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Summerfest and Concert Tour - WI

FAST FACTS ABOUT: Summerfest and Concert Tour - WI
Types of TDM: Mode Choice, Route Choice
Keywords: Special events, ITS, concert, multi-jurisdictional coordination, transit advantage, enforcement, park and ride, Freeway Flyer
Area Demographics: Two venues featured, both in southeastern Wisconsin attracting between 35,000 and 1 million visitors per multi-day event.
Program: Coordinated, pre-emptive special events planning which offers public information and transportation alternatives to event attendees.
Results: Event planning Severity Level Matrix, County ordinance adopted which provides fiscal reimbursement for extra government services required as the result of a special event. Increased transit usage (25% of total attendance).
Cost of Program: Not available; numerous agencies and departments cover resource needs.
Staff: Not available; numerous agencies and departments cover resource needs.
Contact: Scott Silverston, Wisconsin Department of Transportation,



Recurring Event Traffic Management
Southeastern Wisconsin is host to various special events throughout the year ranging from sporting events to rock concerts, all attracting a large number of visitors from around the region. In particular this case study will focus on two events, both being music festivals/concerts. Summerfest is an annual music festival that takes place at the Henry W. Maier Lakefront Festival Grounds near downtown Milwaukee and within a close proximity of several major freeways. The second highlighted event is the Grateful Dead Tour that took place at the Alpine Valley Music Theatre in the rural Wisconsin city of East Troy in Walworth County.

Combining Resources and Integrating Technology
In 1995, a number of key components added to the local transportation system as part of an Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) early deployment package, MONITOR, set the stage for special events planning and traffic management in the future. Also in 1995, the Traffic Incident Management Enhancement Program (TIME) was conceived consisting of four inter-related components: 1) special events and construction, 2) emergency response, 3) corridor traffic management, and 4) public information. TIME has been the catalyst of multi-jurisdictional coordination and collaboration regarding regional transportation issues.

The importance of special event transportation planning was recognized through a review of incident management procedures and programs. Wisconsin DOT (WisDOT) and planning partners began to collaborate on traffic issues related to recurring events such as Summerfest (attracting 1 million people over the course of eleven days), the State Fair and professional sporting events. Planned special events have tangible elements of time, location and content that lend themselves to early coordination unlike unpredictable, unplanned incidents such as a major traffic accident.

Summerfest is an annual, eleven-day outdoor music festival that starts during the last week of June and lasts through the Fourth of July weekend. Summerfest attracts approximately 100,000 patrons per day and over 1 million annually. It’s been estimated that approximately 45% of all attendees are out of town travelers.

Throughout the process, additional challenges have been recognized such as the compounding effect of numerous events, even if they are small in scope, occurring at the same time.

Since parking on-site is limited near the venue, alternative means of providing transportation and informing festival visitors with traffic, alternative route and parking information were essential. In order to manage the steady influx and departure of Summerfest attendees, several Wisconsin DOT field components and other regional resources were utilized. Managing traffic for Summerfest requires high level interagency coordination on the part of WisDOT, Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department, City of Milwaukee Public Works and Police departments, MCTS, and Summerfest Staff. A scenario based Traffic Management Plan was in place to inform travelers of traffic conditions and detour information.
For Summerfest, several transit enhancements were deployed including expanded transit and shuttle bus service. Temporary access improvements including bus only access to closed freeway ramps as well as bus only lanes and one way traffic patterns increased transit effectiveness and reliability during the event. Other operational measures such as providing round trip fares and separate staging areas for expanded shuttle service expedited passenger loading.

Grateful Dead Tour
The Grateful Dead Tour in 1989 held at the Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, Wisconsin was attended by nearly six times as many people as expected (200,000 instead of 35,000). At the time, a coordinated Traffic Management Plan was not in place. Attendees arrived earlier and stayed later than the venue itself and damages to personal property, severe congestion on local roads, and inadequate emergency access were consequences of the 1989 Tour.

Thirteen years later, local law enforcement officials requested the assistance of the Wisconsin DOT to create a Traffic Management Plan that would reduce or possibly eliminate the congestion and problems experienced in 1989. On June 26, 2002, a Concert Management Plan was created after approximately 5 weeks of planning time consisting of four sub-plans, 1) Traffic Management, 2) emergency government, 3) weapons of mass destruction, and 4) emergency medical.
The plan implemented several traffic control measures to guide and control traffic including portable VMS, type 3 barricades and traffic cones, portable lighting units, ATV/bicycle/equestrian patrols, HAR, and a significant law enforcement presence. In addition, a nearby permanent WisDOT Rest Area was temporarily utilized as a remote command center for Walworth County Sheriff Department and a WisDOT remote TOC.
Indicators of Successful Event Planning
Special events planning in southeastern Wisconsin has lead to the development of a number of tools including the Severity Level Matrix. Developed in coordination with local law enforcement and event sponsors, the Excel-based Matrix indicates anticipated level of response based on event criteria such as predicted attendance and road closures.

WisDOT continues to work with local agencies and event planners on special event transportation planning. While mitigating traffic congestion for special events is often limited by transportation facilities or time of day, agencies continue to give due diligence to safe, efficient, and informed traffic management. Throughout the process, additional challenges have been recognized such as the compounding effect of numerous events, even if they are small in scope, occurring at the same time.

Quantitative effectiveness data for the Summerfest Traffic Management Plan is limited. However, MCTS ridership data for Year 2000 listed below provides an indication of success:

• Approximately 25% of the total attendance utilized bus transportation.
• The Downtown Shuttle provided 100,000 rides.
• 300,000 riders utilized the Freeway Flyer service from 13 park-and-ride lots.

Grateful Dead Tour
The two-day Grateful Dead reunion took place on August 3-4, 2002 without serious incident. Approximately 37,000 people attended the reunion, not the expected 100,000. Attendees and residents followed the traffic guidance. During the entire two-day event, 123 citations were issued for various charges and 15 arrests were made, which is a significant decrease compared to 1989. Public information campaigns, “If you don’t have a ticket, don’t come” and national media attention were successful in detouring impromptu concert goers without tickets from loitering the venue.

As a result, Walworth County adopted an ordinance (Ordinance No. 232-11/02 Sec. 10-28 a) stating that an event licensee is responsible for reimbursing the County for the cost of providing extraordinary governmental services required as a result of an event. Grateful Dead Tour promoters were required to pay the County $15,000 in additional fees.


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