SXSW has opened the gates to the wave of creative minds who will flood this city for the next ten days. But for many Austin residents, SXSW means one thing: downtown transportation nightmare.
Check out our Google Map above to see a listing of the street closures downtown. Please take note that some of the closures are temporary, only effective on certain days, or not in effect during certain hours of the day. You can click on a specific closure to get more information.
"We're working constantly in coordination with SXSW, so last minute there could be slight changes but it's unlikely," Austin Transportation Department spokesman Leah Fillion told KUT News. She also said the Transportation Department has learned from past experience. For example, this year, they're offering neighborhood parking passes to people who live in the Rainey Street District. Last year, Fillion said, closures in that neighborhood were coordinated without passes and it was more chaotic.
On top of the SXSW closures, two major sporting events will bring droves of fans to the University of Texas campus over the next two weekends. The UIL Boys State Basketball Tournament runs Thursday to Saturday at the Frank Erwin Center, and the NCAA Women's Swimming and Diving Championship runs March 17-19 at the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center. UT says no street closures are planned, but you can expect roads to be crowded.
One bit of good news for drivers: No I-35 closures are planned for this weekend or next. The Interstate was closed several recent weekends at SH 71 as crews completed construction on an overpass. But the next closure of I-35 "probably won't be until May," Texas Department of Transportation spokesman John Hurt said.
If you're like most locals and don't have a badge, there are still many non-SXSW events you can take in. You can find lists of those events at Do512 and Republic of Austin. Many will require that you RSVP online.
There will be more live streaming of events this year. SXSW will be streaming its Interactive panel discussions on its website. Pepsi says it will be providing live streams of SXSWi panels too. Some of the panels will also be simulcast at SXSW's 10 "campuses" across town.
AT&T is adding 18 extra cell sites downtown to help deal with the crush of data emanating from smart phones, according to the Austin Business Journal. With more Android smart phones available on competing cell phone companies, and the launch of the iPhone 4 on Verizon, it will be interesting to see how other mobile networks are able to handle the data load.