How to travel during SXSW

Local officials are recommending drivers take alternative forms of travel to work during South by Southwest Conference & Festivals. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Local officials are recommending drivers take alternative forms of travel to work during South by Southwest Conference & Festivals. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)

Local officials are recommending drivers take alternative forms of travel to work during South by Southwest Conference & Festivals. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)

South by Southwest Conference & Festivals is headed to downtown Austin on March 11-20 with a packed lineup of conferences, performances and more. To accommodate the events, several roads will undergo full or partial closures along event venues and travel paths. Austin Transportation Department Director Robert Spillar recommends residents avoid travel downtown if at all possible, but if unavoidable, he encouraged the use of bicycles, scooters and CapMetro services.

“With the return of SXSW in person, hundreds of thousands of visitors will be coming to the downtown area,” said Jack Flagler, senior public information officer for ATD. “The event is akin to hosting the Super Bowl every year in terms of visitor attendance.”

The largest cluster of road closures centers around East Sixth Street with several full road closures spanning from East Fifth Street to East Seventh Street. There are additional closures spanning up Red River Street and down Trinity Street from the central area. Traffic on West Riverside Drive also is closed in both directions along with four surrounding on- and off-ramps for I-35. There also will be several partial road closures throughout the event areas.

In anticipation of extra traffic and increased ridership, CapMetro will expand its MetroRail operations, Deputy CEO Dottie Watkins said. Rail service on Mondays-Thursdays will run until 12:30 a.m. and on Fridays-Saturdays until 2:30 a.m. CapMetro will also operate buses March 13 for week one of the festival. Masks are required for all CapMetro vehicles. Capital Metro has MetroRapid 801 and 803 stops downtown near the festival, along with two MetroRail stations.

The downtown Austin area will see increased levels of traffic, and the best way to avoid contributing to congestion is to consider teleworking options or flexible hours to avoid peak traffic periods, according to the ATD. Traffic in the city of Austin has returned to 85%-90% of prepandemic levels, and the downtown area has already seen more activity prior to the official kickoff of SXSW on March 11, the ATD said.


There are several passenger pickup and drop-off zones listed on the map for ride-hailing services along with pedicab staging areas. Parking laws will be heavily enforced throughout SXSW, and the ATD will be working closely with police to enforce tickets and towing for cars in violation of parking rules, Spillar said.

With SXSW and spring break, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is anticipating high levels of traffic between March 10 and early April, including several 26,000- to 30,000-passenger days. The Transportation Security Administration is advising passengers to arrive two hours early for domestic flights and three hours early for international flights.

All transportation information regarding closures, alternative transportation options and other important travel information is available on the ATD's interactive map.





By Grace Dickens

Reporter, Lake Travis/Westlake

Grace is the Lake Travis/Westlake reporter for education and city government. She joined Community Impact Newspaper in October 2021 after graduating from the University of Texas at Austin with degrees in journalism and geography.