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Transit tips for the cold

Posted by: Tim Harlow under On the road Updated: December 11, 2013 - 1:03 PM

It was just a couple months ago that I was sharing tips on how to get around in the sultry 90-degree heat that has its grip the on the metro area for the better part of a week. Now we have the other extreme: bitter bone-chilling cold.

Another arctic blast has hit Minnesota and the polar-like conditions won't abate any time soon. Temperatures are expected to fall below zero today. Some moderation might begin by Thursday, but the cold is poised to make another return Sunday.

Whether by automobile, mass transit, biking or walking, here are some tips for getting around, staying warm and staying safe as we endure some of the coldest weather of the year.

BY VEHICLE

When temperatures with a minus sign in front of them arrive as they have today, AAA Minnesota says its gets many calls for service. The auto club said it had 476 calls by 8 a.m. Wednesday, double the normal average of 230 on a typical day.

Auto repair shops such as Firestone Auto and Tire Center in Bloomington have seen an uptick in business this week. The most common problems are dead batteries or those with low power, leaking antifreeze, malfunctioning windshield wipers and tires that are not gripping, said store manager David Bodin-Huber.

Motorist should have done preventative maintenance before winter, he said, but short of that Bodin-Huber and AAA have these tips  ton the road and not having to call for help:

  • Keep the gas tank at least half full. That will minimize condensation buildup that can lead to a gas line freeze up.
  • Use the tires recommended by your vehicle's manufacturer for the best snow traction and make sure the tires are inflated to the proper levels.
  • Get the battery tested and make sure the charging system is working. Mechanics also recommend getting your battery tested if it is more than three years old.
  • Use coolant that provides anti-freeze protection down to the lowest temperature you are likely to encounter. Here in Minnesota that's very low.
  • Visibility is key in winter. Replace broken windows and worn windshield wipers

An emergency kit is vital. Be sure to have a flashlight, jumper cables, flares, basic tools, water and non-perishable food items. A fully-charged cell phone would be a good idea, too.

MASS TRANSIT

Windchill can bring on frostbite in few as 10 minutes according to the National Weather Service, so here are tips for those waiting outside for buses and trains:

  • Limit your wait time. Use NexTrip to find departure times and limit the time standing at a train or bus stop. NexTrip is offers schedules for Metro Transit, Plymouth Metrolink, Maple Grove Transit and Southwest Transit routes.
  • Take advantage of heaters and shelters that are available at busy park-and-ride lots, rail platforms and transit centers.
  • Dress in layers to comfortably withstand low temperatures
  • Wear snow boots or foot ware that can grip the surface. Rail platforms and floors on trains and buses can become slippery from snow and water
  • Wear reflective clothing to help bus drivers spot you, especially in the early mornings before sunrise and evenings after sun set
  • If a bus stop has not been cleared of snow, stand in the safest place possible. Buses will not stop at places deemed unsafe.
  • Wait for your bus on the sidewalk away from the curb and make sure it stops before approaching it
  • Never cross in front of a bus unless it is stopped at a traffic light. Don't run after or along side of a bus or train. Play it safe and wait for the next one.
  • Consider traveling early in the morning or later in the evening when buses and trains are less crowded.

BY BICYCLE

Our friends at Bike Walk Twin Cities have these suggestions for those who move about on two wheels"

  • Ride on bare pavement or non-compacted snow when possible. Bicyclists are allowed to use the general traffic lanes, which may be necessary if bike lanes have not been cleared.
  • Take curves and turns slower than normal and allow longer distances for stopping and braking.
  • Follow traffic laws
  • Stay visible by wearing headlights, taillights and wearing reflective clothing
  • Dress in layers. You should feel chilly when you start. If you are warm then, you will likely be boiling as you get into your ride.  Be ready to shed layers when necessary.
  • But be sure to cover all extremities, including hands, neck and feet. Goggles are recommended to protect from grime and dirt that might fly into your eyes.

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