Seven Months Into Market Street Pilot, Most Drivers Getting the Message

IMG_2210.jpgClear enough for you? Photos: Michael Rhodes

With the recent addition of fully separated bright green bike lanes and a set of traffic changes that have improved conditions for Muni and people on bikes, Market's midsection has become a place to watch for innovative transportation trial projects. Seven months after a pilot program launched, local drivers seem to be catching on to the required right turns at 6th and 10th Streets on Market, even without anyone standing around to enforce the rule.

But the city's innovative experiment isn't without some turbulence. Over a 15-minute period on a recent weekday, 24 drivers heading eastbound on Market traveled straight through the intersection of 6th Street. Just seven drivers made the same illegal move at 10th Street during a similar period, suggesting the extra signage and cues are working better at the first required turn. At both locations, a large majority of drivers got the message.

"It's definitely a work in progress," said Great Streets Project director Kit Hodge. "The first turn at 10th street is a lot easier to follow for people no matter what mode they're using. The one at 6th, which doesn't have as much enforcement and clues for people as to what they should do, is definitely more of a challenge."

There's an upside to that: the different configurations are serving as a test of what works and what doesn't. "The goal is clarity for everyone so everyone can have the best possible experiences," said Hodge. The huge LED sign at 10th Street and a number of smaller clues seem to be sending a clearer message than the relatively small sign at 6th Street.

IMG_2199.jpgA driver ignores huge signs at Market and 10th Street. Most drivers appear to be getting the message.

Part of the issue, said Hodge, is that Market Street attracts a lot of visitors who aren't familiar with its rules. "Market Street is always a challenge because of the number of tourists who end up on the street," she said.

The San Francisco Police Department doesn't have a special detail assigned to the turns, said officer Boaz Moriles, nor do they have a breakdown of tickets specifically for that area.

A police officer who was issuing tickets on the scene last week said he tends to go easy on out-of-towners, often giving warnings instead. He was stationed there of his own accord, and said adherence was pretty good with enforcement, but seemed to slip when no officers were around.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is running the traffic experiment, which is intended to reduce auto congestion on Market to make it more pleasant for people walking, biking, and riding transit on the city's main drag. Early results suggest it's doing just that, speeding up Muni by an average of 50 seconds and making the street safer for those on bikes. None of the vehicles that ignored the require turn rule last week appeared to get in Muni's way, though they did occasionally create dicey situations for people on bikes who didn't expect to be sharing that stretch of street with private automobiles.

IMG_2208.jpgThe signage at 6th Street is much subtler.

When the trial first launched in September, parking control officers were stationed at the turns regularly, but since then, the SFMTA has called them off, leaving the signage to alert motorists to the changes. It also tweaked the trial in January, moving the western required turn from 8th Street to 10th Street, alleviating a tight squeeze for people on bikes and foot at the former intersection.

Hodge said the SFMTA is collecting data on the trial, and we'll update with that information once we hear back from the agency on it. In the meantime, let us know how the trial is impacting your experience on Market Street, whatever your modes of travel are.

IMG_2205.jpgThe trial is making it easier for Muni to sail down Market.