Muni-Free Market Street: Serious Proposal or Mere Musing?

sfe.jpgThe front page of today’s San Francisco Examiner.

Are Muni’s days on Market Street numbered?

That’s the gist of the front-page headline in the SF Examiner today, which suggests that Mayor Gavin Newsom has a bold plan to move all bus lines and the F-line historic streetcars onto side streets to make way for a glorious pedestrian-and-bicycle-only zone on Market downtown. Transit advocates and bicycle advocates alike, however, are taking the report with a grain of salt.

"We’re not sure that’s necessarily what he meant or said," said SFBC’s Andy Thornley. "I think everybody recognizes Muni is an essential player on Market Street. As we go through the trials and experiments, I think we’re going to see some changes, and some alternations to Muni, but I don’t think we’re ever going to see Muni chased off of Market Street."

The mayor’s only direct quote in the article doesn’t address the specifics of such a proposal. "That’s not being contemplated in the immediate term, but data collection will afford us the opportunity to determine if that’s a viable option," Newsom told the Examiner while touring Mid-Market last Friday.

MTA spokesperson Judson True said he wasn’t aware of any specific policy plans to clear Market Street of Muni vehicles. "We haven’t looked at that proposal," said True.

As for further restricting private automobiles on Market, True said the MTA would have important traffic-count data from the current traffic restriction trial available in mid-November. "We should have more information at the six-week point of the trial, two weeks from today."

Whether the mayor was merely musing, or genuinely plans to move Muni off Market, Market Street Railway made clear in a post on its blog today that it would not welcome such a move:

Beyond the cost of moving the F-line tracks and overhead anywhere else, the lack of capacity for 12 additional Muni lines on Mission Street, or the reaction of Market Street/Union Square merchants and SOMA neighbors to the impacts, there’s the obvious inconvenience to tens of thousands of daily Muni riders on the surface of Market Street who won’t want to be forced to transfer onto overcrowded Muni Metro trains or make their surface journey even longer with a permanent detour in the wrong direction. So our guess here is that either the Mayor was just musing about Nirvana or was somehow misunderstood by the reporter.

1778060299_33463960c3.jpgFuture home of the F-Mission & Wharves? Flickr photo: LFL16

After the mayor’s initial opposition to restricting automobiles on Market, however, it is refreshing to hear the mayor thinking boldly about the street, said Tom Radulovich, Executive Director of Livable City. "It’s a provocative idea. As to whether I like, well, it raises a lot of huge questions, mostly about completely bugging-up Muni operations on Market," said Radulovich. "It’s a very important transit street and it would be very, very difficult to do without that transit on Market."

However, said, Radulovich, "if he thinks this is where we want to get to, he should make it concrete. Map it out. What does it look like?"

More seriously, said Thornley, the city does need to continue trying new things on Market Street through experiments like the current trial, so it will be ready for the major Market Street revamping due in 2013. "We want to make sure the Muni pieces are just right and have been informed by a series of experiments and trials," said Thornley. "We want to do more and different trials to generate more and different data."

Nathan Ballard, the Mayor’s communications director, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment. 

  • patrick

    I see zero chance of this actually happening, I don’t really see any benefit or need to remove MUNI from Market St, and it would probably actually be detrimental.

    I could see Mission from 6th st down being closed to all cars and buses, but Market? doesn’t really make any sense.

    I could also see Market being reduced to 1 lane in each direction plus bike lanes, with much wider sidewalks, that could be worthwhile.

    On another note, does anybody have any numbers for improvements to MUNI since the Market St. changes? Even anecdotal from your own rides?

  • Thanks for the clarification on this… I think we’ve all been waiting for more information after this dropped – I could hear the collective ‘whaaaa?’ of everyone in the city.

  • Taking Newsom’s feel-good brain farts seriously is a fool’s errand. He could give 2 sh*ts about Muni or anything related to transit. The fact his MTA board members are so feeble in governing the MTA and the fact that Gavin, time and again, will do what he can to screw Muni and the MTA over, and the rising crime on Muni, is proof this is a diversion to put the liberals off course for a while, like he did in 2007 with his BS “make Muni free” brain fart which was never serious and again, intended to keep those of us who actually just want decent transit in a small city to work, off balance.

  • SFResident

    Yeah. What Greg said. I can’t wait until Gavin goes away and lets the adults run the city.

