By Jeff Wagner

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Even though many still work from home, it doesn’t feel that way when we get behind the wheel.

The morning and evening commutes around the metro are slowing down with traffic jams.

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We wanted to know: Has rush hour returned to pre-pandemic levels?

“Yeah it definitely has,” said Adam Yared outside Bobby and Steve’s Auto World on Washington Avenue in Minneapolis.

“Took an extra probably 10 minutes to get to work today,” added Blake Ogle.

“Right now it’s more traffic than before COVID,” said an animated Abdirashiid Jibriil.

More traffic than a few years ago might be an exaggeration, but he’s not far off.

Has rush hour returned to pre-pandemic levels?

“Our numbers are really supporting what drivers are seeing, which is that traffic amounts are really back to where they were, especially at those key rush hour times,” said Anne Meyer, MnDOT spokesperson.

MnDOT data shows the seven-day average traffic volume in the metro is only about 5% lower than what it was in the months before the pandemic started. There was a steep drop of more than 40% in April of 2020, before a slow climb back to normal in October 2021.

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Traffic cameras help MNDOT count the vehicles, as well as sensors placed every half mile in each lane.

Does it feel like one time of day is worse than the other?

“I would say the commute home is typically worse,” Ogle said.

Meyer said his observation is accurate.

“Morning traffic may not seem as bad as the afternoon, that’s when we’re really seeing that uptick,” she said, adding that it’s partly due to school and work days coming to an end between 2 p.m. and 6p.m.

As for which days host the slowest commutes, Meyer said Tuesday through Thursday see increased congestion before things lighten up around the weekend.

If auto traffic is normal, what about public transit?

Many we talked with on Tuesday assumed ridership must also be back to how it used to be, but that’s not the case.

Metro Transit data shows light rail, local bus and express ridership remain down. Light rail traffic is roughly 50% lower than pre-pandemic levels, but it’s been slowly climbing since the beginning of 2021. Same goes for local bus traffic, down around 40%. Express bus ridership is rising too, but barely. It’s down around 80%.

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To be more aware of traffic congestion before you head out on the road, check Minnesota 511 by clicking here.

Jeff Wagner