs and limos for rides, motorbikes and pickup trucks for delivery), should a standard car not fit your needs.
Wingz specializes in airport and event rides booked in advance. Though rates vary, a fixed price is decided as soon as you book, meaning there’s no stress about surge pricing or huge traffic delays making your trip too costly.
Like other rideshare apps, InstaRyde offers standard vehicles as well as larger and luxury options for varying fares. The standard car will cost you a $2 base fare, 20 cents per minute, $1.40 per mile, and a $1.30 service fee. InstaRyde, unlike other rideshare options, allows you to choose your preferred route, which the driver will then follow.
As part of their SXSW campaign, Mazda is offering a complimentary ride service for those who register at the Mazda Lounge or online. Once you have your wristband, you can flag down any free official vehicles you see during the festival and get a ride to your next destination. Since you can’t reserve in advance, the service can be hit or miss for your time in the city, but it doesn’t hurt to register.
In case you’d rather not mess with apps during the festival, here are the numbers for cab companies you can save in your phone. However, just hailing from the street is probably going to be more effective.
Austin Cab Company: 512/478-2222
Lone Star Cab: 512/836-4900
Yellow Cab: 512/452-9999
Should you want to go down the more traditional route for cars, a number of rental car options are available to you.
Named the Preferred Car Rental Company of SXSW 2017, Enterprise is offering a rental code discount (L65SXSW, PIN SXS) for festivalgoers. Enterprise has a number of locations across Austin, and you can rent online or by phone at 800/261-7331.
You can recognize a vehicle from the Car2Go fleet by their small bodies and well-placed logos. The cars are available all over the city, and members simply hop in and drive.
Car2Go eases some of the stress of driving a car into SXSW by providing drop zones for their customers during the festival. These zones (four in Downtown) are guaranteed parking spots for members. New members can join for free and get $10 of drive time with the promo code SouthxShare. The standard mini-car is 41 cents per minute, $15 per hour, or $59 per day. Larger cars are also available at slightly higher rates. Also available – the 50 Mercedes-Benz Car2Go added to the fleet in January.
Like Car2Go, Zipcar reduces the stress of car rentals by making the process as easy as signing up and driving off. Once you’re finished, you simply return the car to its designated parking spot. You can reserve a Zipcar up to seven days in advance or as soon as an hour away. Rates vary depending on your membership plan.
Should you be brave enough to want to drive through the streets of Downtown, you’ll have to navigate a complicated series of road closures. Notably Sixth, Trinity, Red River, and their surrounding areas will be completely blocked off, meaning you’d be wise to avoid the heart of Downtown and stick to the outskirts when motoring.
Along with road closures, should you be driving your own car, you’ll have to factor in parking to your festival planning. The city offers a map that shows parking options, but spots fill quickly. In addition to that, usual pricing is likely to skyrocket during the festival, so be prepared to test your patience and paycheck.
If you really want to live like a local during your SXSW experience, it’s time to rent a bike. Make sure you book early, since plenty of other people will also be looking for pedaling options. Once you’ve selected your wheels from our list below, you can start planning your routes with this map, BikeTexas, or Bike Austin.
A bike system similar to car rental services like Zipcar and Car2Go, people sign up for a membership and then simply grab a bike from any of the docks available around the city. Once you’ve finished your ride, return it to any station and push it into the dock. A map of all docking locations is available, making it easy for you to plan your day. Since Austin B-cycle was created for short trips, the company discourages you from renting for more than 60 minutes at a time and charges $4 extra for each 30 minutes that you go over.
923 Barton Springs Rd.
Offering urban hybrid and cruiser-style bikes (as well as road bikes or tri bikes if you’re feeling daring and willing to pay the difference), Austin Tri-Cyclist allows you to reserve your ride for $10 an hour or $35 a day. You can reserve online or call the number below.
Barton Springs Bike Rental
1707 Barton Springs Rd.
At Barton Springs Bike Rentals, you can rent by the hour ($7.50), day ($22.50), or week ($90), depending on just how much biking you want to do. The choices continue with the bikes themselves, as Barton rents everything from cruisers to tandem to fat bikes. Check out their full selection at their website below and take solace in the fact that roadside assistance is offered for even your craziest festival days.
Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop
If you’re looking for a wide variety of bikes with a celebrity touch, Mellow Johnny’s is for you. Owned by Lance Armstrong, the shop offers rentals by the day or week of a wide variety of bikes. Rates depend on the bike you choose, but use of in-house lockers and shower facility is available across the board.
Bicycle Sport Shop
517 S. Lamar
At Bicycle Sport shop, you can rent from a variety of bikes for half a day or 24 hours. Pricing will depend on the bike you select (they offer cruisers, road bikes, kids bikes, and much more), but there is a standard multi-day discount offered, where the third day and each additional day after is half price. Each bike you rent also comes with a helmet, pedals of your choice, and some ride maps to get you started.
Spinlister is the bike counterpart to Airbnb, and gives you probably the widest scope on bike options in the city. Because of the sheer quantity of bikes in Austin, it’s possible to rent for about $20 per day, and most bike rentals include a lock and helmet. Rental periods, as well as pick up and drop off decisions, are flexibly decided between the bike renter and owner.
Taking all of the work out of getting around, pedicabs are an iconic transportation option during big events. Pedicab pricing varies, and often a rate is simply decided on before the ride. This is a great option for shorter distances during SXSW, and since pedicab drivers are usually friendly, you may be able to chat and gain some insider knowledge on the city.
Below are some of the top-rated pedicab companies:Easy Rider Pedicabs: 512/436-3286
Austin Pedicab Company: 832/721-9780
Motorcycle Pedicabs: 512/825-1276
Pedicab Adventures: 512/633-2405