Obama visit, SXSW make it time to consider alternative transit

AUSTIN (KXAN) — South By Southwest opens this week, a period when traffic experts say makes for the most downtown congestion of the year. Couple that with President Obama’s appearance here Friday to deliver a keynote address, and things could get very sticky. South By has put Austin on the map, and the president’s visit is a feather in our cap, but this may be historic. The city is doing what it can, and there are plenty of alternatives for each of us.

Phillip Tindall, the assistant director at CAMPO, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, says, “Sometimes necessity is the mother of invention. There are a lot of alternatives out there and we’re hoping South By Southwest will be an incentive to give people the idea they could look around at different ways to get around.” Approximately 125,000 people come into downtown Austin each weekday, to work or play. South By will double that number for the next two weeks.

You might consider rail, bus, cabs, cars to go, the b-cycles, van and car pools, staggered work hours or telecommuting. Moveability Austin is a non-profit that consults with downtown area businesses on how to arrange for their employees to work at home. Its director, Glenn Gadbois, explains, “People love it. One, they don’t have to deal with traffic. Two, they can get right to work and three they are more productive.” Gadbois points out that Austin is in the top five in the country for telecommuting. About 10 percent of the people in greater Austin do their work primarily from home, but Gadbois says only about 5 percent of downtown jobs telecommute, “That’s because people want to work downtown, they like the vibrancy and all that there is to do here.”

Anna Kamasc is a digital producer from Australia and she is back for a repeat visit to the festival. She says she’s learned a few things about the congestion, “I got myself a nice hotel centrally located this time. I use the shuttle bus, which is a bit of a nightmare. Also walking, bike riding and pedicabs.”

The city of Austin is sending all of its non-essential employees home Friday at noon, and Austin ISD is letting out 17 of its campuses early. As for the rest of us, there are options. If you want to learn more about telecommuting, you can contact Moveability Austin. You can find matches to help van or carpool by going to myCommuteSolutions.com, RideScout.com, or GoCarma.com. If you want to know the best route to take to your destination at a particular time of day, Metropia.com can help, and CapMetro.org also offers ride sharing information.

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