From road closures to transportation options: What you need to know for SXSW
Thousands of people are expected to come to Austin this week for the official start of South by Southwest. City leaders said they've been preparing for the influx of people, but want Austinites to plan to be safe, too – whether that’s driving safely through detours or just getting home in one piece after events.
Austin Mayor Kirk Watson said large events – like SXSW, Rodeo Austin, the World Golf Championship Dell Technologies Match Play and the ABC Kite Festival – add to the city’s vibrancy and bolster the local economy, but they also strain local resources.
“Traffic congestion increases and there are potential travel delays that these large events can create,” Watson said at a news conference Monday. “And there is a need for heightened vigilance when it comes to safety and security.”
Assistant Police Chief Jeff Greenwalt said the department wants people to enjoy events like SXSW, but in a safe and responsible manner.
Road closures and parking
“There will be a lot of barricades and closed streets … in and around the downtown area for the entire week of South by Southwest,” he said. “We ask that people …comply with any signs or barricades that they might see.”
Expect delays around most of downtown Austin, since the Austin Convention Center and the streets that surround it are mostly closed or partially closed.
Here are some of the main closures:
- The 200-800 blocks of East Sixth Street ("Dirty Sixth") are closed every day from 2 p.m. to 6 a.m. until March 19. The same blocks of East Fifth and East Seventh streets will have only one lane open.
- Trinity Street along the west side of the Convention Center, as well as the 400-600 blocks of Sabine Street and the 500-900 blocks of Red River Street will be closed through March 19. Riverside Drive in front of the Long Center will be closed from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. on March 16-17, and 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. on March 18.
The most accessible points to downtown from I-35 will be closed intermittently. The south ramp to Eighth Street, north ramp to Sixth Street and ramps in both directions to Cesar Chavez Street will be affected.
The City of Austin has also put together a mobility guide to help navigate all the closures. You can find that here. But traffic conditions may change. APD recommends using an app like Google Maps or Waze to plan routes.
Parking lots may also be closed. Greenwalt warned against parking on neighborhood streets, which require a permit. Check for signs before you park.
Street parking is an option, if you’re lucky. Make that process easier by downloading the ParkATX app.
Capital Metro is extending rail service Friday and Saturday until 2:30 a.m. and until 12:30 a.m. on weekdays. The Red Line will take folks straight to the downtown station, which is on Fourth Street by the Austin Convention Center. You can find details for all CapMetro services here.
CapMetro bus lines will continue running, including the 801 and 803 rapid lines. The Austin History Center and Republic Square stations are the closest to the downtown events happening during SXSW.
The festival also operates a free shuttle that circulates between Trinity Street in front of the Austin Convention Center and most SXSW venues.
Biking is also an option. MetroBike kiosks are available at Fourth Street, Trinity and Third Street, Brazos and Sixth Street, San Jacinto and Eighth Street and Red River and Cesar Chavez Street. The B-Cycle app will make the process to secure a bike easier too.
While the department has had staffing issues throughout the year, Greenwalt said APD will be “all hands on deck” during the festival. Officers and 911 dispatchers are being offered overtime pay to cover the additional needs, and detectives will be working patrols.
APD will be looking for minors in possession of alcohol and anyone so intoxicated that they might be a danger to themselves or others. Greenwalt said people should drink responsibly and have a safe plan for getting home.
“We do have a no-refusal initiative through the entire week,” he said. “So, if somebody is arrested for DWI, we will be taking a blood draw to use that as evidence against them.”
The city has a "Get Home Safe" program for people who drove to a venue but can’t safely drive home.
“Make the responsible choice to leave your car and take that safe ride home,” Jim Dale, assistant director for the Austin Transportation Department, said at the news conference. “If you get a parking ticket, you may be eligible to have that ticket waived, just save the receipt.”
Overall, Mayor Watson said, the city is prepared.
“We ask for the patience and partnerships of our residents as we navigate the byproduct of these wonderful festivals and these tremendous events,” he said.