Jeramey Jannene

Summerfest Will Offer Its Own Shuttles

Festival to offer scaled-down version of MCTS park-and-ride bus network.

By - Aug 24th, 2021 12:09 pm
Long Lines at Summerfest's Opening. Photo by Alison Peterson.

Long Lines at Summerfest’s opening. Photo by Alison Peterson.

There will be bus service to Summerfest after all.

Milwaukee World Festival, Inc., the festival’s operator, announced Tuesday morning it hired Vectour Group to operate shuttle buses to the festival.

The Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) announced in June it was canceling its festival service for 2021 as a result of what the system called a perfect storm: a personnel shortage, the expense of operating the money-losing service and the fact that Summerfest was moved from early summer to September, a peak ridership time.

“The buses are back – we know that many of our fans utilize bus transportation to get to Summerfest and we wanted to provide them with a convenient and affordable option to attend the festival,” said Milwaukee World Festival President and CEO Don Smiley in a statement.

The service will operate from three park-and-ride lots: College Avenue (both lots), State Fair Park (S. 76th St. and W. Kearney St.) and Brown Deer (E. Brown Deer Rd. at Interstate 43).

The service will cost $12 for a round-trip, with a wristband required to access the return trip. Trips will occur approximately every half hour throughout the day, starting at 11:00 a.m.

The service will operate on all three weekends (nine days) of Summerfest’s new format: September 2-4, 9-11 and 16-18. But the shuttles will not be in service during the American Family Insurance Amphitheater kickoff concerts held on September 1, 8 and 15.

In 2019, the last year the festival was held, MCTS provided service from nine parking-and-ride lots for $5 roundtrip. It also operated a downtown shuttle from Wisconsin Avenue to the festival grounds.

MCTS’ existing routes, including the GoldLine, GreenLine, 14, 15 and 30, will continue to operate on their regular schedule during the festival and come within a few blocks of the festival grounds.

The MCTS service costs more to operate than it generates in fare revenue. The buses often run empty on their way out to the park-and-ride lots to go pick up passengers during the day, and run empty on their way back after dropping passengers off at night. In addition to drivers, the system also must pay for employees to marshal service in and out of the temporary lakefront terminal.

A number of bars also regularly operate their own private shuttles to Summerfest. Other counties also have provided shuttles to the festival.

The 2021 festival will be an unusual one even without the date change and new bus service. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival is requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test result within 72 hours of attendance.

To save time, the festival is encouraging those intending to use the shuttle service to book their tickets in advance on the festival website.

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