Now That's a ROT of Money
Local law enforcement echoed that sentiment. Travis County Sheriff's Office policed the center, the Austin Police Department escorted the Friday night parade, and off-duty officers provided security at the street party. At the center, there was only one arrest, for assault involving family violence, and three disturbance calls regarding vehicles getting towed. "In years past, they towed them to a lot on-site, but this year, they were charging a fine, and that caused some trouble," said Roger Wade, public information officer for the sheriff. Similarly, Lt. Darrell Boydston, special events commander for APD, saw no dramatic increase in Downtown crime. "I'm sure there were some arrests on Sixth Street, but that's your typical Friday night on Sixth Street," he said.
As for traffic, while rush hour seemed to start earlier than usual, there was no dramatic increase in congestion. APD records show the total number of traffic accidents during the time of the rally actually dropped to 549 from 635 across the same period the previous week. There were no recorded fatal wrecks involving rally attendees within city limits, down from three last year. On site, there were only seven emergency calls, with some of those heat-related. Boydston put that down to the visitors: "The people who pull up in their $200,000 RVs, the weekend warriors, the doctors, the lawyers," he said. "I'm sure there were a few biker types, but most of these people are fairly affluent. That's where the money comes in."
The three-day rally is one of the city's biggest revenue-producing special events. The Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau estimates that it produced $36 million in receipts, up from $34.5 million in 2007. That compares to $110 million for the 10-day South by Southwest 2008, $24 million for the three-day 2007 Austin City Limits Festival, and $23 million from the seven UT Longhorn football games. "It's one of those events that they come, they spend money, and they go away," said Boydston.