Pu Ying Huang
This Saturday is the second Formula 1 United States Grand Prix race in Austin. But unlike the first, this Saturday is also UT game day and the city is bracing itself for the traffic these two events will bring.
John Julitz, Capital Metro spokesperson, said he feels Cap Metro is ready for the challenge.
“Last year being the first one, we didn’t really know what to expect,” Julitz said. “This year we were able to take a lot of the lessons we learned from last year to streamline our services. There’s a UT game as well and that presents another new challenge.”
This year, Cap Metro has focused their efforts on expanding the Metro Rail service hours, which will mean additional costs.
Julitz said Cap Metro contracts with Circuit of The Americas, which hosts the F1 race, to provide buses. The Circuit is then responsible for the shuttle service to the tracks.
“Last year the shuttles were free, but this year they are charging $5 per ride,” Julitz said. “We’re trying to be clear that we’re happy to be partnering with [Circuit of The Americas], but the cost to ride the shuttle is all from COTA.”
The race last year brought in an estimated $546.3 million of spending in Texas, according to numbers provided by Shilpa Bakre, spokeswoman for the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau. The data was tracked through the Major Event Trust Fund application that the Circuit Events Local Organizing Committee sent to the state comptroller. According to this application, the race also brought in an additional $30.5 million in state taxes.
This year, it will be more difficult to track state revenue because of the the UT game bringing in additional visitors.
“It will be hard to get those numbers for this year because we don’t know how many visitors will be here for F1 and how many will be here for the UT game,” Bakre said. “And the UT games bring in 100,000 people, but we don’t know how many of those people already live here.”
Samantha Park, spokeswoman for the Austin Transportation Department, encouraged the use of public transportation as an alternative to being stuck in traffic.
“… If you’re going to the [UT football] game, come downtown after the game, but leave your car parked,” Park said. “Consider walking down here, bicycling, taking a pedi-cab or taking Capital Metro. There will be limited parking.”
Julitz also recommended avoiding certain areas if possible.
“If you aren’t interested in F1 activities, avoid the area around Republic Square Park and the convention center,” he said. “If people want to come to the downtown area, allow extra time and [Cap Metro] will be able to get you where you want to go.”