Twin Cities transit planners are considering a future after COVID-Twin Cities

Troy Linck has a new commute to work — a 25-second walk from his bedroom to his home office.

It is better than the commute in the center he made in the last 35 years in cars, buses and light rail trains.

“If I can work from home, it takes one of my major stressors off the table,” said Linck, marketing manager with St. Linck lives in Minneapolis.

Millions of others have made the same transition to working from home. It has triggered a revolutionary change in how Americans get from here to there – and a revolution in Minnesota’s transportation system.


Traffic patterns from three generations have been disrupted by the COVID-19 and the work-at-home movement. Urgent times are fading, commuter transport use is declining, and even highways are evolving.

“Transportation choices have been hugely impacted by COVID everywhere,” said Kyle Shelton, director of the Center for Transportation Studies at the University of Minnesota. “We should think about all our planned projects in a new way.”

Since the 1940s, the map of highways in metro areas has resembled spokes on a wheel leading from suburbs to work hubs in the center.

The purpose was simple – get workers from their bedroom community to jobs in the center. The traffic rushed into the cities and then out again, just as reliably as the tide.

The pandemic changed this model. For the past 18 months, Minnesota workers have fled their offices to work from home.


By 2022, more than a quarter of U.S. employees will work from home several days a week, the nonprofit Global Workplace Analytics predicts. These employees do not ride buses or trains. Even those who commute will not necessarily go downtown. About 80 percent of the metro area’s jobs are in the suburbs, according to a August report from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

As a result, commuter traffic is declining. Planners were stunned when COVID removed 96 percent of riders on the Northstar commuter rail line from Minneapolis to Big Lake. Trips on most other commuter lines fell by about half.

“That type of travel is not happening anymore,” said Eric Lind, head of research and analysis for Metro Transit.

But do commuters not return when COVID declines?

No, says the National Bureau of Economic Research. About 20 percent of U.S. jobs will be done at home permanently because workers and employers find it more efficient and comfortable.


Another sign of change for commuter lines can be seen on metro highways.

Total traffic on highways has almost returned to normal since the pandemic, while rides on public transportation have fallen by 61 percent. The Metropolitan Council is examining these trends and has predicted: Commuter lines will shrink and local service lines will increase.

Accordingly, it plans to triple the local bus’s fast transit lines to 10 in the metro area. These include the $ 532 million Gold Line to Woodbury and the $ 475 million Rush Line to White Bear Lake.

The lines could be called anti-commuter lines.

Although they are called fast transit, some will take twice as long as the driving time to reach their stops.

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