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SXSW 2019: How to get around

Pro tip: Don’t drive here

What a difference a year makes. While the city was first introduced to dockless bicycles by Spin and Ofo during SXSW 2017 (an action that was legally dubious at best), the bikes—and, more crucially, dockless electric scooters—have flooded the city in the past year.

The bad news about that is that the industry and the city are still catching up, regulation- and safety-wise, and the scooters’s presence—moving or “parked” on sidewalks—requires a heightened awareness of one’s surroundings on city streets (maybe that’s not so terrible, actually).

The really good news, though, is that there are now even more ways to get around SXSW (unless you’re trying to drive a private car there—but don’t do that). Here’s a rundown of how to get around on the ground (including what you need to know about using dockless scooters and bikes in the city).

Airport, to and fro

Public transportation. Austin’s sole commuter train does not travel to the airport, but Capital Metro bus route 20—Manor Road/Riverside will get you from from the airport to downtown and runs every 15 minutes.

Taxis are available at your standard-issue airport taxi stand, located between the airport and the parking garage on the lower level.

Chartered vans and buses. Super Shuttle service takes you to and picks you up from your specific location, starting at $16/person for a shared van and going up in price from there for more exclusive trips and luxury vehicles.

Ride-hailing. RideAustin (a locally owned, nonprofit business), Lyft, Uber, and Wingz all operate in Austin.

Hotel shuttles are also available to many of their guests, of course. Check with the one you are staying in to find out if it’s one of them.

Car rental. The Austin airport web site has long lists of car rental, limousine, and private charter services.

For more detailed information, see our Austin airport guide.

Moving about the conference and festival areas

Here’s a city of Austin mobility map for the spring festival season (as the city calls it) to get you oriented.

Public transportation/Capital Metro

Capital Metro’s app or website will fill you in on your transportation by bus or its (one) rail line, including late-night service and its special SXSW routes and hours.

SXSW Festival Shuttles

The SXSW Festival Shuttle is a free, circulating bus that runs between the Austin Convention Center and within walking distance of most SXSW festival venues. You can catch them outside the Convention Center on Trinity Street and at other stops detailed on the SXSW Shuttle Map here and below. You can track festival shuttles in real time here.

Hours of Operation

Shuttles typically run 9 a.m.-2:30 a.m. daily. Peak service hours are usually 9 a.m.-7 p.m.

Friday, March 8: 10 a.m. – 2:30 a.m.

Saturday, March 9: 9 a.m. – 1:59* a.m.

Sunday March, 10: 9 a.m. – 2:30 a.m.

Monday March, 11: 9 a.m. – 2:30 a.m.

Tuesday March, 12: 9 a.m. – 2:30 a.m.**

Wednesday March: 13, 9 a.m. – 2:30 a.m.**

Thursday March, 14: 9 a.m. – 2:30 a.m.**

Friday March, 15: 9am – 2:30am**

Saturday March, 18: 9 a.m. – 2:30 a.m.**

*Daylight Savings Time begins

**Red River service runs from 7pm – 2:30am 3/12 – 3/16

Frequency

Expect a shuttle every 10 minutes from 9am to 7pm.

After 7pm, shuttles run every 15 to 20 minutes.

Accessibility

ADA accessibility transfers are available between any two established SXSW Festival Shuttle stop locations during operating hours for properly credentialed SXSW attendees. To initiate a transfer, ask any shuttle staff member or text the Customer Service Line: (512) 675-0155. Once the request is received, an accessible vehicle will be dispatched to the location requested. Transfers are available only between established stops.

Ride-hailing companies

Ride|Austin is a nonprofit started by several local tech leaders, and the app was designed by local engineers. Its service area is extensive and includes some surrounding suburbs and small towns. Rates start at 99 cents per mile plus 25 cents per minute, a $1.50 base fare, and required city fees; they go up for SUVs and luxury vehicles.

Lyft, as we know, is one of the two biggest ride-hailing companies in the country and offers several different kinds of rides, depending on the vehicle and how many people are in your group or how many strangers you want to share a ride with.

We don’t really need to tell you about Uber, do we?

Tip: The RideGuru app aggregates ridehailing and taxi availability in an area and estimates trip costs, as well as providing information about driver compensation, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Taxicabs, pedicabs, electric cabs, and hoofing it

Walking

Pedestrians will find that most SXSW conference and festival activities, with some exceptions, are within walking distance of one another.

Tip: Most people can walk one block per minute in Downtown Austin.

Tip: Austin police have been known to get enthusiastic about ticketing jaywalkers.

Pedicabs

Pedicabs are abundant during the fest, especially in the central downtown, East Sixth Street, and Rainey Street areas—also east of IH-35 on East Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and 11th streets. Pedicab drivers are licensed and regulated by the city and usually negotiate a price before takeoff or charge by the block. They can be flagged down or found in downtown staging areas.

Pro tip: Pedicabs are. the. best.

