With hundreds of thousands of people expected to flow into downtown Minneapolis for the Feb. 4 Super Bowl and related concerts and events, getting around is a top concern for anybody who lives or works in the Twin Cities, or plans to take in festivities throughout the week.
The most fool-proof way to avoid a traffic headache between now and Super Bowl Sunday is to stay out of downtown Minneapolis and away from U.S. Bank Stadium. Obviously, that won't be possible for many people.
To help visitors navigate the city, the Super Bowl host committee has drawn up an elaborate, 17-page plan to help locals and guests get around. While there's lots of good information in there, we thought it might be useful to provide a more concise guide for successfully getting around downtown Minneapolis and the surrounding area during Super Bowl week.
Driving, of course, is an option. But myriad street closures — particularly roads within several blocks of U.S. Bank Stadium — will funnel traffic onto fewer streets, meaning routes leading into and out of downtown will likely be congested. (Download larger map.)
Keep in mind that all roads crossing Nicollet Mall between 6th and 12th Streets in downtown Minneapolis will be reduced to two lanes instead of the normal three. Also, 8th Street is totally closed between LaSalle and Marquette Avenues. (Download larger map.)
There are additional closures around the Minneapolis Convention Center, most notably on 2nd Avenue and, intermittently, on 3rd Avenue and 16th Street. (Download larger map.)
Once downtown, there is the parking challenge. If you're visiting from outside Minnesota, the first thing you need to know is the term "parking garage" doesn't exist here. We call them ramps. The second thing you need to know is many downtown ramps are raising their prices considerably for events, so be prepared to pay. Or use public transportation.
Even with 65,000 parking spots downtown, the best advice is to reserve a spot in advance. Metered parking will be available, too, To find it, download the MPLS Parking App at the App Store or Google Play. Contract parking will be restricted at some ramps during the 10-day festival, so check with your operator to see if your spot will be available. If not, the time to arrange alternate parking is now.
Parking in downtown Minneapolis will be tightest on game day. The NFL will take over eight city-owned ramps on Super Bowl Sunday. Ticketholders can find game parking here. That might be pricey, but it will be less of a hassle than wasting fuel while circling endlessly looking for a spot.
For those taking in the St. Paul Winter Carnival and other events, you can find information here about parking in the capital city, including the Passport Parking app that lets you reserve space in ramps in advance. It's also available at the App Store and Google Play.
Taking the bus or light rail may be the best option to avoid traffic and parking headaches.
With the slogan "We've Got Your Playbook for the Super Bowl," Metro Transit has dedicated a whole section on its website to helping customers get around. The first step is to download the free Metro Transit app on Google Play or the App Store. It's a good idea to subscribe to rider alerts that are delivered by text message or e-mail. You can also follow Metro Transit's Facebook and Twitter accounts to stay up to date.
The agency's website lists current bus detours with maps showing where riders can catch their buses. Metro Transit is also beefing up its light-rail service, with trains running every 10 minutes until 11:30 p.m. through Feb. 4.
VERY IMPORTANT: On Super Bowl Sunday, Blue Line trains will be reserved for ticket holders only. Same for the Green Line between the Stadium Village stop and U.S. Bank Stadium. Passengers without tickets to the game will be transported on replacement buses. Rides will be free on Feb. 4.
Additional outbound express service to metro-area Park & Rides will be offered from Jan. 31 to Feb. 2 between 2 p.m. and 9 p.m. On weekends, Jan. 27-28 and Feb. 3 (but NOT Feb. 4), Metro Transit will run buses from Park & Ride lots in Blaine, Maple Grove, Maplewood, Richfield and Minnetonka to the Leamington Transit Center at 11th Street and 2nd Av. S. It will cost $2.50 each way, and buses will run every 30 minutes beginning at 9:30 a.m. The last bus from downtown leaves at 10 p.m. Click here for full details and maps.
For visitors, Metro Transit is offering a number of special ride packages, including special all-you-can-ride fares and special game day trips.
Both Uber and Lyft say it's "all hands on deck" as the ride-hailing companies gear up for what could be a record week of ridership in the Twin Cities. With high demand, Lyft's Chapin Hansen suggests walking a few blocks away from crowded areas to meet your driver. He also says riders should be prepared to wait a bit longer than normal for a driver as they will be battling traffic to get to the pickup spot.
Uber's Charity Jackson advises confirming the vehicle make, model and license plate in the app before getting into a car. Both companies have dedicated pick-up and drop-off points throughout downtown and the metro area. Download either app at the App Store or Google Play.
Of course, taxis are always an option if you care to leave the driving to somebody else.
Minneapolis skyways, those wonderful indoor sidewalks connecting buildings, will be open from 6 a.m. to midnight. There are 8 miles of indoor corridors throughout the downtown, but you should really keep a map handy. (Update: Honeywell has just released a Minneapolis skyway map app that is available on iTunes and Google Play, though a quick test drive reveals the map is not quite complete). It's easy to get lost in the maze -- and be aware that some buildings could close their privately owned skyway connections over the weekend for security reasons. Good luck!