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How to get around SXSW without Uber or Lyft

A handful of companies have popped up in the months after Uber and Lyft bowed out of Austin.

An Alternative View Of The SXSW Film-Interactive-Music Festival Michael Buckner / Getty

Thousands will descend upon Austin, Texas, this Friday for the annual South by Southwest conference. (We’ll be there too.)

But, a reminder: Uber and Lyft don’t operate there anymore.

Why? Last May, Uber and Lyft bowed out of Austin after losing a ballot initiative that would require ride-hail companies to conduct fingerprint background checks.

That doesn’t mean you’ll be waiting on impossibly long taxi lines. After the Silicon Valley startups left Austin, a handful of reliable ride-hail apps have popped up in their place.

Among others, RideAustin, Fare, Fasten and InstaRyde all operate within Austin. Here are a few general tips on how to best use them:

  1. You can hail rides through these apps at the airport and there isn’t one specific spot to do it from. Although ride-hail drivers can’t wait at the airport, they’re all staged right at the exit so the best place to be is on the departures floor.
  2. The city's designated passenger loading and unloading zones are the safest areas to request rides or get dropped off.
  3. Side streets are the next best location, which will keep the main traffic arteries flowing.
  4. There will be a lot of street closures, so keep that in mind when you’re choosing a pick-up location. (Click here for a map of those streets.)
  5. Lastly, most of these companies launched in Austin or for the first time a few months ago — don’t always expect an Uber- or Lyft-level service or user experience.

Here are your ride-hail options

RideAustin: RideAustin is a nonprofit ride-hail app that has close to 5,000 drivers and counting. Like Uber and Lyft, the app has a few different classes of cars. For its standard cars, comparable to UberX, the company doesn’t charge the driver any commission, which means the driver takes home the entire fare. RideAustin charges standard commission on the other classes, which are more expensive and are nicer cars.

According to the company, they have an average three-minute pickup time during a normal week and recently reached one million rides performed — which is a big feat for such a young company.

You can also specifically request a female driver by using female mode. The company also offers the option of “rounding up” your fare and donating the difference to a charity of your choice.

If you’re out at night and you want to hitch a ride, the company recommends you do so before 2 am or after 2:45 am to guarantee your request will be fulfilled.

Fare: Fare, which also operates in Corpus Christi, has a few interesting perks that set it apart. For one, there’s the option of scheduling a ride, which might be useful when trying to get from one event to another. There’s also the option of choosing a “preferred driver,” so if you like your experience with a few drivers, they’ll be matched with you if they are available and around.

Drivers can also maintain their own clientele, all through the app. And, there’s in-app tipping.

All that said, Fare has received pretty poor reviews and two and a half stars in the Apple app store, though that should be taken with a grain of salt. Most complaints are related to the user experience of the app itself.

Fasten: Fasten is interesting because it only takes $1 off each ride from the drivers. But you also have the option of adding more to the top of the fare to incentivize drivers to come to a specific area of high demand. Called Boost, it’s basically user-controlled surge pricing.

Like Fare, there’s also an option to tip your driver in the app. The company’s app store reviews are higher than Fare’s, however, with just a sprinkling of complaints.

Update: InstaRyde is no longer in operation.

This article originally appeared on

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