AUSTIN (KXAN) — Too much booze and too many people; that was the gist of a report from city staff following this year’s South by Southwest festival. The report comes out every year as a way to make the festival and pop-up events safer.
But following a crash this past year that killed four people and injured more than 20 others, the report took on a new importance. The report says crowd management issues, including traffic congestion, are the biggest problems. And two major issues that must be addressed are alcohol consumption and over-programming for a venue’s capacity, whether that be indoor or outdoor.
In order to combat that, the city says it will be harder in future get a permit for special events during the festival. “There will be no automatic approval for temporary events that include performances and/or alcohol.”
Companies that put up barricades will also be required to attend transportation planning meetings. City staff has found decisions about traffic control have often not been shared with these companies. That has resulted in barricades getting installed incorrectly or at the wrong time.
The plan also calls for better lighting on city streets during the events, adding more officers to direct vehicle and pedestrian traffic, and installing new traffic cameras. The cameras would be placed at the Austin Music Hall, along Red River Street, Cesar Chavez Street, 7th Street and the Interstate 35 southbound entrance ramp at Sixth Street.
The report also suggests including the Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission into planning and management during SXSW.
City staff says it’s not the official SXSW events typically causing the trouble, but unofficial or non-permitted events that pop up.
“South-by is growing, but SXSW itself isn’t the majority of the growth,” said Bill Manno, special events program manager. “It’s the spring-breakers that are the majority of the growth, and that’s what we’re trying to get a handle on.”
Manno says he does not anticipate any additional street closures for SXSW in 2015.