One hundred fifty thousand people are descending on Austin, Texas, this week and next for the South by Southwest Conference and Festivals. Marketplace’s senior tech correspondent Molly Wood, who talked to host Kai Ryssdal from Austin, said this year, a lot of people are having a difficult time getting around.
Last May, both Uber and Lyft left Austin because of the city’s background check requirements for drivers, and the city is going to phase out Airbnb rentals toward the end of this year. While other large conferences, including the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, worked directly with cities to make sure that Uber and Lyft would be available, Hugh Forrest, the director of programming for South by Southwest, said that Austin’s complicated relationship with on-demand technology companies is just part of what makes the city unique.
“Would it be good for our event if Uber and Lyft were back in town? Yes,” he said. “Would it be good for our event if Airbnb had a rosier future in Austin? Yes. But Austin is Austin. We do things in many different ways. That’s part of the charm, the quirky charm of the city, so we’ll see how it plays out”
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