This is a refresh to my original blog post from entitled Getting Around Austin Without A Car. I was inspired to write this article to demonstrate to Austin residents that it’s not necessary to own a car to get around the city in style and avoid the aggravating traffic. In January 2018, I decided to sell my car after a major engine failure driving to visit my family in Dallas, bought a one-way plane ticket to Panama City and traveled all the way down to Patagonia in Southern Chile for just over a year! It was the most incredible adventure of my life and taught me a lot about how fortunate we are to live in a first-world country with all the modern conveniences.
As many of us already know, Austin is one of the fastest growing cities in the United States! With over 150 people moving here every single day, it has been ranked #1 place to live for the third year in a row.
Quality of life was the biggest factor measured in the ranking. That takes into account things such as quality of available health care, crime rates, commute times and how well residents fare physically, socially and financially.
The quality of life is pretty amazing (not gonna lie), but I would argue that commute times and financial cost of living here are out of proportion. The traffic congestion is terrible at seemingly random hours of the day and housing prices are some of the highest in the nation. According to CultureMap, “the most affluent Austin neighborhood (in Barton Creek) boasts a median home value of $1,046,600”. Rather than buy a house, you could travel the world for a lifetime with that outrageous sum of money!
That being said, Austin could learn a few things from Santiago, Chile and finally build a world-class subway system! The population of Central Texas recently hit 2 million. In that same time, road capacity is expected to increase by only 15%. The goal of Project Connect is to make our system fully electric, always connected, and autonomous. However, I don’t envision that happening anytime soon, so in the meantime we have to make do with existing public transportation systems. That’s why I decided to put together this exhaustive list of all the available options to get around Austin without a car.
1. Hop on the Bus or Train
Cap Metro, the city’s hop-on, hop-off bus system, is a convenient and cost-effective way to get around the city. In 2018, the city tripled the number of routes that operate every 15 minutes including on the weekends. You can buy a Local Day pass for only $2.50 which gives you an unlimited number of rides for 24 hour. Turn your phone into a pass using the CapMetro App or any of the available options here. An added benefit is that MetroExpress routes take advantage of the fast lanes, letting riders bypass traffic, save money on tolls, gas, and car maintenance. So why deal with long commutes, road rage, and accidents? Hop on the bus and ride anywhere in the city using your day pass! MetroRail is a 26-mile line that runs between Leander and Downtown Austin during the week, and from Lakeline to Downtown on Saturdays. It drops off outside the Austin Convention Center on Fourth Street between Neches and Trinity streets and costs $3.50 per ride.
2. Rent a Bike
Take Austin by the handlebars. Let’s face it — you have things to do, places to go, and people to meet. But perhaps you also want to enjoy the beautiful scenery between meetings, going to a live concert, or kayaking on the river. Well then, you should totally rent a bike on Austin B-Cycle! There’s over 75 stations to choose from and you can sign up for 24-hour access at any of the kiosks with your credit card. It’s easy and safe to get around the city thanks to the hundreds of designated bike lanes. Remember to wear a helmet and follow the traffic laws. As of recently, you can now upgrade to an electric zero-emissions bike with Jump. Fire up the Uber app, scan the QR code to unlock, and you’re off to the races! Put the fun between your legs; ride a bike.
Known as a pedestrian-friendly city, Austin's streets are accompanied by sidewalks, bike lanes and crosswalks. Experienced travelers recommend biking as a means of transportation since there are several bike trails found throughout central Austin. If you live in downtown without a car, you’re in luck. However, if you live outside of the downtown core, you’d better have a car — or be a pretty courageous cyclist. Austin’s most famous cyclist, Mr. Lance Armstrong lives in Old Enfield, which also happens to be Austin’s most bikeable neighborhood.
3. Walk and Run
According to CultureMap, the 2015 American Fitness Index ranks Austin the No. 20 fittest city in the country. It’s difficult to go anywhere without seeing people enjoying the outdoors, doing yoga in the park, playing fetch with their dog, or running along the myriad trails. I highly recommend taking a leisurely walk or running at a brisk pace along the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail. With more than 2.6 million visits per year, the 10-mile trail is Austin’s most recognized and popular recreational trail with beautiful views along Lady Bird Lake. The trail promotes the city’s natural side, extending from the river along through the urban development it runs through. On average, there are 228 sunny days per year in Austin. Take advantage of the beautiful climate here and hit the trails for an afternoon jog!
4. Ride an Electric Scooter
The new Green City Initiative has implemented strategies to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. he largest ridesharing companies (namely Uber and Lyft) began offering electric scooters to reach that audacious goal. Obviously, this won’t be a cure-all until more people switch to electric autonomous vehicles, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction to combat climate change. More cities are adopting the electric transportation program every month! There should be an app to tie them all together similar to what RideScout did for transportation options, from buses to ridesharing to car sharing and even public bicycle networks such as Austin’s B-Cycle. That’s a top for another time… There are so many options to choose from. Rides typically cost $1 to start and then 15 to 20 cents per minute.
