Planning: How Did YOU Get to Work this Morning

Urban, transit, parks, traffic, highway, communications and more, much more – all require planning. A lot of planning to work successfully. Reading about the events in Atlanta this week made me think more about this. A couple of inches of snow and some slick ice caused epic traffic jams, gridlock, pain, boredom, and sadly, even several fatalities. Poor planning to say the least.

Now much is always written about cities with no history of snow or ice and how few snow plows they own etc. but this could have been avoided. Alert businesses that they must adjust opening times based on the first letter in their name. Tell people to stay home – before the event. Tell people to ride their bikes in (Sorry I had to throw that in) to work. It would have been a bit comical but bikes move much better than cars in this weather. I know, I know, nobody has studded tires on their bikes. Lower the seat so you can put both feet on the ground when things gets dicey. Done and done.

As I write the Twin Cities is getting about an inch per hour of snowfall right in the middle of rush hour. Everyone will be late to work but the system is moving, albeit slowly. I was waiting for the bus on Marshall and Cretin and watching traffic. I was thinking surely in the 5 minutes I’m waiting that I’ll see a fender bender. Instead traffic was moving very slowly but steadily. One (only one) cyclist rode by on his or her (couldn’t tell through the gear) fat bike and was moving faster than traffic by a wide margin.

I didn’t really want to write about the above this morning but the words fell onto the keyboard. What I really want to write about is personal planning in a car-light or car-free world.

We have a car, an awesome, go-through-any-depth-snow mid 90’s Volvo that seems to be indestructible. My wife (not a winter cyclist) had to be at work early this morning so she took the car. Then I started planning.

Work is only about 4 miles away. My commuter bike simply won’t move in 5″ of fresh snow. I’ve tried and it resulted in more walking than riding. So….bus? train? Car2Go? walk? Combo? GoogleMaps?

Each required it’s own plan and there were certain criteria I wanted to consider.

Do I want to minimize the amount of walking in the deep stuff?
Do I want to minimize wait time at the bus stop?
Do I want to just stay home and work here? (an option on most days but not today)
Do I want the shortest trip time?
The most important criterion for me was to ensure that I’d get some time at Blue Moon coffee – where I’m writing this. Still most options were on the table.

I opted for simple. I went on a very cool real time scheduler for bus routes and determined when I should leave. I can bore you with the details but suffice to say, two buses and 25 minutes later, I was here with my coffee and sweet. I was even treated to the ballet of the traffic during my transfer wait.

Point is, if you want to leave your car at home, it’s easy. It just requires a bit of planning. Of course the “easiest” plan would have been to drive my wife to work and take the car. I think if I had taken that option, I’d still be in the car – cursing.

Stay safe everyone!


Re-posted from

Tony Desnick

About Tony Desnick

Tony Desnick is an architect, urban designer, and bicycle activist. He has worked in the bike share industry since 2013. He has ridden a bike for the last 56 years and commutes year 'round by bike today. He serves several local and int'l non-profit boards of directors. In May 2016, he presented a TEDx talk about how bicycles can change us and our communities. It can be found here:

9 thoughts on “Planning: How Did YOU Get to Work this Morning

  1. Michael RodenMichael Roden

    One car household here. My fiance is from Virginia and uncomfortable driving in this weather – plus we’d be in trouble if our one car ended up wrecked. She’s able to work from home, and I am able to take the bus. 45 minutes late when I got on and 75 minutes behind schedule when I got off. But hey, at least I wasn’t stuck on the side of the road like so many people I saw on the way! Best option for me on a day like today is to buy some big fat bike tires.

  2. Walker AngellWalker Angell

    My local Dunn Bros (not Blue Moon, but we don’t have many options out here in the ‘burbs) said they were much busier than usual this morning with dozens of people coming in saying that they were either waiting for roads to clear of traffic before continuing or taking a break before going back home. They said numerous mentioned having already been on the road for over an hour.

    Sometimes, giving in is the better part of valor. Or perhaps, knowing when to say I give. I wonder how much productive time was wasted this morning with people stuck in traffic (and most should have known). I wonder how many crashes were caused by people talking on their cell phones attempting to be productive during their drive. How many of these people really needed to go in to work today rather than work from home?

