Thousands leaving Ultra chose between long lines or walking over Rickenbacker Causeway
The second night of Ultra Music Festival’s first event on Virginia Key ended with a more organized approach to moving more than 50,000 people off the island.
The organization doesn’t necessarily mean it went faster for everyone. People still reported waiting for one to two hours to board buses shuttling people to three transit hubs on Miami’s mainland: Vizcaya Gardens, the AmericanAirlines Arena and the old Miami Herald site. Some got back to their rented rooms faster. Others experienced a less dramatic but equally as long wait to get on a bus.
Festival organizers pushed to provide more buses earlier, reorganized traffic lanes to create a better flow of cars and buses along the Rickenbacker Causeway and forced people to line up inside the festival gates, unlike the disorganized crush of people outside the exits on the first night.
“I think the bus situation is a lot better tonight,” said Casey Almstead, of Orlando. She waited less than an hour to get on a bus around 1:30 a.m. “It’s better because they’re lining people up inside the festival.”
The adjustments paid off the most for people who departed early from the festival. A large fleet of buses lined up in two lanes before midnight, and festival staffers kept people from spilling onto the street. Once the festival’s main performances ended at 2 a.m., the gates were flooded with people wanting out. A marked difference from night one: Staffers were counting people as they were ushered out of the gates and onto buses.
That process, while safely keeping people away from shoving their way toward bus doors, still took time and relied on how quickly the fleet of buses could make the drop-offs and return to Virginia Key.
The logistical challenge of moving tens of thousands of people off Virginia Key in an orderly fashion after a daylong music festival involved a complicated collaboration between festival organizers, multiple police agencies and, in the end, tired people who were asked to be patient as they waited in line.
Some concertgoers commended the new structure but still found it frustrating to have to wait more than an hour to catch a ride. Many echoed a common take on the festival’s first year in Virginia Key after the city booted Ultra from its longtime home on Miami’s downtown waterfront.
“Let’s do what we can to get @ultra back to Bayfront Park, people are truly missing out,” tweeted user @VictorGimme. “Virginia Keys isn’t gonna cut it. They know it, we know it. I just got back to my room, 5:32am, I left at 1:30.”
Authorities also adjusted traffic lanes so people who wished to walk back to the mainland over the William Powell Bridge could stay on the two westbound lanes of the Rickenbacker Causeway and not have to cross to the other side. People had more room to walk.
But once at the west side of the bridge, there was some frustration. People were ushered onto buses at a newly created stop. Without a gate to force people to line up, the scene at times resembled the first night’s chaos.
Ultra also extended activities past 2 a.m. to encourage people to ease out of the event gradually. Food vendors and water stations stayed open longer, and some artists performed latey in the early morning hours.
The extra music might have exacerbated a new issue beyond the complications of moving people off the key. The sound blasting from Ultra — a key reason downtown residents lobbied Miami commissioners to kick the festival out of Bayfront Park — irked mainland residents who complained on social media about hearing the electronic dance music emanating from Virginia Key.
“The placement of the extreme decibels out over Biscayne Bay has spread the noise pollution that was once blocked by the Downtown Miami buildings out to numerous neighborhoods,” tweeted John Morales, a meteorologist for NBC 6. “No one is sleeping well, we all have headaches.”