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Accident at SXSW needs to start a transportation conversation

Last night the SXSW party came to a grinding halt. An allegedly drunk driver went from getting picked up for driving under the influence to being charged with two counts of capital murder and 23 counts of aggravated assault with a vehicle. While this could start and stop as a conversation about drunk driving, it’s also an opportunity to talk about the need for better public and ground transportation options.

In the last few years SXSW it has grown exponentially – first with the addition of SXSWi, SXSWEdu, and SXSWEco. But more importantly the increases in the high-profile performers and corporate sponsorships have brought more people into the city. And that primed Austin for an explosion of unofficial SXSW events.

For a couple weeks in March, Austin becomes the host to a citywide party. And with that, conversation about the need to control some of the growth started – actions were taken to limit permits to host events and increase police presence. But SXSW logosupporting a citywide party means you have to support citywide ground and public transportation options as well. The question needs to be raised about whether or not everything was done to support safe rides for people during this citywide party.

Public transportation options were bus or train; Capital Metro specifically expanded their services for SXSW. But the infrastructure isn’t there to support everything that CapMatro seeks to accomplish with their services. There need to be other options available. Car services came to town to offer alternative Cap Metro logosafe rides for partygoers and festival attendees. But hit a wall with the laws requiring an operating permit, a chauffer’s permit and commercial insurance. I am not arguing that this is a petty requirement; I am arguing that Austin needs to create a system that allows for ride sharing and e-hail services for safe rides. It’s not going to be easy – there is a strong lobby here and for reasons that are not trivial. But it’s time to really address how to keep a booming population safe and provide adequate ground transportation resources.

If we cannot find a solution, we may end up with other restrictions that will affect the annual economic boom that SXSW is on Austin. And there are a hell of a lot of new hotels going up in downtown Austin that still need to be paid for.

Social Good-ers Asked: Want to Go to SXSW Interactive?

A few years ago I had the opportunity to attend SXSW Interactive (SXSWi). I was the communications director of a nonprofit in Austin and had written a contest submission about why I should win a free ticket. I didn’t know what to expect from SXSWi – it was amazing.

I had the opportunity to hear from people who were doing really innovative things with technology – and there was so much exploration and sharing. I had the opportunity to meet people who look at the world and seek out how to create change that makes a difference and betters the world.

And now, the people at SXSW are offering the 2014 SXSW Interactive Scholarship to ensure even more creative, innovative people who seek to do social good can be a part of SXSWi. How this works:

  • Learn more about the details of nominating a social good rock star.
  • You write a nomination of someone who can make a difference – and is using technology in innovative ways to accomplish their goals.
  • Submit your 300-word essay by Friday, July 26, 2013.
  • Wait with baited breath to hear if BOTH you and your nominee are going to SXSWi on September 23, 2014!

I wish I were part of the team that will be reviewing the entries – I love hearing about the new and exciting things people are doing to create social good for their communities! If you send in a nomination – feel free to share with me too, I’d love to hear about who you think deserves this nomination! And if you think you are someone who deserves the nomination, but need someone to write your nomination, let me know!