MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee County Transit System canceled special service to Summerfest this year, citing a shortage of bus drivers.
MCTS said in a statement to TMJ4 News Friday that festivalgoers can still use regular service to get to Summerfest, now scheduled for Sept. 2-4, 9-11 and 16-18, 2021.
In a typical year, MCTS runs a special service during Summerfest along Wisconsin Avenue and ‘Freeway Flyers’ that brings passengers between Park and Ride lots and the Summerfest grounds.
A tight labor market has forced a number of businesses and events to downsize, even though unemployment claims with the state of Wisconsin have decreased since the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some experts say many people are holding out for better work, amid a surplus of jobs that may pay less than desired.
Labor shortages have already forced the cancelation of the July 3 lakefront fireworks and the Milwaukee Air & Water Show. School districts are also fighting for bus drivers after bus companies let employees go when classes were being taught virtually.
MCTS said Friday it is making some progress in filling its labor gap. The system said it hired more than 125 new bus drivers last year - but it still is short about 60 positions, its lowest count in five years. The system says that’s despite "aggressive, ongoing efforts to recruit, hire, and train new employees."
Milwaukee World Festival, Inc., the operators of the festival, said the decision caught them off-guard.
"Until today, our team was planning a full transit operation in cooperation with MCTS as in the past, so their sudden decision was unanticipated and completely contrary to all recent communications. With appreciation for the importance of transportation options for our patrons, we will immediately begin exploring potential alternatives," a spokesperson tells TMJ4 News.
The system's current drivers are working the regular routes that bring residents to their jobs, schools, groceries and other necessities.
People interested in applying for a bus driver position can go to MCTS' website here.
During Summerfest, the MCTS' GoldLine, GreenLine, Route 14, Route 15, Route 30 and Route 33 can drop you near the Summerfest grounds.