August 29


MNStateGopher My family joined 101,653 of our neighbors at the Minnesota State Fair on Thursday (opening day).  There is a lot of construction happening, but I haven't heard much grumbling about traffic around the fair.  Amazing given the large attendance at the fair.

The state fair draws 100,000 to 200,000 per day with the record attendance being set at 234,384 people on Saturday, September 4, 2010.  Over the twlve days of the fair, they draw approximately 1.7 million people.  To put this in perspective, Ohio State (NCAA leader in attendance) averaged about 104,000 attendees per football game.  The fair does more than that every day for almost two weeks!

I've only missed going to the fair once in my 38 years on this planet.  When I was a kid…  traffic really was a mess at the fair.  Over the last ten years, the staff at the fair have done an amazing job of working in transit and bicycling.  Parking on the fair grounds can still be a challenge, but there are a lot of stress free alternatives.

We took a bus from the University of Minnesota parking lot by TCF Bank Stadium at 8:45.  We waited about a minute and a half for a free coach bus to pull up.  Then we had a comfortable five minute ride on the dedicated transitway to the fair.  The return trip at 2:30 in the afternoon was equally efficient (and the air conditioning was greatly appreciated).

If you go to the fair, the U of MN park and ride lot is a slick way to go since it has a dedicated transitway.

If you ever work on a traffic management plan for a large event, check out the state fair's website to see how they've integrated transit.  They're a great case study.  And as long as you don't call them in August, I've heard the fair staff are very happy to talk to folks about their system.


  • I live over by Como Park, a little over 1/2 mile from the fairgrounds, and I feel things generally work pretty well. I certainly had a lot of worries about fair traffic when I first moved there, following my recollections as a kid of crawling through the area as my parents tried to find parking (though I couldn’t say how much delay we actually experienced).
    Today, traffic generally moves pretty well, though Como Ave itself right in front of the fairgrounds is best avoided if possible.
    My biggest problem is that the route 84 buses no longer stop at Como Ave during the fair because the southbound ramp exiting from Snelling gets closed both for traffic management reasons and to allow St. Paul police to park. I’m also baffled that Metro Transit doesn’t increase the frequency of either route 84 or route 3 during the fair. I suppose they’re technically on par with the frequency of the express buses, but the 3 in particular does a route split (into 3A/3B) immediately east of the fairgrounds, so some customers typically see half-hourly buses, and only see the bus come once an hour on Sundays and Labor Day.
    Mn/DOT should also really do some work on Snelling Avenue to improve the pedestrian/cycling environment there. Snelling is almost a freeway southeast of the fairgrounds (45 mph speed limit, with faster actual speeds), and portions of it have very narrow sidewalks which force people to walk single-file as they pass each other. Asking pedestrians and cyclists to describe their experiences along that stretch of road typically elicits a curse word or two.
    So anyway, while the express bus system is great, there’s still a lot to be done in the area to make access better.

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    Mike Spack

    My mission is to help traffic engineers, transportation planners, and other transportation professionals improve our world.

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