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.

  • Nick

    A casual observation would indicate that MUNI is 50 seconds faster for EACH block of Mid-Market since there are no cars blocking the boarding islands or making the busses miss their Stop light cycle. Fast in, fast out.

    I find the “50 second gain” in overall effiency to be downplaying just how swiftly the busses are moving. Perhaps they are over-analyzing the data in an EIR-esque fashion.

    I like the advance Stop lines even though one ate a sharrow at Market and Guerrero.

  • How is it possible that the improvement is only 50 seconds? That seems impossibly low.

    The advance stop lines are indeed nice. Now that area needs to be painted green, with a big bike stencil in the middle of it.

  • Inconclusive change on Folsom is interpreted by me as actually meaning “there are so many damn vehicles traveling on Folsom, we cannot possibly manually count them all accurately”

    Glad to hear they’ll begin forcing turns at 10th .. that’s where they should’ve begun forcing turns to start with instead of sending folks down 6th Street where the folks living in SRO’s make good use of those sidewalks and didn’t need the additional cars endangering them further on what is already one of the more dangerous streets in San Francisco for peds.

  • jim

    One of the aspects of this that is not being covered is that we are seeing an actual attempt by Muni to improve the speed of its service. This in itself is news. It shows the city that they actually care about the product they are delivering and that they are willing to make private automobile driving potentially less convenient.

    Beyond all the usual complaints about cleanliness, homeless riders, surly drivers an so on, it comes down to the fact that being a passenger on a Muni bus is a demeaning experience because it is so slow. The system conveys a sense that your time is not valuable and hence you are not valuable.

    50 seconds sounds right. It shows that it takes a lot of intervention to get significant time savings. We will also need signal priority, better stop placement, all door boarding, low floor buses and yes, reduced number of stops so that the spacing falls within Munis own guidelines.

    Let’s hope that Muni is emboldened by this experiment and will do more comprehensive interventions in the future.

  • friscolex

    “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.”

    Indeed, cars freak out and don’t know what to do, so stop. (Right in front of me this morning in fact.) That intersection and the eastbound lanes leading up to it has been horrible for years. The Whitcomb loading areas are often extended illegally to the rest of the block and double-parking happens, too. Not to mention the tour buses.

    However, I’ve been enjoying a less-car (oh, the fantasy of car-less!) Market Street for those few blocks. Private cars stream back in of course once you hit the FiDi. That leads me to ask a question I’ve been wondering since the beginning: Where is the limit of the ban? Is is from 8th Street to the Ferry Building? To Fifth Street? Anyone know?

    Kudos to all agencies and non-profits involved for being this pro-active, not to mention the enforcement officers out there every day!

  • friscolex
  • @friscolex, private cars aren’t actually banned on any part of Market under this scheme, they are just forced to turn right at those two intersections. I completely agree that that intersection has been nightmarish for cyclists for years, and it’s still on the dodgy side.

    I wonder if it would be feasible to convert the entire right side of street (between the sidewalk and the bus median) into a combination of a bike lane on the left side and a right-turn only lane for cars on the right side. That would mean any motorized traffic that wanted to continue east (eg, trucks) would need to get in the lane to the left of the median, but it hasn’t seemed very crowded there these last several weekday mornings.

  • wheelchairgirl

    I don’t see how this has improved things for pedestrians all that much. Nor is it going to make things any better for getting businesses to go to Mid-Market. All this does is create a concrete corridor for buses and cyclists, neither of whom are apparently stopping at local businesses because they’re too excited about 50 seconds’ faster times to someplace *else*.

    Meanwhile, Mission is worse and didn’t get any improvements to cope with that, the 8th st intersections are a nightmare, and Folsom is a zoo likewise. And pedestrian safety at those intersections is down because of all the confused drivers, and Market remains a scary ghetto. This isn’t helping mid-Market in the least; this is helping commuters from elsewhere get through faster.

    Call it an advantage for commuters if you like, but don’t tell me this is helping mid-Market any. Nor do I see how it’s helping pedestrians. One or two car-less intersections isn’t making up for less safety at other intersections, and no improvements to ped access have been made.

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