How to Navigate SXSW Traffic

If you live in Austin, you may know how often locals leave town for a quiet getaway while their house is rented out through Air B&B. One Austinite even published this playful “shortcut” from North Austin to South Austin during SXSW.

Sometimes, parking itself can be enough of a deterrent for Austinites considering venturing downtown, and SXSW only exacerbates the problem.

However, for those who work SXSW, and can not make the route by alternate transportation, it’s a necessary evil. We’ve learned a few tips and tricks over the years on how to snag the ever elusive street parking that is increasingly unavailable with Austin’s rapid growth. Circling for street parking increases your time on the road and likelihood of an accident.

Downtown Parking Spots

Austin’s downtown has around 17,000 parking spots. This includes lots, garages, and street parking. Sometimes you can find a spot easily, but during SXSW that is down-right laughable. Here are some tips for finding and choosing the best parking in downtown Austin during the craziest time of the year. But, do be weary, all of these options probably require you to stake out a spot early in the day, because spots will go fast.

  1. Find Free Parking: Did you know that there are certain areas where parking is free after certain hours? Many areas offer free parking between midnight and 8am, but north of 10th street parking is free after 6pm. What does that mean? You get to enjoy the end of happy hour without stressing about a parking ticket. And you only have to walk around 4 blocks to downtown.
  2. Use an App: need help finding parking? There are plenty of apps that will help you find parking close to you or your destination. Try “Parkme” or “Parkopedia” – both will help you find cheap and reliable parking spots.
  3. Park at a friend’s: have a friend that lives downtown or in close proximity? Ask if you can park in their garage or in their driveway. You will be able to avoid tickets and the stress of searching for parking and the worry of needing to move your car at a certain time.
  4. Valet: dine somewhere that offers parking or a valet service. Sure, it may end of being expensive but hey, you gotta eat sometime. There will be a valet fee on top of the cost for your meal, but it all leads to a worry free parking experience. Also, these places are understanding and never want you to get behind the wheel after drinking, so tell them that you will need to come back to get your car, but please tip your valet. Some restaurants downtown that offer valet services include:
    • Eddie V’s Prime Seafood
    • The Backspace
    • Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse
    • Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse
    • Fogo de Chao

    Many more restaurants offer this service in the downtown area.

  5. Use Metered Parking: although paying stinks, and searching your pockets for coins is no fun, metered parking feels worth the money. Why? Because $0.40 of every dollar you spend goes into improving Austin’s downtown. Unlike garage parking, you know your money is going towards something beneficial. For a map of metered parking areas, check out the city’s Metered Parking Area Map with Zones

A solution to metered parking will arrive in west campus on March 22nd, which is unfortunately 2 days post SXSW. Although it won’t help during SXSW, the app ParkX is bound to be a valuable source for Austinites that street park. This app will allow you to pay for parking and will even warn you when your meter is about to run out, giving you time to pay more to extend your parking. Now, you don’t have to run to your spot to add more money. But don’t count on this service during SXSW.

SXSW Street Closures

Because of the high foot traffic downtown during SXSW, numerous streets will be closed during the festival. Here are the streets that will be closed and the dates vehicles will be unable to access them.
6th street: this one is a no brainer, considering it is usually closed on weekend nights as well. But, unlike those crazy weekend evenings, 6th will be blocked off from South Congress to I-35, and be unavailable from March 11th through the 20th.

    • Red River: this street will be closed off between 5th and 10th streets for all of SXSW. It will also be closed between 4th and Caesar Chavez during the 11th-13th and again from the 16th-19th. The area of Red River that runs through the Rainey street area will also be closed all of SXSW.
    • Rainey Street: the entire Rainey street area, including parts of Red River, Driskell, and Davis, will be closed throughout SXSW.Trinity: large chunks of Trinity will be inaccessible during the festival. Trinity will be closed all of SXSW from Caesar Chavez to 4th street and from 5th to 7th.
    • Besides Trinity and Red River, Brazos, San Jacinto, Neches and Sabine will be inaccessible between 5th and 7th streets during all of SXSW.

The best way to street park during SXSW is to park outside of the downtown area. Avoid the areas between south congress and I-35 and Caesar Chavez and 7th. These areas will be basically inaccessible and incredibly difficult to navigate. You are better off parking about a mile from downtown and walking the rest of the way to your destination because in the long run you’ll spend less time walking than you would sitting in traffic looking for parking.

Be wary of confused or lost tourists and drunk drivers on the road. Many accidents occur during SXSW, so be safe and wary of all drivers, even as a pedestrian, be aware of your surroundings. If you are injured during SXSW, contact McMinn at 512-474-0222, use the live chat on our website, or fill out the form on this page.

8 Things You Didn’t Know About Parking in Austin

In the spirit of getting out of your car and on with your life, here are 8 things you didn’t know about parking in Austin.

1. There are 17,000 parking spaces downtown

It can sometimes feel like there’s just no parking left downtown. But, excepting the occasional festival, that is rarely true; the parking is just hidden in garages. A measely 3,000 parking spaces are located on the street, but there are 14,000 parking spaces downtown offered in surface lots and garages.

2. Your meter payments help pay for the streets you drive on

In Austin, $0.40 of every $1 paid in parking downtown goes to projects that directly contribute to improving the downtown area, including improving sidewalks, street maintenance and reconstruction, and other means of transportation. An additional portion of parking revenue is used to enhance night-time public safety through coordination with the Austin Police Department.

3. On-street parking north of 10th Street is free after 6 p.m

That’s right. Free. While many downtown street parking spaces have increased their paid hours to midnight Monday thru Saturday, this stretch of spaces has maintained its 6 pm limit. For the math averse: that’s only four blocks to 6th street.

4. Ticket forgiveness

You drove downtown for dinner but your friends dragged you out for drinks and you made the right decision to not drive home. Austin applauds this responsible decision and, to reward you for it, offers the chance to waive any ticket you receive by leaving your car overnight with a receipt from your alternative ride home.

5. Next Day parking purchase

A little forethought can go a long way. Ticket forgiveness to promote responsible driving decisions is great, but it can be a hassle. So if you know you’re going to have a good time downtown, you can pre-purchase next day parking in the spot you’re in to avoid a ticket all together. When purchasing parking, just press the yellow “Next Day” button to see your options.

6. Parking locator apps

With there is limited signage of where public parking is accessible in Austin, there are several apps, like ParkMe or Parkopedia, that can help drivers find the cheapest, most convenient parking downtown. Just be sure you’re safely stopped before using your device to choose which parking destination to go to.

7. Car2Go can park on the street for free

In an effort to encourage alternative transportation such as car sharing, the city has partnered with companies like Car2Go and ZipCar to offer designated on-street parking for both companies. Additionally, Car2Go drivers can park in any on-street parking for free.

8. Back-in angled parking is actually safer

Most notably installed on South Congress, back-in angled parking can be a little nerve racking for first timers, but in the long run it is actually safer, most notably for cyclists. With this design, drivers are more careful when entering the spot, having to look backwards for angling purposes and coincidentally looking in the direction a biker would be coming, and they can easily see traffic when leaving a spot.

If you have been the victim of an auto accident call (512) 474-0222 soon to find out more about your rights and options. McMinn Law Firm offers free consultations with lawyers experienced with Austin car accident cases.