Last month the Minnesota Department of Transportation told us that congestion on metro area highways increased by 2 percent last year and grimly predicted that drivers will encounter clogged roads a lot more often as the population grows and pushes the freeway system closer to capacity.

A good reason for the rush-hour gridlock is that more than 3 out of 4 of us going to and from our jobs drive there by ourselves.

This Thursday, MnDOT and the city of Minneapolis will join cities across the world in marking World Car Free Day, when solo commuters are encouraged to leave the car behind and try other modes of transportation. That could be taking the bus or train, biking or walking, or at minimum picking up a co-worker or friend and carpooling. The whole idea, as buttons from Move Minneapolis say, is “Don’t be an SOV” — that’s a single-occupant vehicle.

“Our goal is to take cars off the road,” said John Barobs, communications manager at Move Minneapolis, which advocates for sustainable modes of transportation. “With decreased parking and road construction adding to the difficulty of getting around, fewer cars on the road is helpful. We want people to think about alternative ways to commute to downtown Minneapolis and give them a nudge to try something other than driving alone.”

World Car Free Day debuted in 1996 in England and has spread to more than 1,500 cities in 40 countries. It’s been successful in Washington, D.C., for years, Barobs said, and this year it arrives in Minneapolis for the first time. The City Council has given its blessing by issuing a proclamation declaring Thursday World Car Free Day in Minneapolis.

So far more than 1,500 workers have pledged to reduce congestion and pollution by ditching their cars for a day. Commuters can pledge at or sign up in person and pick up a free bus pass and a “Don’t Be an SOV” button from 6 to 9 a.m. Monday and Tuesday in Ramps A, B and C near Target Center and through Wednesday at Move Minneapolis, 505 Nicollet Mall. On Thursday, in Reader’s Digest style, a prize patrol will be out awarding “fun swag” to those it spots wearing buttons and not driving solo, Barobs said. Some participants will win nifty prizes in a drawing, including a Bianchi Cortina bicycle, stays at the Aloft Minneapolis hotel, dinner at Fogo De Chao or an evening at Orchestra Hall.

Barobs hopes the effort will be one step in getting Minneapolis closer to its goal of having 60 percent of downtown workers arrive by public transportation by 2025.

Learn about Hwy. 169 project

You may be cheering that the work on Hwy. 100 in St. Louis Park is almost over, but don’t get too giddy. Once work there is done, MnDOT will close Hwy. 169 between Bren Road and 5th Street/Lincoln Drive for a year to rebuild the Nine Mile Creek bridge. Some of those drivers will find their way over to Hwy. 100, giving all those new lanes a workout.

Naturally when there is a monster-sized project that will affect the 90,000 drivers who cross the bridge each day, there will be questions. Project manager Andrew Lutaya will answer them during presentations at 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at AAA Minneapolis, 5400 Auto Club Way, St. Louis Park. For those who can’t make it, the presentation will be streamed live at


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