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Austin Council Could Put Capacity Limits On Large Events

Updated: Monday, March 24 2014, 06:05 PM CDT

The Austin City Council wants a full post-event evaluation of South by Southwest. And Council Member Mike Martinez says it's the first time he can recall the council seriously looking at scaling back for large events.

The evaluation would look into transportation, public safety and venues.

This comes after two major headlines from the festival.

On March 13, Rashad Charjuan Owens, 21, was arrested for plowing into a crowd on Red River, killing three people and injuring dozens. He is suspected of driving while intoxicated.

Rapper Tyler Okonma, aka "Tyler the Creator," also created a stir. He is accused of inciting a riot during his concert at the Historic Scoot Inn in East Austin. He was caught on camera telling people outside the gates to "push through."

Its incidents like that Martinez says needs to be addressed, "I think we as a city need to deal with those growing pains -- pedestrian flow, traffic flow, pedi-cab flow. Those are things at the tip of the iceberg that we know we can approve upon."

The ultimate question he wants answered: what is the city's capacity?

The evaluation would look into answering that with respect to the following:

-Coordination with existing venues on issues related to safety and capacity for festival showcases and day parties
-Traffic management including city street closures, ancillary traffic flow, and access for pedestrians and bicycles
- City personnel, the deployment of public safety, and the availability of permitting resources
- Event sprawl of ancillary events and potential impact on residential areas
- Provision of adequate staff with event management experience
- Management of crowds outside venues
- Impact of queuing of lines into open streets

If the report is done recommendations will come from each department. The public will also be asked for input.

Gordon Dirr with Austin Special Events says they already have identified future camera coverage.

"We had activities at the Austin Music Hall. We didn't have cameras that we could see in that area," Dirr said.

He says they will also address the number of cabs, free and donated alcohol at parties and how many permits will be allowed and where.

"We are really looking at how we can define the capacity and to help people understand why we did it this year. And cut further applications a couple weeks before the event itself," Dirr said.

Council will vote on the proposed evaluation Thursday. If approved the city manager is directed to provide results within 90 days.

By Christie Post

Austin Council Could Put Capacity Limits On Large Events

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