As thousands of people gather in downtown Austin for South by Southwest this week, UT students will have to navigate heavier traffic, crowded buses and closed-off streets.
Because the festival normally lines up with UT’s spring break, a large population of students who are usually out of town will still be commuting around Austin. CapMetro began planning for this year’s event immediately after SXSW was over last year since they anticipated heavier ridership and fewer buses available to them, said Jennifer Golech, CapMetro bus operations and service coordination director.
“We normally have the entire fleet of buses that we use for the UT routes available to us during SXSW to use to support all the other routes, and that wasn’t the case this year,” Golech said. “We’ve just had to be very specific about where we’ve added service to support the event.”
While route 20, which traverses Riverside and the University, has seen minor delays from heavier traffic out of the airport, there have not been any significant delays from SXSW yet, Golech said.
“We’ve pretty much been able to keep buses on time,” Golech said. “We’re monitoring route 20 very, very closely to be able to take action in case we do see delays on there.”
Riley Poore, a Middle Eastern studies junior, said she takes the 671 or 672 routes to and from her apartment in Riverside.
“In the morning it’s not a huge deal because I feel like most of the SXSW stuff usually isn’t at 8 a.m., so it isn’t bad,” Poore said. “If I’m leaving — either driving or taking the bus — for one of my afternoon classes, I do have to accommodate 15 or 30 extra minutes leaving earlier.”
Linguistics senior Riley Pruden said although she is from Austin, this is her first time having to plan around traffic from the festival.
“I’ve always avoided SXSW completely before,” Pruden said. “I left for my bus 15 minutes earlier today to be here on time for my first class just in case, and I’m already having to plan how I’m going to make
The traffic doesn’t just affect downtown streets. Sustainability studies junior Aylin Castro said she noticed much heavier traffic heading into Austin after going home for the weekend.
“I usually come back early in the morning because I know traffic can get a little wild,” Castro said. “Even in the early morning on my way back, there were a lot more cars than usual, which added about 30 minutes.”
Poore said she thinks the heavier SXSW traffic is a direct result of UT students not being on break.
“I have lived here for most of my life, and I would say (traffic) is worse,” Poore said. “In the past, I tended to not be in town, or because my parents live here I tended to just stay at home in South Austin and avoid downtown at all costs. That’s not an option this year.”