A photo showing the traffic jam due to the Afterlife electronic music festival at Miami Marine Stadium on Wednesday. Some Key Biscayne residents reported that they were delayed two hours getting home. (Photo/Provided by Ruben Gil)
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Traffic chaos reigned Wednesday night as concertgoers jumped out of rideshares or abandoned their cars, hoofing it across the Rickenbacker Causeway to get to the Afterlife electronic music festival at Miami Marine Stadium.

As a result,  traffic – once again – ground to a halt, stranding Key Biscayne residents just trying to get home, taking them up to two hours to get to their door. Other residents turned around and found places to spend the night, whether it be a hotel room, a friend or a relative.

It recalled the traffic nightmare caused by Ultra Music Festival on Virginia Key in 2019, an event so poorly managed that thousands of concert goers walked home across the William Powell Bridge. Wednesday’s snarls spilled over from the Rickenbacker with reports the traffic jam reached into Brickell.

Key Biscayne’s police chief says enough is enough.

“That venue should not be utilized for events of that size,” Sousa said. “It is unfair to our residents, visitors and event goers.”

Sousa went on. “It shouldn’t take two hours to get anywhere.” 

The outbound traffic – at least at 9 p.m. – was not as bad with a delay of around 10 minutes for a stoppage to allow concert traffic to turn. 

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Sousa said the Village met with concert promoters, the city of Miami and Miami-Dade but the planning did not prevent the traffic jam. He said the main culprit were Uber and Lyft vehicles not using the designated drop-off and making random U-turns.

Sousa tried to intervene to get traffic moving, he said. “I was on the phone with Miami until 10:30 p.m.,” Sousa said

The Miami Police Department issued a statement on Thursday afternoon sought to deflect criticism by blaming Key Biscayne residents for not monitoring social media and news reports on traffic conditions during the concert “to reduce frustration and/or utilize an alternative route.”

Miami police did not identify what alternatives residents might use to get home. 

“As always we kindly request the cooperation, understanding and patience of everyone during these scheduled events, as well as the effort from officers who are assigned to manage traffic as efficiently as the area permits,” the statement said.

Key Biscayne Manager Steve Williamson was asked if it was time to take a firm stand with Miami on large events. He responded with a text message: “We are involved and express our concerns at every step, working to ensure we communicate the expected traffic to our residents and improve the way it is handled.”

Mayor Joe Rasco did not respond to requests for comment.

The Afterlife event – drawing 15,000 people —  isn’t the only big event happening during spring break. Ultra returns to its downtown location this weekend.

Key Biscayne’s efforts over the years to limit event traffic have largely failed. The Village once sued to stop the boat show on Virginia Key, but the lawsuit was dismissed in 2015. In November, residents at the Village Council meeting complained about traffic associated with the Country Bay Musical Festival, also held at the Marine Stadium.

“What’s really dismaying about this is that this happens so often, and every time it happens, we say it’ll never happen again because we’ve learned the lesson,” Council Member Frank Caplan said at that meeting.

Rasco, at the meeting, said he wanted to have talks with the city of Miami to see if a solution could be hammered out to give Key Biscayne motorists priority during special events.

Resident Kira Grossman, who administers a WhatsApp chat on traffic issues on the island, said that when it comes to sizable events the city of Miami should utilize a ferry from Bayside Marketplace or another location.

“They did it with the boat show. They had a water taxi service,” she said. “It’s not like it can’t be done.”

Also contributing to the mayhem on Wednesday night were concertgoers walking on the Rickenbacker after their ride shares dropped them off. 

“You have all these people walking and when they realize how far it is, then they start knocking on people’s windows to get in the car so they can get closer,” said Key resident Ruben Gil, who said it took him 1 ½ hours to get home.

Gil said he believes the signage was to blame. “There were no signs anywhere saying Uber drop off,” he said. “It was terrible.”

The Brickell Key Masters Association issued a statement that said the Afterlife concert “caused enormous disturbance to our community. The organization, which takes care of common properties, said that it was working with Brickell Homeowners Association “to advocate for our community and urge the City of Miami to take immediate action.

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JOHN PACENTI is the executive editor of the Key Biscayne Independent. John has worked for The Associated Press, the Palm Beach Post, Daily Business Review, and WPTV-TV.

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JOHN PACENTI is the executive editor of the Key Biscayne Independent. John has worked for The Associated Press, the Palm Beach Post, Daily Business Review, and WPTV-TV.