Taxis

Traditional taxi services in Austin are in high demand during the festival. There are four: Yellow Cab Austin, (512) 452-9999; Lone Star Cab, (512) 836-4900; Austin Cab Company, (512) 478-2222; and Austin Taxi Co-op, (512) 333-5555

You can also book a Lone Star Cab or 10/10 Taxi with the Curb (no relation) app and a Yellow Cab with the Hail a Cab app .

Electric Cabs

If you’re not in a hurry and just want to get off your feet, look for one of the candy-colored marketing machines from Electric Cab of Austin. The slow-moving, all-electric vehicles are in constant circulation downtown and in central Austin, so you can just flag one down as needed. Find the service area here.

Traditional Biking

Austin B-Cycle

The city’s bike-share system stations are located throughout downtown and on streets just east of IH-35, where many SXSW-related events take place. You can rent by the hour or by the day with a credit card; bikes adjust to fit individual sizes and come equipped with baskets, lights, and gears. Yes, there’s an app; see the site.

Private and peer-to-peer bicycle rentals

The Bicycle Austin site lists several shops that rent bikes as well as a peer-to-peer rental service. You can also rent electric bicycles from Rocket Electrics and probably other places. Also, many boutique hotels and some short-term rentals provide loaner bikes to their guests, so you might want to call ahead about that if you’re staying in one.

Red scooter in front of Austin skyline OjO Electric

Let’s talk dockless: Electric scooters and bicycles

Before we get into the details, here’s one really important thing SXSW attendees need to know: For the entire duration of the festival, electric scooters and bicycles are banned in pedestrian zones on Sixth, Red RIver, and Rainey streets. (Check the Spring Fest ATX Mobility Guide map above—pedestrian zones are marked in red.)

Here are the city’s guidelines for scooter riding and parking.

Remember to follow all traffic laws and operate the scooter as you would a bicycle. This includes riding in bicycle lanes (not downtown sidewalks) and yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks.

When you’ve reached your destination, make sure your scooter is not blocking the right of way. Try to park your scooter in one of the dockless parking boxes marked on the map above.

Scooters are not allowed in the Pedestrian Zones.

Here are the major dockless vehicle companies operating in Austin right now, starting with the two biggies:

Bird

Bird had a rocky start with Austin, but all has apparently been forgiven. Its graphically elegant, white and black scooters with red lettering cost $1 to rent plus 15 cents per minute after that.

Lime

Lime and Bird have the highest number of scooters currently docked in Austin, and Lime was right there with its competitor when it came to an initial, nonpermitted launch in the city. It also charges $1 plus 15 cents per minute, but its scooters are a bright (one might say lime) green and white, cutting a more fluorescent figure through the city

Jump

Owned by Uber, Jump offers both dockless bikes and scooters, both recognizable from the bright coral color they sport. has joined the scooter game. Both can be accessed with your reliable Uber app. Scooters cost 15 cents per minute, sans the $1 start-up charge.

Lyft

Lyft scooters share its app with its established ride-hailing services. The black scooters have a small purple-pink spectrum of stripes to mark them but are otherwise understated. The cost the familiar $1 to rent and 15 cents per minute thereafter.

Spin

Spin’s bright orange scooters are hard to miss and also charge $1 to start and 15 cents for every minute after that.

Ojo

Ojo’s bright red, Vespa-inpired scooters recently made their splashy Austin debut. They are the only scooters in Austin that offer a sit-down option, and you need a driver’s license to rent one (at least in Austin). They cost $1.25 to rent and 18 cents a minute after that.

Car2Go

Car2Go is a sort of on-the-fly car rental business with a limited service area, but one convenient to SXSW activities. Car2Go customers find one of its tiny Mercedes-Benz(os) where the last driver left it (via its app or just by spotting one) and, unless it’s reserved, can rent it on the spot via the app. (You can also reserve cars via the app.) When you’ve reached your destination, you park in an authorized space (also explained on the app), end your rental, and leave the car for the next person.

Car2Go has no parking charges, fuel costs, annual fees, or surge pricing. Just make sure you look at their parking rules closely, especially if you plan on going outside of their service area.

The company now offers special trip packages that reduce the per-minute cost for longer-term rental of the vehicles.

To use Car2Go, you’ll need to register via the app, verifying your identity by taking a photo of your driver’s license and a selfie; you should get access to Car2Go’s fleet within 24 hours and can perform all transactions with the app. Registration costs a one-time $5, and all new members receive a $10 credit.

During SXSW, the company will also have free drop zones so you don’t have to worry about finding parking. Members can drop off and pick up car2go vehicles in the zones throughout the festival.

Drop Zones are open 24/7 at the places and on the dates listed below. They will be staffed by car2go employees 9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily.

March 8-16

400 East Fourth Street, across the street from Austin Convention Center

March 8-16

700 San Jacinto Boulevard

Two blocks from the Paramount Theatre

March 14-16

300 Barton Springs Road

A quarter-mile from Auditorium Shores

Private car

If, for whatever reason (and there are good reasons), you must drive a car into SXSW zones, the city has a map of Downtown broken down into parking zones.

And even the city uses the ParkMe app to find available spaces when you need them, so you might as well, too.

Other advice: Don’t block intersections and crosswalks. In addition to being impolite, it could get you a traffic ticket.