Austin pedicabs cost
Shortly after I arrived in Austin,Texas,for this year’s iteration of the South by Southwest,I hailed a pedicab—and took a ride on one of the more compelling business stories of the festival.
A cheerful,mustachioed man on one of the ubiquitous machines—a cross between a bicycle and a rickshaw—offered to pedal me from South Congress to the convention center for $10,and I hopped in. He was wearing a blue t-shirt emblazoned with the Oreo logo,and as he guided his vehicle across Lady Bird Lake into downtown Austin,he told me he often pulls in $60-$100 for a good hour of work during South by Southwest.
My driver was one of the 400-500 registered pedicabbies who populated the streets of Austin each year during the festival,swelling the ranks of the city’s foot-powered livery by a factor of three. These iron-calfed dynamos schlep a solid chunk of the 250, 000-plus visitors to and from the various concerts and parties that make South by Southwest what it is,and they’re well-compensated for their efforts.
Pedicab drivers generally don’t own their vehicles; instead,they rent them from one of a handful of operators. Normally,the cost is only $60-$90 for a week. During South by Southwest,that number can soar as high as $870,according to one cabbie. Even so,it’s worth it: pedicab rides can cost almost as much as yellow cab trips,and the overhead of operating one is much lower. One driver I spoke with expects to clear $2, 000-$3, 000 during the festival’s two weeks.
The pay is so good that some pedicabbies fly in from other cities,mostly Seattle and New York,for the weeks of South by Southwest. The aforementioned Oreo-shirted cabbie puts that number at 10% or less of the total force,but still enough to be reckoned with.
Out-of-town workers are drawn not only by the promise of steady pay during the festival,but by the chances of a lucky jackpot. As legend has it,two cabbies spent a recent night pedaling six revelers around Austin—at the end of which one of the passengers removed a wad of bills from his pocket and peeled off $700 for each driver.
This year Nabisco has been offering some lucky pedicab drivers $50 an hour to pick up passengers,take them to their destinations,then announce that the trip was free,courtesy of Oreo’s parent company.
Unfortunately,my first driver wasn’t among that elite group. But he was still working a commercial angle. As I stepped out of his pedicab,he asked me if I liked healthy food,then handed me a coupon for 25% off at a nearby eatery.
If this journalism thing doesn’t work out,I think I know what I’ll be doing next March.