As we all know, drunken driving at any level is illegal, reprehensible, dangerous, and just plain bad form. That’s a fact the Austin Police Department will bring home for you at all times, but especially on New Year’s Eve, when it’s an unfortunately common occurrence.
The department’s “no refusal” period for the holiday started Saturday and runs from 9 p.m. every night through 5 a.m. every morning, ending New Year’s Day.
If you are suspected of driving while intoxicated during the period, officers will have more legal resources for obtaining a blood alcohol sample, even if you refuse to submit one. That’s not to mention the life- and injury-threatening position you put yourself, your passengers, and others in when you attempt to drive while drunk.
Fortunately, there are many options—including free or reduced ride-hailing prices and other ways to get to your destination—for Austinites to ring in the new year without all that danger. Here are a few of them.
Free public transportation
Capital Metro is extending its MetroRail and MetroRapid service until 2:30 a.m. New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day as well as offering free rides on New Year’s Eve from 5 p.m. until the end of service. MetroBus lines are included in the free fares and will be operating on their regular weekday-service schedule.
RideAustin (a locally owned, nonprofit business), Lyft, and Uber currently operate in Austin.
From 8 a.m., Dec. 31, through 4 a.m., Jan. 1, Lyft riders can get $5 off all rides in Texas. Claim your discount before hailing a ride by clicking here or by applying “NYEPLAN18” in the Lyft app.
The Lyft discount is part of the statewide “Plan Ahead, Ride Safe” initiative cosponsored by Lyft, AAA, TABC, Anheuser-Busch, and Silver Eagle Distributors
The four Austin cab companies are: ATX Co Op, Austin Cab, Lone Star Cab, and Yellow Cab. They’ll no doubt be out in force downtown and in nearby areas, including at taxi stands, via app in some cases, and (in theory) by telephone.
They are lots of them. Find them, along with taxi stands and other handy corral spaces, on this city-provided map.
Free taxi or ride-hailing trips
- If you take a taxi or ride-hailing service home after you’ve been drinking on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day and pay for it, Houston car-accident law firm Sutliff & Stout will reimburse you via PayPal. (Yes, this service is offered in Austin and San Antonio as well as in Houston.) There are some rules regarding valid hours, dollar limit, and so on—make sure your ride will qualify before embarking.
- Daniel Stark Injury Lawyers has a free designated-driver service program that is currently offering to pick up the tab for Yellow Cab rides costing up to $25 in Austin. Riders must give the account number 1006 when calling for a ride in order to receive the discount, which is available between midnight and 6 a.m. on January 1.
- AAA Texas offers Tipsy Tow service—a one-time free tow of your car and two passengers for up to 10 miles, no membership required—statewide from 6 p.m. New Year’s Eve to 6 a.m. New Year’s Day. Call 800-AAA-HELP to book a tow truck.
Drive there; don’t drive back
If you really want to drive your own car to an event or area to celebrate and do not have a sober driver for the trip home, for whatever reason (your designated driver disappeared, you got tipsier than you thought you would, someone slipped you a mickey—no judgment, as long as you don’t drive home), you still have options for getting home safe that won’t result in a towed car to deal with in the cold light of day.
Call a driver
A service such as Dryver will dispatch one of their licensed drivers to get you and party home in your own car.
Park in a designated overnight parking space or lot
You have a few options with this one:
- The city has has more than 3,000 Downtown street-parking spacesthat are metered so that you can buy time for the next day.
- If you forget to buy time for the next day and leave your car overnight and get a ticket (the Austin Transportation Department does not tow vehicles), you can get it waived if you take in the ticket and taxi or bus receipt in with a completed Ticket Waiver Form.
- You can buy overnight parking in several downtown lots and parking garages.
- The parking lot under I-35 between Sixth and Eighth streets offers overnight meter parking for $7 a night Monday through Thursday and $8 a night Friday and Saturday. Parking is free on Sunday. Note: Metered parking in the lot is good from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. Monday-Friday. If you pay for “overnight” parking those nights, that really means you are paying for parking until 3 a.m. the next morning, and cars left in the lot from 3 to 5 a.m. Monday through Friday morning may be towed due to routine cleaning.