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Navigating BLINK 2019: Officials urge visitors to carpool or take public transit

Metro, TANK offering extra park-and-ride options
Posted: 5:00 AM, Oct 07, 2019
Updated: 2019-10-10 18:49:43-04
COLUMN: Here's what BLINK taught us about getting around Downtown, OTR

City officials on both sides of the Ohio River are recommending that visitors to this year's BLINK art and light festival use public transit or carpool to the event.

"This is a very strong topic in every meeting that we've had with BLINK organizers. We're concerned that we're going to have traffic jams," said David Johnston, Covington City Manager.

The Northern Kentucky city will dip its toe into the BLINK pool for the first time this year, joining Cincinnati, which first hosted the event in 2017. "We've been working with both our public transit agencies to create alternatives for people using their cars."

BLINK will begin with a parade at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 10, and then take place between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. each evening through Sunday, Oct. 13.

The recommendation comes as no surprise after Cincinnati's BLINK 2017 pushed Downtown and Over-the-Rhine infrastructure to its limits. Officials estimated more than 1 million people attended the inaugural four-day event two years ago, many walking the route of art installations but many also choosing to remain in their cars and drive the route.

This year, officials are expecting the same level of attendance but are hoping that expanding into Northern Kentucky, strategic street closures, and park-and-ride options will encourage walking through the festival and help reduce the potential for widespread gridlock.

"Commuters and event visitors are encouraged to carpool and use public transportation due to anticipated traffic and limited parking within event zones," said city of Cincinnati spokesman Casey Weldon in a news release leading up to this weekend's event.

(If you must drive) Watch for these closures and parking options

"BLINK is not designed as a 'drive-thru' event," wrote Rich Walburg, spokesman for the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce, in a news release. "It is meant to be enjoyed outside the vehicle."

With that in mind, officials will close a number of major streets throughout the festival's five neighborhood zones across Over-the-Rhine, Downtown, The Banks and Covington.

The first closure will take place on the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge, beginning 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 7., lasting until 2 a.m. the following morning. That closure will repeat within that time frame until Wednesday evening, when it will close at 7 p.m. to vehicular traffic until the end of the festival. Pedestrian access will be maintained.

Then, the festival will launch Thursday evening with a parade running throughout most of the zones. That will mean these road closures starting at 7 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 10. This map indicates those closures during the parade as well as nearby parking options:

Throughout the entire festival, Cincinnati will maintain these street closures and parking options:

A few select streets -- labeled in red in the map above -- will close at 9 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 10 and remain closed for the duration of the festival to accommodate hospitality zones.

As for the rest of the street closures -- labeled in navy blue -- they will occur at 7 p.m. each evening when the festival begins and reopen to vehicular traffic at 11 p.m.

Some major roads will remain open throughout the festival hours with police assistance for vehicles moving into the area. These roads will remain open in order to provide access to various city- and county-owned parking facilities:

  • Liberty Street
  • Central Parkway
  • Third Street
  • Sixth Street
  • Second Street
  • Seventh Street
  • Vine Street at 12th Street

"Although these roads will be open with police assistance," Weldon wrote, "motorists should allow extra time because of expected delays at all crossings due to the large number of pedestrians who will be walking the route to see the event."

Covington city officials announced Wednesday road closures within the Covington Zone:

  • RiverCenter Boulevard from Scott Street to the Embassy Suites valet -- just west of Madison Avenue -- will close from 4 p.m. to midnight Thursday through Sunday.
  • Seventh Street between Madison Avenue and Washington Street also will close from 4 p.m. to midnight Thursday through Sunday. Traffic on Seventh Street during daylight hours will be limited to one lane, and the parking alcove on the southern side of the street outside Braxton Brewery will remain closed all day all four days of the festival.

"Expect congestion," said Covington Police Chief Rob Nader said in a news release Wednesday.

Public transit options

Both Cincinnati Metro and the Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky are offering additional park-and-ride options for visitors to BLINK, where they can park in a lot and then board a bus for transport to one of the festival's zones.

Cincinnati Metro will offer additional park-and-ride locations: The first will pick up at Cincinnati State Community and Technical College -- located at Central Parkway and Ludlow Avenue -- where riders can board routes 17, 19 and 20. Another park-and-ride will pick up at the Cincinnati Museum Center, where visitors can catch Metro Route 49. These buses will transport riders to and from the Riverfront Transit Center located at The Banks, as well as other stops throughout Over-the-Rhine and Downtown, for a $1.75 fare.

TANK will offer an additional park-and-ride at Northern Kentucky University's Lot E, where BLINK visitors can get to and from the Covington Transit Center at the foot of the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge. That fare will cost a visitor $2 each way, and service will run every 15 minutes between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. The last bus departing the Covington Transit Center to NKU's campus will depart at 11:30 p.m. each night.

For those who find parking within OTR, Downtown or The Banks, the Cincinnati Bell Connector streetcar will also be running free for the duration of the festival.

Follow our entire BLINK coverage here: