Twin Cities metro traffic still down 15 percent from normal, may remain low 

According to data collected by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, traffic during the morning and evening commute in the Twin Cities metro area is still down 15 percent from normal. 

MnDOT also found that statewide travel is still about five percent below normal. Traffic patterns saw a dramatic decrease in March during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic when Minnesota was under “stay home” orders. 

Brian Kary, Director of Traffic Operations for MnDOT, estimates that in March, traffic volume in the Twin Cities metropolitan area dropped nearly 70 percent. He says that traffic started picking back up again at the end of May, but has remained steadily below normal for the last few weeks. 

Kary says that means we can likely expect less congestion on the roads Tuesday morning during what’s expected to be some of the first accumulating snowfall of the season. 

“With the lower volumes we’re going to see less congestion, and if there’s less congestion on the system than there normally would be during a snow event, that just means our snow plows are out there being that much more effective...they can keep moving, they can cover more ground and get more salt on the road quicker,” Kary said. 

Kary says staffing for plow drivers and salt trucks will likely not change compared to last year. 

The Metropolitan Council has also been tracking traffic patterns in the metro area during the pandemic. An interactive map shows how traffic volumes have changed at specific locations during different points of the pandemic, compared to traffic patterns of the last two years. 

The Met Council conducted a survey in May that found the number of people commuting by car shrank by 58 percent, bike commuters shrank by 67 percent and transit commuters shrank by 85 percent. That same survey found the number of people working from home increased by 800 percent. 

“Going forward even after we have a vaccine and people can return to work as normal, these effects are going to continue rippling on,” Metropolitan Council Data Analyst Ashely Asmus said. 

Fewer transit commuters also means there are fewer buses on the road in some areas. According to Metro Transit, bus ridership is down about 63 percent. Traffic on the Northstar commuter train is down 96 percent.