SXSW Means a Boom for Towing Business
Officials speculate that 200,000 to 250,000 people travel to Austin for the South by Southwest conferences each year. Some are registered participants, some are performers, and still more just come to Austin to party. That influx of people can make getting around — and parking — a nightmare.
Ben Parker can attest to that. He was waiting at the window of J&J Towing to pick up his Ford F-150. He parked it under the I-35 bridge between Sixth and Seventh streets a couple of nights ago.
The lot is a city-run metered lot during the day and on weekends. But there’s no overnight parking. J&J Towing clears the lot every night between 3 and 5 a.m.
Parker, who lives in Austin, knew he could get towed but says he didn’t have an alternative.
“Yeah, the sign is right there, but when you’re drunk you’re not going to move your car and go drive somewhere else,” Parker said. “So I left my truck there, and that’s what happens.”
SXSW Music gears up today. And that could lead to plenty more situations like Parker’s.
The city has extended metered parking since the last SXSW, and a lot of drivers could be caught off guard.
While some argue the threat of being towed from expired meters could encourage drunk driving, Tim Sapp disagrees. He’s the executive officer for J&J Towing, which handles about 1,200 contracts for clearing private and public parking lots in Austin.
“It’s not our job to make sure that they’re being responsible with their alcohol consumption and where they park their vehicle,” Sapp said. “If they know they’re in a spot that doesn’t allow parking throughout the night, they need to make a responsible decision to find a place to park that they can leave their car the whole night.”
Sapp will be the first to admit that his towing company isn’t going to win any popularity contests , especially this week.
“It’s a difficult industry to be in from time to time,” he said.
Sapp expects J&J will tow about 50 more cars this week than usual. But most of those won’t be downtown, where the city handles most of its own parking enforcement.
“We’re going to see a spike in South Austin, where there’s more open parking,” he said. “And, in general, at apartment complexes where friends might be visiting for South By Southwest. And if there is no parking there, unfortunately if they’re not a resident they don’t have any right to a parking spot, and they need to find someplace else to park.”
One possibility: Find a designated driver or take a taxi. Extra state troopers will be patrolling I-35 while APD will be monitoring things downtown, on the lookout for drunk or dangerous drivers.