Heinicke to SFMTA: Let’s Not Dilly-Dally With More Forced Turns on Market

Some 20 percent of drivers on Market Street still violate the forced turn at 10th Street, but SFMTA board member Malcom Heinicke thinks implementing a full ban along lower Market will be more effective at gaining compliance. Photo: Jym Dyer/Flickr

In a continued push for a car-free Market Street, SFMTA board member Malcom Heinicke urged the agency to not waste time and money on phasing in more forced turn restrictions, instead calling for a full ban on private autos on lower Market.

“It is my strong supposition that if we close Market altogether, say from Tenth Street or Van Ness all the way to the Ferry Building, and you have an actual uniform ban, that the need for enforcement would be less than if you’re doing it sort of block by block,” Heinicke told SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin at a board meeting last week.

Within the next couple of months, SFMTA staff plans to release a list of recommended intersections to divert westbound car traffic off Market, expanding upon the forced right turns implemented for eastbound traffic at 10th and Sixth Streets in 2009. The sites under consideration include Market’s intersections at O’Farrell/Grant Streets, Sutter Street, Geary Street, as well as Battery at Bush Street, where it feeds traffic on to westbound Market, according to SFMTA transportation planner Andrew Lee.

But while the SFMTA estimates that 80 percent of drivers are complying with the existing forced turn at 10th — where the through-traffic lane was physically removed — only 30 percent are adhering to the turn at Sixth, where no physical measures were put in place to discourage drivers from continuing down the street.

Reiskin cautioned that relying on police enforcement to get drivers to comply with forced turns isn’t cheap, noting that the agency has paid the SFPD up to $1 million to enforce the current turn restrictions. He also said that the ongoing construction of the Central Subway makes it difficult to divert traffic at some spots.

“We don’t have many places — there may be one or two,” said Reiskin, “where we can hard-wire and design in the turn restrictions, but for the most part, we can’t, because we need to allow transit and taxis and delivery vehicles to continue through, which means it’s softer on design and heavier on enforcement, which is extraordinarily expensive.”

In response, Heinicke said he “would favor the whole enchilada” of a car ban on Market to maximize the potential improvements in Muni speeds and safer conditions for walking and biking.

“I think that would also allow you to realize the transit and bike benefits that we’re talking about,” he said. “Two blocks of safety and expedited transit is as good as nothing because then you get to the next block and you’re right back in the traffic and the unsafe zone, so people aren’t going to make the choices we want them to make.”