Updated: Oct. 11
Organizers of this year's Blink festival are encouraging people to walk, take the bus, ride the streetcar, hop on a bike or rent a scooter to see the show. Anything but drive. That's because streets were gridlocked during 2017's inaugural event.
"Don't Blink and drive," says Brendon Cull, chief operating officer for the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber. "We are going to make this an extraordinary great sight… but this is not an event where you can drive your car Downtown and drive around the route and see Blink."
An estimated 1 million people visited Downtown, Over-the-Rhine, and The Banks over four nights in 2017 to see the projection mapping, light sculptures, murals and live performances that made up Blink. Many streets were packed with cars and pedestrians.
Cull says not driving isn't just a suggestion, it's a must.
The city of Cincinnati is closing some streets. "This is new for Blink, this is new for Cincinnati. It means people should plan ahead. It means once you get down here, park your car and walk around," Cull says. "The idea that you're going to drive through the entire route, drive from point to point within Downtown is probably folly."
For Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, Elm and Race will be closed to most vehicular traffic between Central Parkway and McMicken. Main and Walnut will be blocked from Third to Central Parkway. Both routes will be open to the streetcar.
"This isn't like Christmas lights. Don't Blink and drive. This is an opportunity to come down, walk around. If you think you can see Blink through your car window, you are not going to experience Blink. You have to stand on a corner next to someone you don’t know, take in the art and be moved by it. That's the true way to experience Blink," Cull says.
"We're working really closely with Metro and TANK to make sure their routes are optimized," Cull says. A grant from the Haile Foundation will cover operational costs of the streetcar, meaning rides will be free starting at 4 p.m. each day of Blink.
Metro service will be affected, not only by the closing of city streets, but also the temporary closure of Government Square, starting at 6:30 p.m., each day of Blink. Instead of Government Square, Metro buses will be routed through the Riverfront Transit Center, located beneath Second Street, between Race and Walnut.
Metro spokeswoman Heather Norris-Garcia says all buses that typically go to Government Square will go through the Transit Center. She says express and crosstown routes will not be affected because they're typically done by the time Government Square closes.
Metro had set up two special park and ride locations for Blink: the Museum Center, and Cincinnati State College. Norris-Garcia says they will have extra buses shuttling people from those locations to the Transit Center, with fares set at $1.75.
Friday, Metro announced another parking lot with bus service: Cincinnati Public Schools district offices at Burnet and Taft.
Important @BLINKcincy Park & Ride Information:
- Metro will have THREE Park & Ride locations Oct. 11-13
- Festival-goers can park at Cincinnati State (free), Union Terminal (Museum Center is $4 to park), and 2623-2699 Burnet Ave Garage (CPS) & 250 William Howard Taft Rd
— Cincinnati Metro (@cincinnatimetro) October 11, 2019
In a series of tweets, Metro says additional buses have been added, and should run between the three park and ride locations and the Riverfront Transit Center every 15-20 minutes. Service continues from 6:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.
The Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky has a park and ride location at Northern Kentucky University's Lot E. Buses will run every 15 minutes between Lot E and the Covington Transit Center at 3rd and Madison. Fares are $2.00.
Cull says there is plenty of parking Downtown and in Covington, and organizers are working with ride hailing companies like Lyft and Uber to make sure there are drop-off zones.
As part of Blink's expansion into Northern Kentucky, the Roebling Suspension Bridge will be part of the show. It will also be closed to vehicular traffic, but a shuttle will carry people across.
Roebling closures start days before Blink begins. The historic structure will be closed Monday and Tuesday nights before Blink from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. It will also be closed from Wednesday night at 7 until the Monday night after Blink.
"There is too much to see in one night," Cull says. "There are surprises that we haven't even started to talk about yet, that we're excited to debut."
Blink is Oct. 10-13, with displays and entertainment reaching from the Findlay Market area, south to Seventh and Madison in Covington.
This story has been updated to include closure information.