App-based transportation sharing companies say they are boosting services in Austin to handle the jump in demand brought on by the South by Southwest festival.
From car2go to Lyft and Uber to newcomer Get Me, carsharing and ridesharing companies say they will offer an array of expanded services during SXSW, from new drop off locations and discounts to free breakfast tacos and in-car Wi-Fi.
Austin has become a one of the nation’s top hubs for tech-based ride-hailing and delivery service providers. A joint study last year found Austin to be the most wired city in America for transportation, according to Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Frontier Group and Austin-based TexPIRG Education Fund.
The combination of Austin’s fast-growing population, its strong technology community and a ballooning traffic congestion problem have help drive the trend.
And SXSW has become a traditional time for those firms to play a key role, as a crush of visitors puts an extra strain on area roadways and transportation.
Car2go, which has an Austin fleet of 330 vehicles, said has added several new features during SXSW this year, including upping its designated vehicle drop-off zones from three to four.
“As Austinites know all too well, SXSW can make getting from point A to point B very painful, particularly finding parking,” said Austin-based car2go spokesman Mike Silverman.
This year, the service will let users drop off their vehicles during SXSW at the downtown locations of 700 San Jacinto Blvd., 400 East 4th St. and 90 East Brazos St. And car2go added a new East Austin drop off location at 500 Comal St. for this year’s fest.
“We realized that there is so much going on on the East side,” car2go spokeswoman Dacyl Armendariz said.
Car2go is also offering its members free coffee and breakfast tacos every morning during the Interactive festival as well as sped-up registration services through the RideScout offices at 200 East 6th St.
Uusually, a car2go requires a 3 to 5 day period to complete a background check for users. For SXSW, that check will now be completed within 24 hours.
The service will also be offering discounted $10 memberships for the duration of the festival, versus a usual fee of $35.
Surge pricing, or higher prices during peak demand, could be a factor for those using ridesharing services, but that isn’t stopping companies such as Lyft and Uber from rolling out new SXSW perks.
For example, Lyft has partnered with Budweiser to offer free rides during the late night hours. It’s also offering discounts of 25 percent for certain rides and treating some attendees to free Lyft ride credits.
This year, Lyft officials say the company has exclusive access to drop off passengers at Trinity Street at the Austin Convention Center.
“We went all out so you can too,” Lyft said this week in announcing its expanded SXSW services.
Meanwhile, Uber said it has partnered with Dallas-based Vinli to provide free, in-car WiFi for some rides during the 10-day festival.
The service will be available for certain uberX rides, starting today through the 20th and riders will know if they have Wi-Fi when they board the vehicle.
Uber has also partnered with athletic apparel retailer lululemon athletica to offer free rides to select riders on Monday. The service says riders can try to request one of its free rides by using the code “Connection” on Monday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Lululemon is also giving away gift bags, which could include athletic socks, towels and snacks.
Uber said it plans to make its mark during SXSW.
“Entrepreneurs, filmmakers, and musicians all descend on Austin in March for their next big break,” Uber said in a Wednesday blog post. “And we are making our biggest splash since uberX became the reliable way to get around and experience Austin.”