Miami-Dade County

Ultra traffic could paralyze causeway in Miami. Here’s the plan to avoid that.

Ultra Music Festival 2018 - Day 3

Scenes from the third - and last - day at the Ultra Music Festival Sunday, March 25, 2018, at Bayfront Park in Miami.
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Scenes from the third - and last - day at the Ultra Music Festival Sunday, March 25, 2018, at Bayfront Park in Miami.

Ultra Music Festival will bring up to 60,000 people a day to its new venue on Virginia Key — a mammoth three-day event that has organizers and local governments worried about how to keep traffic flowing on the Rickenbacker Causeway.

The causeway is the only road connecting mainland Miami to Virginia Key and Key Biscayne. In an effort to minimize traffic snarls, ridesharing services Uber and Lyft have announced they will not be picking up festivalgoers from the island through the festival, March 29-31. Attendees leaving the festival will have to take shuttle buses provided by Ultra to three mainland hubs: The AmericanAirlines Arena, the old Miami Herald site near the Omni, and Vizcaya Museum & Gardens. People will be able to hail rideshares from these locations.

“The potential of having thousands of attendees trying to find their Uber in congested, narrow, and low-visibility areas off the Rickenbacker Causeway poses a significant safety risk, which is why we worked with law enforcement and aligned on restricting pickups on Virginia Key,” said Javier Correoso, an Uber spokesman.

But to get to Ultra, Uber and Lyft will still take riders onto Virginia Key. Uber will not restrict drop-offs. Lyft will prohibit drop-offs from 10:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. throughout the festival. There will be no parking on the island for attendees. Lyft is selling promo codes with discounted rides through the weekend.

Key Biscayne residents will still be able to request cars through both services.

The ridesharing details, released this week, underscore fears of putting too many vehicles on the causeway and clogging up the only road off both keys — particularly when the festival lets out at 2 a.m. Government authorities, festival organizers and the ridesharing companies have all acknowledged the logistical challenge of moving up to 60,000 people off Virginia Key at the end of the night.

To manage the massive exit, Ultra is forcing people to take buses and a ferry back to the hubs on the mainland.

“Following the production, patrons will be transferred to the mainland using a coordinated fleet of bus shuttles and ferries. We do not anticipate any significant traffic other than our own operations on the roadway,” said Ray Martinez, Ultra’s head of security. “The objective is to transport patrons off Virginia Key and onto the mainland safely and expediently.”

Even though revelers can catch rides to Ultra, planners are encouraging people to use shuttles from the three hubs and the ferry from Bayside Marketplace to get to Virginia Key, even if they’re driving in. Parking will be available at the Omni and arena garages. A parking pass costs $30 per day; a three-day pass costs $75 in advance on Ultra’s website. Vizcaya will not have parking available.

The shuttle buses are free for ticketholders. The ferry is not — a three-day pass costs $149.95 as an add-on to the admission ticket.

For those coming from Fort Lauderdale or West Palm Beach, Brightline will be running later through the weekend. Trains will be departing Miami at 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday and at 2:40 a.m. on Sunday. Riders can access a 25 percent discount with the promo code GOSMART.

Miami-Dade Transit is also making the Metrorail and Metromover available 24 hours during the festival weekend. The Metromover has stops near the three shuttle pickup locations:

Old Herald site: Adrienne Arsht Center Metromover station

AmericanAirlines Arena: Freedom Tower Metromover station

Vizcaya: Vizcaya Metrorail station

County regulators have approved Ultra’s traffic management plan. County and city police will be working to keep traffic in and around the causeway flowing.

“Although we have acknowledged that there will be increased traffic impacts on Virginia Key during the production, our focus has always been to mitigate any potential impacts to the extent possible for our neighbors that utilize the surrounding roadway,” Martinez said.

Nearby residents in Miami and Key Biscayne have critical eyes on the festival as it debuts on Virginia Key, as do environmental activists who worry the loud music might disturb sensitive wildlife on the island. A local nonprofit environmental advocacy group, Miami Waterkeeper, sent a letter to Ultra organizers with serious concerns about the festival’s plans to protect Virginia Key’s wildlife. Miami New Times first reported the letter, to which Ultra planners responded they have taken an “unprecedented” effort to make sure the key’s environment remains safe through the festival.

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