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Circuit of the Americas cites hiring difficulties, GPS app issues for traffic problems at Rolling Stones concert

Some people who went to the concert were in stand-still traffic for hours going into COTA and others were stranded late into the night trying to find a ride home.

AUSTIN, Texas — Officials with Circuit of the Americas (COTA) are responding to complaints made Sunday about traffic and accessibility issues experienced at The Rolling Stones concert on Saturday. 

COTA's Twitter page posted a photo with the caption "Tonight's gonna be memorable. #StonesATX," and people online did not hold back on their criticisms of the venue. 

One person responded saying, "Oh it was memorable alright, but for all the wrong reasons. Will you be refunding the thousands of people stuck in traffic for hours who couldn't get there?"

Another said, "Memorable in a bad way, unfortunately." These messages were just two among a handful of others in the thread, which were not as cordial. 

KVUE spoke with many more concert attendees who has bad experiences with traffic going into and leaving the venue. Some people were parking in neighborhoods or even abandoning their cars on the side of the streets and in the grass so that they could walk to the venue to see the concert.  

Some people, like Zachary Biggs from Leander, never even got to see the concert. He said they had been waiting 2.5 hours in stand-still traffic and the concert had already started. He said it would have been too late once they would have gotten to the concert and that they knew leaving the venue would be another struggle. 

"I mean, I don't make a lot of money, and/or to spend $300 on concert parking tickets and then not even be able to get to the venue, despite trying for two-and-a-half hours, is just completely unacceptable," said Biggs.

Biggs is one of many people who shared stories of waiting hours to get to the venue. Others missed parts of the concert due to the traffic. Once the concert ended, more problems arose. 

Thousands of people were trying to find drivers on rideshare apps to leave the venue, but due to limited cell service and drivers cancelling due to traffic, many people were stranded. Some concertgoers said they were even asking strangers for rides, as they tried to find any possible way to get out of the area. 

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"So we just decided to walk and, at that point, we were looking at random cars for anybody that didn't have a full load of people in the car, just to knock on the window and say, 'Hey, will you give us a ride? We need to get to the airport, you know, we'll pay you in cash, whatever it takes, and we'll Venmo you some money,'" shared Scott Coleman, who is from Cedar Park.

Similar traffic issues occurred at the U.S. Grand Prix F1 Race a few weeks ago, as people call for roads to be expanded in that area to allow for big events like these to happen. 

Many people told us, this is not only frustrating but is a safety issue for both those attending the concert and those who live in the area. 

"This seems like a public safety issue. It seems like the people who live in those neighborhoods, God forbid someone had an emergency and needed to get an ambulance out there when all this was going on, with people eventually, as I understood it, pulling over and parking their cars on the side of the road and in people's front yards," said Coleman.

In a statement to KVUE on Sunday, COTA officials cited hiring difficulties from "outside staffing companies" and GPS app issues for the reported troubles. COTA officials also called on Capital Metro (CapMetro) for assistance with transportation to its large-scale events such as The Rolling Stones concert.

Read the full statement below: 

"COTA itself is a small group of caring people who want to provide happiness and good memories, not frustration. To host large events, the team hires, and must rely upon, outside staffing companies to provide mobility-assisted services, parking attendants, food vendors, ushers, and cleaning staff.  Those organizations, not unlike most, have reported that hiring has been incredibly difficult lately, and we appreciate everyone who did their best to make The Rolling Stones concert a great experience.  

"Last night, a widely used GPS traffic app incorrectly displayed a major open road as being closed and further displayed a private driveway as being an open road. Thousands of cars were wrongly directed, thereby turning heavy traffic into a mess.

"We encourage Capital Metro and elected officials to heed the calls of our Councilwoman and County Commissioner when they say the residents and businesses in the southeast corridor are underserved.  Public transportation, streetlights, improved roads, and sidewalks are badly needed.   

"Additionally, we understand the mobility-assist partners found themselves overwhelmed with demand. An epic, multi-generational band like The Rolling Stones required a lot of patience, and we appreciate those understanding fans who recognize the challenges our provider partners faced.  

"We call upon Cap Metro to support the Del Valle neighborhood residents, businesses, and visitors. We further thank all the fans who endured the complications and hope you enjoyed the concert of a lifetime."

Many people believe the venue oversold concert tickets, citing the traffic issues, parking availability, and crowds inside the venue. KVUE asked COTA if the concert was oversold and they referred us to their statement above, which does not mention anything on that topic.

We reached out to CapMetro about COTA's call for action. They did not give us a statement, but did tell us that COTA never asked for assistance with this concert. They also said that according to federal regulations, public transit providers and agencies are prohibited from competing with private charter companies. They said there are many private charter companies in Central Texas that can provide this type of service.

COTA is annexed to the City of Austin and is in the district that City Council Member Vanessa Fuentes serves. She said that situations like this can be a safety concern and that this is an underserved area that needs more attention when it comes to infrastructure, especially as it continues to grow. 

"With the scale of events that they host, where you have thousands of people and thousands of vehicles trying to get on site in a confined timeframe, it's absolutely critical that we're able to increase our roadway capacity both for these special events, but also for our community. You know, having these roadway improvements will ensure the safety of our residents," said Council Member Fuentes.

She also mentioned the need to look into public transportation options to serve that area of the city.  

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