  3. Walker AngellWalker Angell

    I’ve been thinking a lot about game theory lately, particularly about people choosing to drive through a downtown area like St Paul rather than around it. If we had to pay per mile driven, should rates go up on a day like today (except perhaps for medical personnel)? Interesting to think what impact this might have.

  4. Mike Hicks

    I took the bus, the #3 from the Como Park area of St. Paul to the city’s downtown. Over the past year and a bit that I’ve been at my current job, it’s been almost maddeningly consistent (in the morning). But the earlier you get onto a Metro Transit bus, the better off you are — Even on a regular day, delays propagate through the morning, wane during midday, and then get bad again in the afternoon.

    My morning commute didn’t turn into anything special, though I may have been a bit lucky — I use to get a much more detailed forecast, and last night I saw that the predicted snowfall for the morning had intensified. I had been leaning toward going to work an hour earlier anyway (due to potential activity at work), and looking at the prediction reinforced that decision. My bus has tended to be very consistent about getting me into downtown on-time or close to on-time in the past year, though. There seems to be more variation between taking the 6:29 bus versus the 7:22 bus simply due to different traffic levels than there is between taking either of those buses on a good weather day versus a snow day. (In other words, on any given day, the 7:22 bus seems to take 5-10 minutes longer to make its trip than the 6:29 bus does.) The route isn’t nearly as busy as places like Hennepin Ave in South Minneapolis, though — I’m hearing some horror stories from Uptown residents through the grapevine today.

    We’ll see how the afternoon commute goes. Even though it’s sunny out and many main roads have already been cleared, the residual delays from this morning may make it hard to know when my bus is leaving. I believe there’s also a weak spot in NexTrip which exacerbates this problem. When you’re at or near the start of a route, the system simply doesn’t have much data to predict the arrival time. I often end up standing around staring at my smartphone as it predicts an arrival time of “5 min” or whatever. And then I look at it five minutes later, and it says the same thing. Driver breaks between runs might confuse the system too.

    The Atlanta debacle is interesting from an emergency management perspective and a regional planning perspective. Clearly many people never should have been at work or at school when the storm hit. But there’s also the regional layout — How many drivers ended up stalling on the highway when they should have taken to side streets? (Though that’s often not the best idea — the sweeping action from 40+ mph travel usually means that highways are in decent shape, while side streets have snow build up) How many drivers were unable to take alternate routes because there aren’t any? I also noticed a ton of semi trucks in photosof the traffic jams — should they have gotten off the main roads to let the more nimble automobiles through? Presumably most cars *did* get through — the trucks might have just ended up being a high proportion of the vehicles that got stuck.

    But I’m 1,000 miles away. I’m not going to point too many fingers — the first snow of the year is always a fairly big mess around here (though we certainly don’t see people going so far as to abandon their vehicles).

    I would say that snowstorms show that a dependence on highways is a pretty bad thing — freeway travel times often degrade to the point of being no better than side streets, but it depends on exactly which side streets you’re talking about. University Avenue in St. Paul tends to suffer excruciating traffic when I-94 gets backed up or closed, because there’s no way that traffic from a 100,000+ AADT roadway can fit onto a single surface street. But up in my neighborhood, snow usually doesn’t majorly impact travel times — certainly nothing like the 2x to 4x travel time increase that occurs when a freeway grinds to a halt.

  5. Cedar

    I took the bus and it took forever — much of the time spent getting from 22nd and Hennepin to the edges of downtown Minneapolis. I got to work more than an hour later than normal. Granted, it was much better than being stuck in a car during that period — but being on a bus stuck in traffic is pretty frustrating, too.

  6. Joseph TottenJoseph Totten

    I forgot class was 15 minutes later than it was and ran half the way into campus. It worked out well.

  7. Morgan

    My car is in the shop from a flooded engine so I worked remotely. I work in Edina 10 miles from my place in South Mpls. I usually ride my bike but haven’t been since it got so cold after Thanksgiving. I had a lunch meeting in Uptown and walked to and back along Lake and 29th Street. It was awesome!

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