Short of having one of those Amazon drones featured Sunday on "60 Minutes" deliver you home in 30 minutes or less tonight, the best option for commuters traveling by car will be to leave work early and face the fact that it will take lots of extra time.
The same advice applies to those going by bus or rail.
"Errrrrrr," said MnDOT spokeswoman Bobbie Dahlke when asked to describe Wednesday's morning rush hour and preview tonight's commute home.
MnDOT had a full compliment of plows clearing the roads and dropping chemicals in the metro area all afternoon and they'll remain on the roads through Thursday. But that does not mean the roads will show bare pavement,Dahlke said. With snow predicted to fall until 5 p.m., "it will be a slow commute. Things could be tricky. Our goal is to make the roads passable and safe."
As traffic goes, so does mass transit in most cases. The Minnesota Valley Transit Authority has extra buses parked in "strategic locations" to help move passengers along should afternoon buses start running late due to heavy traffic or inclement conditions, said spokeswoman Robin Selvig.
Morning service was generally on time, but some local routes were running up to 5 minutes late, she said.
Metro Transit saw up to 60 percent of its routes behind schedule at the peak of the morning rush hour. Light rail trains also were 5 to 10 minutes behind due to a switching problem on south end of the line. Trains are back on schedule now.
For this afternoon, Metro Transit has extra buses ready to roll and drivers on the ready to be dispatched from its five garages. A Winter Incident Commander at the agency's headquarters in Minneapolis will monitor Metro Transit's 125 routes, and send extra buses on routes that begin lagging, said spokesman John Siqveland.
He cautioned, however, that even with extra buses to fill the gap, buses can still run late and overall trip times could still take longer than usual. Drivers will use transit advantages such as ramp meter bypasses and bus shoulder only lanes when possible to speed things along. But "it's safety first," he said noting that buses can only move at the speed of traffic when using regular lanes.
Southwest Transit parks six to seven extra buses near the University of Minnesota and near downtown to make sure passengers get home. "We maximize all of our resources," said Len Semich, the agency's CEO. He also said drivers start their shift 30 minutes early to get to their routes on time.
Riders can get up-to-the-minute train or bus status by using the NexTrip application or by calling 612-373-3333. Both features include information for Metro Transit, MVTA, Southwest Transit, Maple Grove Transit and Plymouth Metrolink. The agency will also post information about delays on its Facebook page and the Metro Transit website
Rail lines fared better than buses or traffic Wednesday morning. There were no delays on the Northstar Commuter line, but there were more riders than usual, Siqveland said. Preliminary numbers indicate 3,600 rides will be provided on Wednesday. That is above the daily average of 2,537 rides provided on weekdays during December of 2012.
The Blue Line suffered delays of 5 to 10 minutes during part of the morning rush due to a switching problem on the south end of the line. That has been fixed and all trains are back on schedule, Siqveland said.
The holidays are here as are parties, and to that end, law enforcement is reminding motorists to wear their seat belts and arrange for a designated driver if drinking is involved.
Across the nation, the number of people who died in alcohol-related crashes jumped 4.6 percent last year when compared with 2011 numbers, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The agency said 10,322 people died in 2012 in crashes in which alcohol was a factor, up from 9,865 in the year before.
More than half of those deaths involved a driver with a blood-alcohol concentration of .15 percent or higher, nearly twice the legal limit of .08 percent.
In Minnesota, the number of alcohol-related fatalities jumped from 109 in 2011 to 114 in 2012 and accounted for 29 percent of highway deaths. The state recorded 395 traffic deaths last year.
"Thanksgiving begins a busy travel season and we need everyone's help to ensure our roads remain as safe as possible," said Lt. Eric Roeske of the Minnesota State Patrol. "Safe roads begin with safe decisions, especially planning ahead for a sober ride."
To combat drunken-driving crashes and deaths, law enforcement in Minnesota are stepping up DWI enforcement through end of December.
The data released in November also found that seat belt usage continues to be a problem. While the number of motorists who are buckling up has greatly improved over the past decade (Minnesota check in with a 94 percent compliance rate according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety's Office of Traffic Safety), those who don't face a greater risk of dying in a crash.
More than half of the 33,561 people killed on the nation's roads were not wearing seat belts, according to NHTSA's analysis of 2012 crash data gathered from police accident reports and other sources. It also found that nearly two-thirds of motorists who were killed at night (6 p.m. to 5:59 a.m.) were not wearing restraints.
The state's Office of Traffic Safety says that unbelted motorists who are involved in a crash result in about 150 deaths and more than 400 serious injuries annually.
NHTSA also found that the number of people who died in distraction-related crashed dipped slightly from 3,360 in 2011 to 3,328 last year. But it also showed a 9 percent increase in the number of injuries resulted from distraction-related crashes, 421,000 last year compared with 387,000 in 2011.
The nation saw increases in the number of pedestrians and motorcyclists for the third straight year and an overall increase in the number of people killed on the roads. The 33,561 deaths in 2012 were 1,082 more than in 2011. That marked the first year-over-year increase since 2005, NHTSA said.
This year is shaping up to be a better year. NHTSA In it's analysis of crash data for the first six months of 2013, the number of deaths were down more than 4 percent. More than 15,470 people died between January and June compared with the 16,150 fatalities reported in 2012. It didn't attribute a specific cause for the drop, but Americans drove 1.4 billion fewer miles during the first six months of the year.
Fog is reducing visibility out there, so use caution as you head out on the roads.
The first incident of the morning comes in the form of a hit-and-run crash on southbound I-94 at Broadway in Minneapolis. Look for some minor congestion in the area.
Traffic is still on the light side at this hour, but look for things to pick up in the next 10 to 15 minutes.
Traffic cameras on the Minnesota Department of Transportation's web site are back on line.
A hard drive failure at the agency's Regional Transportation Management Center in Roseville took the cameras off line this morning, meaning motorists who tried to use the site to check traffic conditions for this morning's rush hour were unable to access the images.
Motorists were still able to see the web site's traffic map which uses color codes to show areas where there is congestion and icons to indicate locations of crashes and road work. The site also lists accidents, road work and other hazards on the roads along with estimated travel times for selected routes.
A MnDOT spokesman said the external video server went down sometime overnight meaning those outside the agency could not see streaming video or still images.
The problem was corrected and images were available around 10 a.m.
Good morning, commuters!
This is about as good as it gets. No snow, no rain (yet), no lingering road work as cones and barrels on I-35E and 94 in downtown St. Paul have been picked up and westbound 694 has two lanes open just past 35W. Add to that light levels of traffic, and things look nice out there.
I will be keeping an eye on the roads and rails this morning, reporting any delays or issues — and I will need your help.
If you see or hear about any congestion, delays or problems, e-mail drive@startribune or tweet @stribdrive.