OCEAN CITY — Expect major delays, plan ahead and be prepared for significant traffic pattern alterations, including the closure of the downtown area to vehicles, are the biggest takeaways from the resort’s plans for next weekend’s major music festival.
The inaugural Oceans Calling, featuring many nationally known and popular acts, is set for next weekend, Sept. 30-Oct. 2 in and around the Inlet and the pier. The concerts will take place all day, culminating with the headline acts — Dave Matthews, the Lumineers and Alanis Morrisette — each night.
The event is expected to draw 40,000 ticket holders to the resort over the weekend, which will likely create some logistic challenges for the town’s municipal transportation system, especially when the concerts for the major acts conclude each night. While some of the plans have been discussed at different levels, the government this week issued a release explaining the details for moving waves of concertgoers to and from the event and it included a few new elements.
For example, perhaps the biggest takeaway is the downtown area south of the Route 50 Bridge will be closed to vehicle traffic between 9 p.m. and midnight each night of the three-day festival. The south turn lane off the Route 50 Bridge will be restricted to emergency vehicles and mass transit vehicles only during those hours.
Vehicular traffic south on Philadelphia Avenue will be diverted onto North Division Street and north on Baltimore Avenue during the festival. In addition, a traffic pattern will be established to direct all southbound traffic on St. Louis Avenue to 2nd Street toward Philadelphia Avenue.
Another significant traffic pattern alteration involved Baltimore Avenue between South Division Street and Talbot Street during those designated hours of the festival when the largest crowds are expected to be attempting to leave the downtown area. Northbound traffic on Baltimore Avenue will be restricted to just one lane for private vehicles. The middle lane will be utilized to stage mass transit vehicles, while the easternmost lane on Baltimore Avenue will be designated for pedestrian use only during the festival.
The long and short of it is, Ocean City is essentially discouraging concertgoers from attempting to drive into and near the festival venue. The town’s release suggests parking in the downtown area will be extremely limited and festivalgoers are encouraged to utilize the town’s other parking areas and use the municipal bus system to reach the venue.
Those who are coming to the event from outside town limits are encouraged to use the Park-and-Ride facility in West Ocean City. There are also municipal parking lots available at the convention center and at 100th Street that will be served by the municipal bus system throughout the three-day event. Whether one is parked at his or her hotel or other accommodations, or at one of the municipal lots further uptown and away from the festival, the town will be providing bus service throughout the event. The “ride all day” pass is $3 and allows pass holders to ride from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Despite the availability of the municipal bus service, moving the throngs of people coming to and leaving from the festival is expected to create challenges, according to the town’s release.
“Concertgoers should anticipate bus demand after the event to be extremely high,” the release reads. “This will result in limited availability and delays for those leaving the event. Pack your patience when leaving the event. Transportation will be limited and delays are expected. Know what transportation method you would like to use and have a backup option.”
Another significant takeaway from the town’s Oceans Calling transportation plan released this week involves ride-share platforms such as Uber and Lyft, for example. The official drop-off and pick-up location for Oceans Calling for ride-shares will be at the downtown park at 3rd Street along the bay near St. Louis Avenue. The walk from the park to the concert venue is estimated at around 5-10 minutes, according to the release.
The town reminded ride-share users the demand will be high, especially when the major concerts conclude each night, and the number of drivers will be limited. It should also be pointed out the cost of ride-shares is demand-driven, so the prices should be inflated. In the release, the town reiterated the downtown area south of the Route 50 bridge will be closed to private vehicle traffic on the nights of the festival, so ride-shares, taxis or friends will not be able to pick up concertgoers in that area following the event.
For all of the above reasons, the town’s release encourages concertgoers to consider alternative means of transportation to the event, including walking or riding a bicycle. Just last week, town officials approved the riding of bicycles on the Boardwalk during the three-day event.
The town’s release issued this week also provided estimated walk times to the event from various locations. For example, walking from the north end of the Boardwalk at 27th Street to the concert venue is around 2.3 miles and is expected to take around 45 minutes. From 40th Street, the trip is expected to be about 55 minutes on foot or a 13-minute bike ride. From 30th Street, expect a 45-minute hike or 10 minutes by bike. From 20th Street, the walk is reduced to an estimated 30 minutes, or an eight-minute bike ride. Finally, from 10th Street, the walk is expected to take 15 minutes, or five minutes by bicycle.
Another transportation alternative suggested is the OC Bay Hopper water taxi, which will offer dedicated trips for concertgoers from three locations including its home base at 118th Street, the Ocean Pines Yacht Club and Pier 23. The service will run each day during the festival from noon until 11:40 p.m. Reservations are required, however.
Finally, the release suggests having a plan in place for any contingencies. For example, have a reunification center designated if one gets separated from the individual or individuals with whom they go to the concerts. Have a transportation method plan in place, but know the alternatives if those methods prove challenging, as they likely will. Of course, it goes without saying plan for a sober ride home and don’t drink and drive. Ocean City Police and public safety personnel will be assigned throughout the area to assist concertgoers and provide traffic control conditions.