Utility work has a block of 8th Street closed between Hennepin and LaSalle avenues in downtown Minneapolis, and it’s wearing on motorists. For the past month, drivers and Metro Transit buses have been detoured to 10th Street and the result has been gridlock extending well past the typical end of the morning rush hour.

“Oh, this traffic,” said a woman stuck on a Metro Transit Route 5 bus that took 15 minutes to go three blocks just before 10 a.m. last Tuesday. Motorists echoed her impatience, honking their horns as they sat in motionless traffic as far back as Target Field.

City officials adjusted traffic signals at 8th and Hennepin when the project began to help keep traffic flowing. They also they dispatched traffic control agents along Hennepin to keep intersections clear when lights turn red.

“Pedestrian safety is our No. 1 priority, and we want to be sure that cars don’t block crosswalks,” said Steve Mosing who works in the city’s Traffic and Operations division of public works.

The problem is the agents go off duty at 9 a.m., and that is when the huge queues have formed.

Mosing said the city expected delays for motorists, but not to the magnitude that has developed. The closure still has another five weeks to go, so Mosing said the city is looking to keep agents on the streets later and assess traffic beyond the 7 to 9 a.m. period.

“It’s a definite frustration,” he said of the traffic jams. “We have been focused on the morning rush. At 7:45 a.m., the queues have not extended back that far. We are going to work on that.”

Drivers can comment on the traffic by calling 311, he said. The utility work comes ahead of next summer’s redo of 8th between Hennepin and Chicago avenues.

Lyft debuts ‘All Access Plan’

For those who want somebody else to drive, Lyft is now offering a subscription plan of 30 rides a month, each worth $15, for a flat $299. That is a $450 value, according to Lyft’s Twin Cities market manager Chapin Hansen.

But before rushing to sign up for the All Access Plan, beware that each ride is valued at $15, no matter the distance. If your trip to the grocery store costs less than that, it still counts as one of your 30 rides. If your trip costs more than $15, riders pay the difference. Riders who exhaust their 30-ride allotment get 5 percent off on subsequent rides.

The nation’s No. 2 ride-hailing company debuted the plan two weeks ago as a way for riders to lock in a set price and not have to pay per trip, Hansen said.

“We are hoping to attract users who don’t have a car or are interested in finding alternative transportation in their everyday lives,” Hansen said. “This the first step toward delivering on our goal of making car ownership optional.”

Lyft is positioning the subscription service as a low-cost alternative that will allow people to ditch their vehicles and associated expenses for fuel, insurance, maintenance and parking. Hansen contends that by using the All Access Plan, users can save 59 percent per month compared to owning a car. AAA found the average urban dweller drives about 11,000 miles a year, and relying exclusively on ride-hailing services would cost $20,118 annually, or double the average cost of car ownership.

Hansen thinks All Access demand will be strong locally since 1,500 applied to participate in this month’s “Ditch Your Car” campaign. That effort challenged car owners to leave their vehicles parked in exchange for credits to use Lyft, bike-share, car-share, and public transportation.

 

Follow news about traffic and commuting at the Drive on startribune.com. Got traffic or transportation questions, or story ideas? E-mail drive@startribune.com, tweet @stribdrive or call Tim Harlow at 612-673-7768.