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Posted on Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 6:58 a.m.

Driving during Ann Arbor's 53rd Art Fair: How to get where you want to go

By Amy Biolchini

Art Fair 2011.jpg

The Art Fair will return to the streets of Ann Arbor July 18 to 21.

The Art Fair returns to downtown Ann Arbor July 18 to 21, bringing an onslaught of hundreds of thousands of visitors and their vehicles.

Businesses have been planning their strategies carefully in advance of the event, which can draw almost half a million people to 27 city blocks in Ann Arbor.

Travel in and around the city will be anything but business as usual, as the streets will be reclaimed by pedestrians and tents full of artwork for the 53rd year.

Parking will be at an all-time premium. Between parking structures, city lots and metered lots, there are about 5,130 parking spaces downtown - not including street parking.

This year's Art Fair comes with several changes to the downtown parking scene.

Many are curious to see the impact of the just-built opened Library Lane underground parking structure, which has added 711 parking spots.

Even though Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority officials celebrated a grand opening Thursday, the garage has yet to accept its first paying customer.

Among other constraints, final elevator inspections have yet to be completed, said Susan Pollay, executive director of the DDA.


Susan Pollay

Ryan J. Stanton | Ann

Should the garage clear all its inspections, the first day the garage could open would be the first day of the Art Fair on July 18, Pollay said.

The opening of the Library Lane garage will likely not change the parking pinch downtown, Pollay said.

“I don’t think we’ll be shifting behavior from one part to the next,” Pollay said, noting that many Art Fair visitors are set in their parking and traveling habits.

For the first time this year, Republic Parking is offering a “Park N Party” option where people can reserve parking spaces. About 150 spaces were reserved two weeks in advance, Pollay said.

For townies

As the Art Fair is comprised of four fairs in one, there are four clusters of street closures all within the crux of downtown.

The main thoroughfares of South Main Street, East Liberty, South State Street and South University all have significant closures, though parking garages and lots are still accessible.

Those with permanent passes to the automated garages will still be able to use them, but parking garages will be filled on a first-come, first-serve basis. Rates are set at $12 per day.

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority bus routes will also be affected by the street closures, as several stops will not be accessible. Routes 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 15, 16, 17 and 36, as well as the ExpressRides from Canton and Chelsea will be detoured with at least one bus stop missed.

GetDowntown has compiled a list of options for business commuters to Ann Arbor during the Art Fair, and the DDA has a complete, real-time list of availability in downtown parking structures online.

For visitors

With a finite number of parking spaces in the city, alternative means of transportation to get downtown may alleviate some Art Fair headaches.

  • To view a map of the entire Art Fair, click here: 2012 Map.pdf

AATA is once again offering its Art Fair Park and Ride Shuttle, where visitors can park for free at Pioneer High School or at Briarwood Mall and ride the bus in to town for a $3 round-trip ticket.

Once downtown, the shuttle will stop at Main and East William streets, as well as South University near State Street.

A different round-trip shuttle will take passengers from Maple Village at 155 North Maple Rd. to the Trinity Westside Art Fair, making stops at Washington and Main streets and Washington and State streets. The shuttle will run from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. July 18-20 and from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. July 21. Round-trip tickets are $3.

The Art Fair Trolley will run around the perimeter of all of the fairs downtown. All-day tickets are $1.

The Michigan Flyer is offering round-trip fare from East Lansing to downtown Ann Arbor for the Art Fair at half price during July 18 to 21. The bus will drop riders off at the Blake Transit Center on Fourth Street.

For those who decide to drive, the recent re-opening of State Street at Stadium Boulevard will be welcome as inbound traffic to Ann Arbor from Interstate 94 no longer is no longer subject to a detour.

Those driving in from points east of Ann Arbor will encounter the ongoing construction on M-14. Traffic remains open to one lane in each direction.

Kari Arend, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Transportation, said further lane closures on the project will be pushed to off-peak traffic hours.

Beginning July 12, lane closures started between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. During Art Fair days, those hours will be changed from 10 p.m. to 6 p.m., Arend said.

Construction on U.S. 23 north of Ann Arbor and south of I-96 will maintain two lanes of traffic in each direction, Arend said.

West of Ann Arbor, no major construction projects will interfere with daily traffic, Arend said.

In eastern Ingham County, lane closures on I-96 will begin July 20 at 9 p.m. which could affect people returning to the area from Ann Arbor late in the evening, Arend said.

Parking structures downtown will not be affected by the street closures for the Art Fair. For a complete list of all parking structures, click here.

Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter.


Madeleine Borthwick

Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 2:18 p.m.

To all out-of towners: park your vehicle at Maple Village and take the bus. it'll take you straight downtown, plant you right in the middle of the "art fair", and besides , parking at Maple Village is COMPLETELY FREE. about the only thing that is.....

Nancy Shore

Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 11:22 p.m.

Thanks for mentioning out Commuting During Art Fair resource, Amy! Hope it helps eliminate some of the stress of the Art Fair for downtown employees.

Karen St John

Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 6:09 p.m.

I find it's just best to only go downtown for the Art Fairs, and elsewhere for anything during them.


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 3:44 p.m.

Fourth paragraph/sentence from the end: "Beginning July 12, lane closures..." Please verify the new hours, "10pm to 6pm" seems incorrect. Maybe '10pm to 6am"


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 3:07 p.m.

More chaos from the Stadium Street bridge project, Packard (US-23 overpass to Platt, Stadium (Brockman to Packard). Construction on William from Ashley west to about 3rd Street has been very slow to complete and needs to be done ASAP. Traffic back ups on Packard both in and outbound from Main to Stadium has been very bad this summer and the students are gone. It will be much worse this week as Art Fair traffic adds to it. All this after folks get by the freeway construction sites...good luck.


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 2:01 p.m.

As I a lifelong resident of this area I know I usually stay away from the "Art Fair". Unlike when it first started when it was truly an art fair this thing has morphed into just another commercial enterprise. There is art yes, but there is also the local merchants "Sidewalk Sales" with all their goods on the sidewalks, then there are various political and other cause groups setting up booths and going into the crowds trying to hand out leaflets and/or sign petitions. What used to be an enjoyable stroll now for me and my wife has become a stay away event.


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 8:39 p.m.

Agree about the extra stuff wasting space. Last year someone had big racks of discounted name brand winter coats for sale... Kind of cheapens the art fair...

Homeland Conspiracy

Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 1:18 p.m.

Is all of Liberty open?

UM Rocks

Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 1 p.m.

Mistake in first sentence. Art Fair is in July, not June.


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 12:30 p.m.

"The Art Fair returns to downtown Ann Arbor June 18 to 21, bringing an onslaught of hundreds of thousands of visitors and their vehicles." Something doesn't quite seem right...


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 12:14 p.m.

"The opening of the Library Lane garage will likely not change the parking pinch downtown, Pollay said." Say WHAT?? I sort of thought that was the whole purpose of it. What is this woman smoking?

Madeleine Borthwick

Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 2:19 p.m.

I don't know, Brad, but I doubt she's sharing it w/anyone else....


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 2:44 p.m.

I am with you Brad. And the 'fake' grande opening last thursday....

Craig Lounsbury

Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 11:45 a.m.

I've never seen the art fair as overly problematic with respect to getting around town. Except the obvious roads that are closed. Unlike the football games where 115,000 show up at the same time to the same street corner and all leave at the same time (more or less) the art fair has people coming and going at different times from a variety of locations.