Lyft Scooters - Two blocks or two miles, Lyft Scooters go up to 15 MPH and are the latest, affordable way to get you where you’re going — and maybe have some fun while you’re at it. 500 scooters and 1,000 supplemental scooters.
JUMP Scooters - They’re fun, affordable, and easy to use. Reserve a scooter, find it, and then scan the QR code on the handlebar using the Uber app to unlock it. 500 bicycles and 1,500 supplemental bicycles; 500 scooters and 1,500 supplemental scooters (see map for Jump's areas of operation)
Bird Scooters - Bird's mission is to make cities more livable by reducing car usage, traffic, and carbon emissions. 1,000 scooters and 4,000 supplemental scooters (see map for Bird's areas of operation)
LIME Scooters - Launched in over 100 cities, Lime is proudly working with our city, university and community partners to enable smart micro mobility around the world. 500 scooters and 2,500 supplemental scooters (see map for Lime's areas of operation)
Spin Scooter - Spin provides your community with dockless scooter-share to get you where you need to go—whether you’re commuting to work, going to class, running errands on the weekends or exploring your city. With Spin, you’re free to roam. 500 scooters.
OJO Scooters - Ride smarter, travel safer & go further… with OjO’s 25-mile radius, you’re going places. 100 scooters.
VeoRide - We make smart transportation easy to use– just locate a bike or e-scooter on the VeoRide app, scan to unlock, and you’re on your way in seconds! 300 scooters and 50 bicycles.
Bird, Lime, and Uber are allowing Austin residents to use the vehicles free of charge to start, with a cost of just 15 cents per minute after that. In other markets, the companies tend to charge a flat fee of either $1 or sometimes $2.50, depending on whether you’re using a scooter or a bike.
“To prepare for the increase in demand, we have ramped up our team on the ground who are available 24/7 to move any incorrectly parked scooters or bikes to the designated parking areas,” an Uber spokesperson said in a statement given to The Verge.
Fun and cheap as they may be, scooters come with serious risks. Every good thing has its associated evils if misused. It goes without saying that’s important to follow the traffic laws, wear a helmet to protect your noggin, be careful of pedestrians crossing the street, and avoid sidewalks whenever possible. Careless people often leave the scooters strewn haphazardly all over the place… in the streets, bike lanes, littering the gutters of 6th Street, and even lying in a ditch. Please ride responsibly!
As of May 23, 2019, a City Council meeting passed new laws for scooters. Austin police officers and parking enforcement officers with the city’s Transportation Department can charge scooter riders who break the slew of new rules. The first offense is punishable by a $20 fine and a $40 fine on the second. Some of the basics of the new rules include:
Obey traffic signals and signs.
Yield to pedestrians on sidewalks and in crosswalks and yield to vehicles when leaving an alley, driveway or building.
Riders younger than 18 must wear a helmet.
You cannot ride two at a time on any of the more than 16,000 devices floating around the city.
5. Use Ridesharing Apps
Assuming you haven’t been living under a rock, you should already be familiar with Uber and Lyft. These ridesharing apps are the most convenient way to get from point A to point B. There’s a very clear reason these disruptive companies have a multi-billion dollar evaluation. In the interest of keeping Austin innovative, we created our own non-profit app called Ride Austin which broke onto the ridesharing scene when the two biggest players were banned from Austin for requiring fingerprinting and criminal background checks.
“Developed from the ground up to follow the City of Austin local ridesharing ordinances in 2016 while simultaneously offering a great, safe service. We have opened up our data to give the public a view into the ridesharing model & provided researchers the ability to mine the data.”
6. Hail a Pedicab
Let’s be honest, Austin is a weird hipster city full of young 30-something millennials hustling to make a decent living. A few years ago, I drove for Austin Electric Cab picking up drunk people from the bars. Pedicabs are always cruising throughout the city, especially during peak times such as weekends and during citywide events. Prices vary per trip or per rider, so make sure to ask your driver before hopping in.
7. Rent a Car2Go
This option defeats the purpose of this blog post, but if you are really gung-ho about driving a car around the city, you can grab a car2go from anywhere on the street, then drop it off anywhere on the street in the operating area. No reservations required. No long lines. No refueling. No worries.
It's like renting a car, but without all the hassle. Car2go vehicles are free-floating around the city of Austin, meaning they are not restricted to stations. When a member has reached their destination in a car2go they simply park it in any on-street legal parking spot (metered spots included) and walk away, leaving that car for another member to use. Car2go vehicles never have to be returned to a designated area. Members pay $0.41 per minute, inclusive of parking, gas, insurance and vehicle maintenance. Car2go vehicles – 332 in Austin – are constantly moving around the city as members use them to get from Point A to Point B.