MTA: Market Street Pilot is Improving Conditions for Muni, Bicyclists

market-2_1.jpg No cars anywhere in sight near U.N. Plaza. Photo: Matthew Roth
Since the MTA began diverting private automobiles off Market Street in late September, Muni riders and bicyclists have been experiencing the benefits first hand. Now, the MTA has confirmed what many Market Street users already suspected: Muni is running faster, and bicyclists now make up even more of the street's traffic.

In a presentation to the agency's board yesterday, MTA chief of staff Debra Johnson said that bicycles now make up 75 percent of the morning peak traffic on eastbound Market approaching 6th Street, compared to 60 percent before the trail traffic diversions, an even greater mode share than Streetsblog originally reported. Muni vehicles saved an average of 50 seconds on eastbound Market during the morning peak and midday compared to before the trial.

Based on manual counts, Johnson said average hourly traffic volume on eastbound Market Street, east of 8th Street, declined by approximately 130 vehicles per hour, or 54 percent. On eastbound Market Street approaching Montgomery Street, the decline was much less, at approximately five percent.

With cars diverted from Market, total traffic on Mission Street increased by 15 percent, and some counts of traffic on Folsom Street showed on increase, while other counts showed a decrease, leading the MTA to call the effects of the change inconclusive.

"I think it's an interesting, promising start to the trial," said Kit Hodge, director of the Great Streets Project. "Obviously there is a lot more analysis to be done, collecting all the feedback from different folks."

"One minute transit savings time is especially interesting. It sort of begs the question of how you could do even more to expand transit savings time."

Johnson pointed to concerns with the current diversions on eastbound Market Street at 6th and 8th Streets. For one, many vehicles are violating the right turn only restriction after officers leave their posts at 7 p.m. Some cars turning at 8th Street are also posing a hazard for bicycles, she said. "Right turns made from the center lane of eastbound Market Street at 8th Street create a safety issue for bicyclists as they are in a lane that is to the right of these right-turning motor vehicles."

The MTA is considering moving the forced right turn from 8th Street to 10th Street, which has fewer pedestrians, no Muni boarding island, and a continuous separated bike lane. The MTA also believes a forced turn at 10th Street could be easier to enforce. Currently, eastbound vehicles are advised, but not required, to turn off Market Street at that point.

With her presentation to the MTA Board yesterday, Johnson indicated that the agency plans to extend the traffic diversion pilot beyond its initial six-week term. "SFMTA staff is working on continuing a pilot project to collect more data and to observe the impacts of moving the forced right turn to 10th Street," said Johnson.

The data update comes shortly after the MTA began painting advanced stop bars at Market Street intersections, the first treatment in its Calm the Safety Zone project and another component of the Better Market Street vision to revitalize Mid-Market.

Have you encountered the bicycle/automobile crunch on eastbound Market at 8th Street? Does your Muni commute seem improved by more than 50 seconds? Let us know your experience with the Market Street traffic diversion pilot in the comments below.