When Molly told us that our Airbnb apartment booked for SXSW was “a short walk from downtown,” I was pretty thrilled after the taxi disasters at CES. And although 20 minutes of walking first thing in the morning isn’t usually a big deal for a New Yorker like myself, 20 minutes of walking in the sun on a road with disappearing sidewalks is a whole ‘nother story. We also spent the rest of our days trekking all over town to bring you the best coverage, so by the end of the day, walking one more second is the last thing you want. Thankfully, there were a slew of transpo promotions that saved our asses. Here’s a ranking of our favorite ways of getting around SXSW.
This was by far the most fun experience because pedicab drivers always have something entertaining to say, and many decked their rides out with anything from LED lights, Darth Vader, Boba Fett, Wonder Woman, to the Game Of Thrones throne. Some pedicabs were also sponsored by Oreo, and Uber (irony?), so the rides were all donation-based. Pedicabs aren’t the fastest mode of transportation, and it can get super cold at night when the breeze rushes pass you, but they’re pretty much the only thing that late you can hail at a moment’s notice.
If you happened to be by the Austin Convention Center, Chevrolet had 50 Chevy Cruzes giving people free ride within three miles of that starting point. Additionally, you could tweet @Chevrolet with the hashtag #ChevySXSW and if someone was nearby, they would swing around and get you. A good ol’ flag down in the middle of the street works too. New car, nice air conditioning, awesome drivers – sign us up. Too bad the team only ran until 9 p.m. daily.
RedBox teamed up with a local motorized golf cart taxi service to don several vehicles with the RedBox logo (see at top). But upon hopping in and finding out they still charge $5 a person per ride? Come on, son. I know you’re not Netflix but you’ve gotta have some money to spend on a marketing gig.
A tech confession cab at SXSW was a fun idea, and it was nice to hop in, get away from the rain and noise , and have a nice conversation with host Irina Slutsky. Unfortunately, we caught her at rush hour and went maybe two blocks before we just decided to jump out and run to the next destination.
Microsoft’s Bing It On Challenge
We were told to call up a special Bing SXSW hotline and an oversized SUV would come pick us up. Surely enough it did … except during the ride, we were forced to take the Bing It On challenge (you know, that one that’s on those annoying commercials where a loud-mouthed host tries to convince you Bing search results are better than Google’s). We couldn’t decide or pick alliances, so we went with “Draw” for most of the challenge instances, although Bing did edge it’s way to a win once. But at least they gave us a few freebies by the end of the ride, and it was incredibly roomy back there.
Razorfish #UseMeLeaveMe GPS Bikes
Riding a bike is definitely the most authentic way to get around Austin, but of course there’s a catch: These bikes may disappear after you’ve parked. That’s because these bikes are shared properties by marketing team Razorfish meant to be used by anyone and everyone. The orange little cruisers also tweeted their locations so you can always try to find any one that’s not being driven. We never saw them again after day two, but it was nice while they lasted.
The ride sharing app SideCar made its mark in Austin, drawing in more than 10,000 ride requests during SXSW. All you had to do was drop a pin at your pick up and drop off locations and a driver should respond if one is nearby or going in that direction. Unfortunately, we lived a little too far away from the convention center to ever get drivers headed our way. At least we tried.
The Yellow Cab company of Austin has a mobile app where you can enter your location and the next available cab will come pick you up. For the most part, our experience always gave us the “Pending” status for about 30 minutes, then it’ll say “Picked Up” after some jackhole stole our cab. The in-person hails were also pretty terrible; I tried flagging one down by the convention center to go away from the downtown madness and the driver simply shook his face in his empty car and drove off. What the hell, bro, I had money! That I was going to give you!