Austin transportation and businesses respond to surge of visitors

Alyssa Mahoney

As South By Southwest 2014 comes to a close, business managers and Austin transportation officials expect data to reveal record numbers of visitors and passengers.

The AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center — the only hotel and conference center on the University campus — was at near-full capacity during the festival, according to Keith Purcell, sales and marketing director. 

“The hotel’s very busy because we’re sold out, but our conference center is pretty much empty,” Purcell said. 

Purcell said management staff shifted the hotel’s hours of operation to accommodate different groups.

“Interactive starts early, so we opened our coffee shop early,” Purcell said. 

During the 2013 SXSW festival, Capital Metro had a record number of riders and an increase of almost 40 percent on MetroRail, according to CapMetro spokeswoman Melissa Ayala. Data for this year’s festival were not available as of press time.

In anticipation of significant transportation demand during this year’s festival, Ayala said CapMetro extended operation hours and added extra trains that picked up passengers at the end of the night.

Ayala said CapMetro also added 1,500 hours of bus service along several routes and determined specific route detours based on street access, congestion and route directness.

Jason Zielinski, spokesman at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, said March is typically a busy month for the airport. 

“We’re getting more flights,” Zielinski said. “We’re getting more airlines.” 

Zielinski said the airport has large crowds on the last two days of the festival. According to Zielinski, airlines at Austin airport had a record 10 million passengers last year. Zielinski said, so far, passenger traffic in March has increased by 6 percent compared to March 2013.