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Although Greater Austin stretches well beyond these boundaries, most consider the downtown core to be bordered on the west by two highways running in a roughly north-south direction: MoPac (Loop 1) to the west, and I-35 to the east. Other major arteries are Highway 183, which snakes north from the airport (well east of I-35), crossing I-35 and MoPac in north Austin, and continuing to the northwest suburbs; and Loop 360 (Capital of Texas Highway), which runs from the Arboretum area in the northwest, through the upscale West Lake area, crosses MoPac and becomes Highway 71 (aka Ben White Blvd.), running through South Austin to Austin's airport (ABIA).

In addition to the major roads, drivers can choose from a number of local roads to travel relatively smoothly within Austin, notably mighty Lamar Blvd., which runs south from Ben White all the way up to Parmer Lane and I-35 in the far north. Many major roads run in an east-west direction: in general, you'll find a good horizontal artery every five to ten blocks.

If you don't expect to travel outside of downtown, no need to have a car at all. By relying on shoe leather and the extensive public bus-and-trolley system (the free 'Dillo trolleys and the regular Capital Metro bus lines www.capmetro.org) in the central core, you'll avoid getting lost, plus save on unnecessary parking charges at your hotel.

If you need to rent a vehicle, you'll save money by renting it someplace other than the airport.

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