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Austin mayor encourages people to work from home Friday

Anticipated heavy traffic with president visit is causing the city to allow employees to leave early Friday.

The Austin mayor is encouraging people to work from home or take a half day Friday in anticipation of heavy traffic.

Friday traffic can be bad enough in Austin, but when you add SXSW and the president coming to town, it's a recipe for gridlock.

"Traffic on Friday is just going to be an absolute zoo," Austin mayor Steve Adler said.

That's why Adler sent out an e-newsletter Tuesday encouraging employers to allow people to work from home Friday. That way there will be less people downtown amid all the traffic.

Adler also said some city departments are having employees work from home. He also said people can stagger work hours or leave work early.

"People would see a remarkable difference on our streets," Adler said.

Adler has seen the presidential effect on traffic before.

"I found myself stopped dead in traffic along with all the other traffic around me," Adler said.

Adler said they clear a direct route for the president.

"And nobody moves until he's ready and then he starts his path and nobody moves again until he's virtually completed that path," Adler said.

The president is set to speak at 2:30 at the Long Center Friday afternoon. That means his motorcade will go through downtown early Friday afternoon. That's why in a city memo Tuesday, city manager Marc Ott said non-essential employees can leave Friday at noon.

"It's an honor to have the president come visit our city but it is a pain at some levels as well, one we willingly endure," Adler said.

The president will then go to the Opera House downtown and then head to a fundraiser at a private residence in West Austin.

Adler said, if enough people work from home then it would help a lot. However, if you do want to go downtown, then you can also ride your bike or take Cap Metro rail or bus which is expanding its service for SXSW.

Many businesses said they are not allowing people to work from home because SXSW is a busy time. Still, Adler said employers should consider letting people work from home if they can.

"I would say listen to your employees and don't make them spend the afternoon downtown on Friday, let them head home," Adler said.

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