Austin Urban

Photo Credit: Lex Rojas | Daily Texan Staff

The neon invasion has begun. Across campus, RoundUp attendees are suiting up in their fanny packs and securing their wristbands, preparing themselves for the weekend to come. If you're not participating yourself, RoundUp can seem a little terrifying — and West Campus might, to you, look like a war zone.

Here's the good news: West Campus is just one area. Not everyone in this city is spending the weekend flocking to the next party, and crawfish boils aren't Austin's only food source. There's a lot happening in Austin this weekend that doesn't require a RoundUp wristband. Here are five events you can check out if want to avoid the drunken crowds.

1. Forty Acres Fest

Forty Acres Fest is a day-long festival run by Campus Events and Entertainment featuring live music, performances by comedians and dance companies and booths from a wide variety of student organizations. In addition to the events that begin at 2 p.m. in Main and South Malls, Ra Ra Riot and Smallpools will put on headlining shows beginning at 7:30 p.m. The event is completely free for UT students.

2. The Austin 10/20

“Ten miles is tough, ten miles is different, ten miles feels great,” the website for the Austin 10/20 boasts. If you want to get out and get active this weekend, try running ten miles to the sweet soundtrack of live music from local bands including Piqued Jacks, The Vantage and Shadow of Whales. One stage is located every half mile along the ten-mile course, which starts and ends in the Domain. Watch the runners suffer, or participate in the race yourself – it’s $90 to run.

3. Zilker Garden Festival

The Zilker Park Botanical Garden is celebrating the arrival of spring with its annual garden festival on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. There will be live music, a flower show and vendors a-plenty in addition to the normal blooming buds in the garden. The event costs $8, plus $5 for parking if you want to drive.

4. Austin Urban Music Festival

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the Austin Urban Music Festival, which will attract over 10,000 people to Auditorium Shores over its two days. The Festival was first created as an alternative event for families spending time in Austin over Texas Relays weekend, and with the goal of celebrating Austin's African American community. It has evolved into the largest Afro-Centric festival in Central Texas. Tickets to the festival are $36.99 for a day pass or $65.99 for both days.

5. HONK!TX

Don’t brass-k yourself what you should do instead of Round Up – HONK!TX is here to provide a weekend of entertainment. Local brass bands are going to spend their weekend performing in venues around Austin including Spider House, Trudy’s and down South Congress as part of HONK!, a countrywide festival that celebrates brass music. All events are free and open to the public, so grab your brass-loving buddies and make your way out to one of the shows.

In six weeks, the Austin City Council will vote on a public rapid transit system plan to integrate with the existing transportation infrastructure in Austin and central Texas, but, first, the Project Connect team must complete its evaluation of ridership demand and cost models.

Project Connect is a collaboration between Capital Metro, the City of Austin, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, Lone Star Rail and other stakeholders. A project committee for the Central Austin area previously narrowed the modes of transportation down to two — urban rail and bus rapid transit, each with a dedicated guideway. The team will determine the best mode of transportation and how it will be delivered based on several factors, including ridership demand, cost and effect on area economic development.

Bill Spelman, city council member and LBJ School of Public Affairs professor, said he hopes the system will be able to accommodate increased future demand.

“One of the things that we’re hoping to have happen is that demand during peak hours will go up,” Spelman said. “Ten years hence, if the demand is there for five-minute frequencies [from 10-minute frequencies], is that something that we’ll be able to take into account?”

According to Kyle Keahey, HNTB Corp. vice president and lead consultant on the project, two lines will be built. A bridge, short tunnel or long tunnel will be built from East Riverside Drive, travel north across Lady Bird Lake and end at 17th Street. The team must also choose between two different routes for an additional line that will begin just north of Hancock Golf Course and run north just before U.S. 290.

Keahey said, when deciding between the two Hancock line alternatives, the team must weigh the benefit of allowing riders to transfer to the already-existent MetroRail Red Line.

“If we introduce other lines to the system and we interline, all of a sudden, we end up with the Dallas example … where everything is funneled through a single alignment,” Keahey said. “Those are issues that we are looking at not only in this project but also … as we move forward beyond just this first project,” Keahey said.

Because the project relies on receiving federal funds, Keahey said, the team must ensure that the proposed project meets Federal Transit Administration requirements, including cost-effectiveness criteria. Keahey said there are several aspects of ridership that must be considered, including people’s perceptions and willingness to ride each transportation mode.

“I think BRT [bus rapid transit] is starting to dispel some of [the] notion that, if you provide frequent, clean service, that you can be competitive, but still what we’re seeing in the literature and FTA’s experience is that, if people have to choose, they choose rail over a bus, typically,” Keahey said.

According to Scott Gross, Austin Urban Rail program manager, as the city expands the transportation system, the cost-effectiveness of urban rail and bus rapid transit may become very similar over time.

“Urban rail does become more cost-effective per seat,” Gross said.

Keahey said bus rapid transit would require less capital investment, including not having to build an operations and maintenance facility. Keahey also said buses can make sharper turns, which means the city may have more route options if it chooses to expand the system.

The team will make a formal recommendation on May 2, and, making any necessary alterations, the council will take a vote on the locally preferred alternative on June 13.