It’s the burning question at the heart of this year’s Ultra Music Festival: How in hell will people get there?
Miamians who know their city raised their eyebrows the moment Virginia Key was announced as the electronic music monolith’s new home. Unlike the central location of Bayfront Park, Virginia Key is isolated. To further complicate matters, the beachside venue is accessible only via boat or the Rickenbacker Causeway, which isn't exactly known for its multitude of traffic lanes.
Fortunately for festival-goers, Ultra seems to be adjusting to the circumstances. However, the precise plan to safely shuttle attendees to and from Virginia Key might still be unknown even to the event’s organizers.
The Miami Herald reported March 9 that the final details of Ultra’s transportation plan are still being hammered out with the city and ridesharing services. According to Ultra’s website, Lyft and Uber will be available for drop-off at Virginia Key. According to a Lyft spokesperson, the company will service pick-ups and drop-offs at Ultra’s shuttle hubs on the mainland. Lyft ambassadors will be onsite to assist. Lyft will not allow pick-ups on Virginia Key for the duration of Ultra weekend, March 29 through 31, and will not allow drop-offs between 10:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. those days.
The shuttles, which are free for ticketholders and accommodate 55 passengers each, will be stationed at three hubs: the Arts & Entertainment District (1 Herald Plaza, Miami); American Airlines Arena (601 Biscayne Blvd., Miami); and Vizcaya Metrorail Station (3201 SW First Ave., Miami). The number of buses will vary depending upon demand, an Ultra spokesperson says, but at peak times there will be more than 200 of them moving people to and from the fest.
“Shuttles will run on a continuous schedule from all transit hubs beginning at 1 p.m. each day of the event,” the website says. “Shuttle service will run throughout the day and will not cease until all attendees have departed from Virginia Key following the end of the event.”
Additionally, the fest is reportedly paying to keep Metrorail and Metromover operating 24 hours due to their proximity to Ultra’s transport stations.
The festival has also arranged for ferryboats to carry concertgoers between the mainland and the venue. Unlike the shuttles, water travel will prove costly: Three-day ferry passes are available on Ultra’s website for $149.95 plus fees. Ultra also lists the travel time between Bayside Marketplace and Virginia Key docks as 30 minutes, exceeding the estimated 10 to 18 minutes for the various shuttles.
Those hoping to avoid public transportation might want to adjust their
However, for all the options provided, there's no mention of what will happen at the end of the night when a mass exodus of thousands of revelers occurs. Ultra’s website is vague on the availability of Uber and Lyft for guests departing Virginia Key: “When leaving the event, one of our transport methods will provide travel from the festival to its corresponding transit hub. There will not be any rideshare pick-up areas located near the venue following the end of the event; however, there will be dedicated locations for rideshare pick-up at each hub.“
Likewise, the Herald’s story raised the possibility of a ridesharing blackout prohibiting "Uber and Lyft from driving onto the island and forcing attendees to use a large fleet of buses and ferries to return to the mainland." That scenario would force concertgoers to order their rides from Ultra’s transportation stops.
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Brightline recently announced it will run extra trains at 3 a.m. Saturday and Sunday and 2:40 a.m. Monday to accommodate Ultra fans as well.
Regardless of the specifics, Ultra weekend will represent a mass mobilization the likes of which Miami rarely undertakes. Whether it’s a success or a disaster, it’s sure to be interesting.
Ultra Music Festival. Friday, March 29, through Sunday, March 31, at Historic Virginia Key Beach Park, 4020 Virginia Beach Dr., Miami; and Miami Marine Stadium, 3501 Rickenbacker Cswy., Miami. Tickets start at $399.95 via ultramusicfestival.com.
Correction: A previous version of this story included erroneous information about bus service to Ultra. This story was also updated to add more information about ridesharing via Lyft.