Festival crowds, street closures, presidential visits, oh my! SXSW brings out the best in music, film, and technology, but it also brings out the worst in Austin traffic. Here's your transportation guide to getting downtown, getting around, and avoiding the madness during the 10-day festival.
President Obama in Austin
President Obama is scheduled for a keynote speech at the Long Center on Friday, March 11, which will add even more congestion to the city. Austinites are urged to carpool, use public transportation (although Capital Metro warns us to expect delays), or avoid the downtown area if possible. The mayor even urged Austinites to work from home on Friday. Do with that what you will.
Getting to SXSW
Other than Friday, March 11, catching a bus or train will be easy (even easier if you buy tickets ahead of time). Cap Metro is expanding service during SXSW, which means later hours for the MetroRail and MetroRapid — and don't forget about the E-bus and Night Owl options. Download the free Cap Metro app to access bus schedules and route detours from your phone. Not sure how to get where you're going? Use the Trip Planner.
Uber and Lyft will be operating in full force. Save some dough and look out for the Lyft Line and UberPool carpooling options in the app. Be aware of surge pricing, though, and see if you can scope out some sweet discount codes ahead of time. For example, new Lyft users get $20 off the first ride with "SXSW2016."
If you're a car2go member, don't worry about finding parking downtown. Simply drive to one of the four designated drop-off zones downtown and be on your way. If you're not a car2go member, now's the time to sign up — the transportation service is offering new member registration deals and discounts for SXSW.
The competition for cabs will be fierce, so we suggest calling an hour before you need to be picked up. Your options are Yellow Cab Austin (512-452-9999), Lone Star Cab (512-836-4900), Austin Cab Company (512-478-2222), and the Hail a Cab app.
Getting around the fest
SXSW offers a free shuttle service between the Austin Convention Center, Auditorium Shores, and several other venues. Scope out the shuttle locations ahead of time here; schedules and routes can also be accessed via the official SXSW app.
These human chariots will be everywhere downtown, but most congregate at the Austin Convention Center. Be sure to work out the price with your pedicab driver ahead of time, and tip well — these folks are literally working their butts off to help you get around. Tip: Keep an eye out for SkinnyPop pedicabs, which will be offering a few free rides.
Snag a bike from Austin B-cycle and zip around downtown. All you need to do is insert a credit card at the station, and you're good to go for 24 hours — just return the bike to any station when you're done. Find a full list of stations here.
What to avoid
Check out this map for a more in-depth look at downtown Austin street closures. And the handy little app Metropia can help you plan your commute ahead of time and reroute you away from the worst traffic jams.
Closed March 11 through 20
- Sabine Street between East Fifth Street and East Seventh Street
- Red River Street between East Fifth Street and East Seventh Street
- Red River Street between Cesar Chavez Street and East Fourth Street (Southbound lanes close daily from 5 pm to 3:30 am. Lanes open March 14 through 17.)
- Neches Street between East Fifth Street and East Seventh Street
- Trinity Street between East Fifth Street and East Seventh Street
- San Jacinto Boulevard between East Fifth Street and East Seventh Street
- Trinity Street between Cesar Chavez Street and East Fourth Street
- East Second Street between Trinity Street and San Jacinto Boulevard (Local access and valet parking allowed.)
- East Third Street between Trinity Street and San Jacinto Boulevard (Local access and valet parking allowed.)
- East Fifth Street between Neches Street and San Jacinto Boulevard (One lane on south side will be closed.)
- East Fifth Street between Red River Street and Trinity Street (One lane on north side will be closed.)
- East Sixth Street between Brazos Street and I-35 frontage road (Sixth Street will re-open between 6 am and 3 pm on March 11; 3 am and 6 pm on March 12-14; and 3 am and noon on March 15-19.)
- East Seventh Street between Sabine Street and Brazos Street (One lane on south side will be closed March 15 through 20.)
- Congress Avenue between Seventh Street and Eighth Street (One northbound lane will be closed March 12.)
- Riverside Drive between South First Street and Lee Barton Drive (Closed March 15-20.)
- I-35 southbound frontage road and exit ramp to Cesar Chavez Street between East Sixth Street and East Fifth Street (APD may divert southbound traffic from the frontage road in this area. Access for businesses will be allowed.)