Austin to amp up transportation management during busiest SXSW days


March 18 is anticipated to be the busiest day during the South by Southwest Conferences & Festivals, and the city of Austin is increasing staffing for transportation management.

The busiest time during SXSW is anticipated to be the afternoon of March 18, and streets between Congress Avenue and I-35, especially Cesar Chavez, Fifth and Seventh streets, will be heavily congested, said Jim Dale, assistant director of the Austin Transportation Department.

The city’s Transportation Management Center analyzes footage from more than 200 traffic cameras throughout Austin to alleviate bottlenecks in congestion.

“We increase our staff during events like South by Southwest to monitor all the different venues around Austin and the traffic that brings, not only vehicular traffic but also pedestrian traffic, pedicabs, cyclists and so forth to see what we can do to improve mobility,” Dale said.


Metropia is a traffic management app that allows users to schedule trips and redeem points for gift cards. (via Courtesy Metropia)

Staffers at the TMC can then change signal timing and call on the Austin Police Department to direct traffic and disperse congestion, Dale said. The city informs residents of traffic information through 13 dynamic message signs, on social media and through the Texas Department of Transportation.

To avoid delays Dale said he recommends taking an alternative form of transportation, such as biking, walking or taking a pedicab. Capital Metro is also offering extended bus and rail service.

The city is also working with Metropia, which has partnered with the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority to create a traffic management app.

The app allows users to schedule a trip, and the Metropia system will analyze traffic and update users if they need to change their departure time or choose another route, said Mia Zmud, vice president of ecosystem programs for Metropia.

Unlike navigation apps such as Google maps, Metropia is a traffic management and planning app. It rewards users with points for using the app, and points may be redeemed as gift cards to local establishments such as Tacodeli and Luke’s Locker.

“We’re trying to give our users the tools to get around traffic, and if they’re coming to [SXSW] to give them information on the best route,” she said.

Metropia not only analyzes traffic data but peruses Twitter and will verify any incident before incorporating incidents into the app.

“We have feet on the ground and are providing more real-time, accurate information,” she said.

The app is available for free on iOS and Android platforms.

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Amy Denney
Amy has been reporting in community journalism since 2007. She worked in the Chicago suburbs for three years before migrating south and joined Community Impact Newspaper in September 2010. Amy has been editor of the Northwest Austin publication since August 2012 and she is also the transportation beat reporter for the Austin area.
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