About three weeks from now up-and-coming bands, celebrities, journalists, normal folk and the rest of the music industry will descend upon Austin, Texas for the SXSW music festival. Traditionally the mid-March event marks the beginning of the music calendar as record companies scour the Live Music Capital for this year’s breakout new artist or group.
The music segment of SXSW is the most popular and well known portion of the ten day festival that celebrates music, film and technology. Over the last few years the festival has grown exponentially in popularity, going from a place where music nerds and locals went to discover new bands and stay ahead of the curve into a sprawling corporate-sponsored party with plenty of free booze. Add in the hundreds of bars and restaurants lining Austin’s streets and one of the largest state universities in the country and you have yourself a lot of drunks.
However don’t feel too bad for the drunken Austin streets, because last year the 10-day festival gave the city’s economy a $167 million boost. This year, cab drivers are primed to join in on that sweet action as well.
Beginning Thursday, Austin cab drivers will be allowed to charge up to $100 extra for passengers who’ve had too much to drink and “mess up” the cab. The money is for clean up costs and to pay for taking the cabs out of the mix.
“It takes me like a couple of hours because when I clean it my car needs to be dry,” said local cab driver Joseph Ngaleu.
The City of Austin directed the Transportation Department two years ago to look at more ways to get more taxis working at night. The city council approved a measure three weeks ago to allow cab drivers to charge an extra $1 per passenger after 9 p.m. The second part of the incentives for cab drivers is the $100 clean up fee.
“I like that there’s something finally official on the books so that I can say, ‘The city says that I can charge you ‘X’ amount,’” said cab driver Scott Powell.
Each cab will have signs to let passengers know about the extra clean up fee and the cab drivers will get the money directly from the passenger.
“If somebody’s going to get drunk enough to get sick in a cab and screw up their property, I think cab drivers have a right to be able to charge that,” said cab user Anna Little.
So if you’ve mixed chimichangas with spicy tuna rolls and BBQ, Lone Star with Sapporo, tequila with Jack Daniels and Toro Y Moi with GWAR — think twice before hopping in that cab.
[Image via Shutterstock]