  • This really comes down to the Examiner being a rag. That and Newsome is clueless and absent.

  • i’d love to get buses off of Market Street. let’s build a few more streetcar lines — real ones this time, not the magic-lifting stairs that confuse and injure everyone — and have them span out from Market. we can continue to allow buses on Market for now, but they have to stay in the center lane, with the streetcars/rail.

  • Richard Mlynarik

    Huh? Is Newsom still somehow involved with San Francisco somehow?

    Speaking of undead Willie Brown sock-puppets, it’s just great to see that the awesome, SPUR-approved Central Subway is under the steely managerial helmsmanship of Emilio “Muni Meltdown” Cruz.

  • Ok, so taking all Muni service off Market is just outright insane, but let’s also take a second to consider that running nearly every single east-west Muni line along Market also has it’s problems: 3-4 busses and streetcar get queued for an island only long enough for 2, busses pulling in and out of the sidewalk stops block traffic and pose a danger to cyclists. And since SOMA is where a lot of the growth is already coming from, why does it seem like the only real transportation plan is to have riders taking Market Street lines and then transferring to the closest north-south line? Fourth/Market/Stockton is already a choke point and will not be getting any better.

    I think some consideration should be given to establishing a second major east-west corridor a little further south to serve SOMA better. It is where the job growth will be coming from over the next several decades. So would it be so crazy to consider reducing Muni (not eliminating) on Market to a level that could comfortably share the center lanes (leaving the outside lanes free for cyclists) and establishing a second major transit corridor a few blocks south?

  • poncho

    Market street was practically made for Muni, its trunk line for the whole system, most rail and bus lines branch off of Market. If anything Market street should only be Muni.

    If this proposal is going to be done anywhere, its Mission St. between Van Ness & the Ferry building.

  • james figone

    @jamison: Yes, a Market corridor that has transit (F and perhaps one other line) running in 2 center lanes only would be great. It would likely mean that the 21 bus and other lines that currently run down Market would either turn around at Market allowing transfer to the F or they would continue further south to a secondary corridor such as Folsom. Transit experts say that the required transfer is a non-starter however so you would need to get past that hurdle.

    Along those lines, how about moving the F line off market and using modern low-floor rail vehicles instead. This would allow very frequent service on the E line when it is finally built and would eliminate the slow looping turn that the F line makes when moving from Market to Embarcadero and vise versa. For tourists, it would require a transfer at the Ferry Building but many people get on and off there anyway. Lots of possibilities.

  • I’d like to second the idea of a second major east-west corridor, and I designate Folsom Street for a good spot for some BRT lanes.

  • @james, how is the E line not already built? What else needs to happen to make it available? Isn’t it just going to run on N/T tracks south of the ferry building?

    Also, you can’t use the F line as a major replacement for the other lines that use Market. This is just a ploy by Gavin to take the discussion off of real issues.

  • Even if every other Muni line were taken off Market, the F would remain. Ignoring the fact that it sometime caries as many locals as tourist, the merchants depend upon it as a visible (and face it: fun) link between the Castro , Hayes Valley and any up and coming mid-market revitilization Union Square and the museum district just to the south and then on up to the wharf. My personal vision is to see it augmented with modern a modern streetcar line that hits up splinters off to serve the less touristy by highly popular neighborhoods the F-line doesn’t, maybe replacing some of the higher ridership bus on Market now)

    Whatever becomes the southern trunk (Mission, Howard, Folsom) you’ve have a lot of lines crossing passed Market to get down there, which would give plenty of transfer opertuntirnies as they pass market.

    Aa for the E-line…

    Yes, the track is in place, but that’s just the start of it. Development in Mission Bay is far behind scheduled (meaning no body is there to ride it, the cruise terminal never came to be and there was a dotcom bust as well)) and aside from all that there still are not enough cars (a batch of 16 have just been given the go ahead for restoration, which is about a 2-3 year process, after which those will got into service to provide relief for the cars that have been running since the F opening in 1995 (and these are damn well american build streetcars for the fact they pretty much just run non stop for 15 years with just some tune ups) which is another 2-3 years before there’s a working fleet to run both the F and E if the E-line has grown to demand full time service.

    For the foreseeable future though, it’s really just going to be a special service for things like Sunday Streets and the more events we can encourage along the e-line, the sooner we’ll see full time service.

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