On the Move at SXSW
Get everywhere, no car needed
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 40 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 (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.
By the time you read this, most of the bikes will already be booked up 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:
Bicycle Sport Shop, 477-3472, www.bicyclesportshop.com.
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 six Night Owl lines that run Tues.-Sun., 12mid-3am, to a variety of areas. Most Austin buses are equipped with bike racks. 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. Honestly, for most places that you want or need to go during your stay in our fair city, the train may be a big ol' road to nowhere for you (but with a track). You can, however, get to the first stop, Plaza Saltillo, just a hop, skip, and a toot-toot east of the highway near the East Sixth club district as well as the site of this week's Honk!TX Festival wrap-up this Sunday and many SXSW day parties. If you stay on the train, you'll get to our soon-to-be ghost mall Highland Mall and the Midtowne Spa, a nice spot of release for fellas and fellas alike. You can also go waaaaay up north to our commuter parking lots. All aboard! MetroRail is operating late hours (until 11:30pm) every Friday and Saturday in March, with one-way fares ranging from $1 to $2.75. Passes and extended day passes are available online, at all H-E-Bs, and at the stations. See website for info on connecting buses. www.capmetro.org/metrorail.
OFFICIAL SXSW SHUTTLES
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 most of the screens in town. Free shuttles travel to and from the Convention Center, the distant Alamo South Lamar, and seemingly distant (when drunk at 2am) Paramount.
If you're lucky enough to have a room at one of the 37 eligible hotels outside of Downtown, you can sign up for shuttle service to the convention center. Shuttles run every 30 to 40 minutes from 8:30am to 2:30am. It will cost you $50 for either Film and Interactive (March 11-15) or Music (March 15-19); $80 for all three. Call 947-7433 or go online to buy a pass at www.rrlimobus.com. See if your hotel is on the list at www.sxsw.com/getting_around/transportation/hotel_shuttle.
They may be elusive, but SXSW sponsor Chevy will have cars to show off. From 9am to 10pm there will be chauffeured cars sporting SXSW logos willing to take you anywhere ... within reason. It's like a free cab, although they expect you to ooh and aah at all the shiny automobile accoutrements at your fingertips. www.sxsw.com/chevrolet/catch_a_chevy.
One area where Austin has kicked the ass of the rest of the globe: the car-sharing department. We used to have our own little system, and its modest success paved the way for Daimler to bring its Smart car-based Car2Go program to town. You must be signed up as a member (lifetime memberships cost $35) and can learn about their fees and restrictions on the website. This week, Car2Go announced that it is exchanging its entire fleet of 200 cars while adding an additional 100 vehicles. The home office in Germany set the dates for the Friday-Sunday of the Music Conference and announced that the system will be down during the transition (see "Dude, Where's My Car2Go?" News, March 11). www.car2go.com.
Also, the University of Texas at Austin recently announced its partnership with a well-known contender in the industry, ZipCar. The program is very new and only a handful of vehicles serve the UT area. Investigate at www.zipcar.com/utexas.
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 want? 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. (We often throw in a few extra bucks because we are fat.) It's probably best to tell the taut li'l 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. You can actually hail a cab in Austin now, but it has pedals.
While Austin is a progressive city, it is still in Texas, a state not exactly known for its progressive attitudes toward anything other than total petrochemical inebriation. So, anything outside of the city core might necessitate the use of a vehicle. However, the Downtown and Eastside areas are, for the most part, parallel and perpendicular paradises for the walking set, and laid out, for the most part, on simple grid systems – except when they are not, like when you cross the river to the south. There, the numbered streets no longer go east to west, they go north to south. To better acquaint yourself with these and other peccadilloes (farther east, 51st and 19th streets are very close together), we suggest a once-over on a map. Check some of our faves provided by RunTex, Austin's fitness and running hub, at www.runtex.com/townlake.asp. Their central map is the most germane, but should you wish to explore trails and other parts of town, they have all areas covered.
Tech Republic and other portals feature an Austin Walking Map app. www.techrepublic.com.