San Francisco Moves to Remake Market Street

market_street_simulation.jpgA highly conceptual image from the SFCTA of what a re-visioned Market Street could look like.

Five San Francisco agencies, together with a number of community partners, will initiate a series of bold trials this month, which they hope will eventually help transform Market Street into a revitalized, thriving city thoroughfare, bustling with "activated public spaces." In addition to altering traffic patterns, the project intends to convert the streetscape, with art projects in empty storefronts, new mini-plazas and entertainment venues.

Starting at the end of September, officials will begin restricting traffic on Market Street with forced right-turns, similar to the recommendations in the 2004 Market Street study conducted by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) (PDF).

From the new Better Market Street Project website:

Beginning Tuesday, September 29, private vehicles on eastbound Market Street will be required to turn right at 8th and 6th Streets. The purpose of the trial is to determine if discouraging through traffic on Market Street can improve transit and pedestrian conditions along the corridor. Signs will be installed along eastbound Market Street starting at Van Ness Avenue encouraging drivers to turn off of Market on 10th Street in advance of reaching 8th Street, where the right turn will be required.

  • This trial will be effective all day, seven days a week.
  • Pedestrian, cyclists, public transit vehicles, taxis, emergency vehicles and delivery vehicles will still have full access to Market Street.

This pilot program is the first of several pilot projects designed to determine how best to improve transportation conditions on the Market Street corridor. The City will closely monitor the changes to determine its impacts and will be refined as needed.

Details of the plan are just being made available tonight. We’ll have more coverage tomorrow. 

  • Will it be repaved so that we don’t all get thrown off our bikes while we are dodging potholes? If so, then FANTASTIC! If not, then it will be fantastic when it gets repaved.

  • Aaron B.

    I love it, but at this point, what business would cars have being on the street at all? Why not go all the way and ban them?

  • Couple things

    doesn’t look like they are planning on widening the sidewalks (highly conceptual, I know).
    also, won’t the forced right turns put bicycles at a higher risk?

    Otherwise, I like that they are looking into discouraging thru traffic on Market.

  • I like all the trials that are going on around the city. Trial plazas, trial street closure (NB Library), trials on Market. It’s a great way to make an attempt at something without getting folks all up in arms. And if it works – all the better!

  • @Adrienne, we’re still a few years away from a Market Street repaving. We’ll be sure to address that issue in our story tomorrow, with more detailed info on what’s being planned.

  • Robo

    So disappointed that cars aren’t banned east of Van Ness. With all the cyclists, there’s just no room for them anymore.

  • soylatte

    I like it!

  • @Robo, forced right turns are a way to get traffic off market without actually banning it. It prevents someone from driving long distances on Market, but provide access for anyone who still needs to get right in front of a building for pick up or drop off.

    It may well just be the way they phrased it in that bit that was quoted, but it doesn’t sound like the transit only lanes will get the diagonal hash lines shown in the mockup during the trial. The transit only lanes were marked with the same diamond used to make HOV/carpool lanes until a few years ago when they were replaced by “BUS ONLY” lettering to make it clear they weren’t for car use. This TA study which predates that change recommended the hashing (the federal standard to mark areas not to be driven in) to make it absolutely clear without any possible doubt that you couldn’t drive a car in those lanes. I’m doubtful anything short of that will be effective to stop drivers from using the transit only lanes (and probably be looking for their chance to cut over instead of paying attention to cyclists) so they can continue straight instead of being forced to turn right.

  • Melissa

    This is a very exciting project. No doubt this study will yield positive results in terms of traffic calming, city revitalization, and increased pedestrian access. I applaud San Francisco for being open to these kinds of trials and making San Francisco a better city!

  • ZA

    Love the vision, but I hope the maintenance budget and the user-education capacity are equal to the task to make this system work.

  • I kind of feel like the idea of forced right turns is operating under the assumption that it’s easy to turn right on Market St., which it is definitely not (due to a ton of pedestrians and bicyclists). Right turns can be the biggest congestion-generator along Market St. Granted, Mid-Market does have a lot less pedestrians than Lower-Market, but I’m curious how this will play out with actually speeding up buses and making it safer for bicyclists and pedestrians.

  • Nick

    For this to be a success, they’re going to have to manage the extra traffic on Mission and Howard. Are there going to be traffic cops enforcing the No-right turns or Bus-only lanes on Mission?

    I’d like to see a bike shop open or relocate to the Mid-Market area. That would be cool.

  • John in SF

    This is promising news. Maybe the could clean and re-landscape also.

    Market from 8th to 6th is one of the most unattractive and uninviting areas of SF due to its perpetuation of homelessness, drug sales and prostitution in this area. If this is to be central travel corridor eliminating private vehicle access, why not remove the buildings and structures along this stretch and replace it with extended green space to Civic Center, UN plaza and the old Hibernia Bank Building?

  • Driving on Market Street sucks to begin with, so if anything, this might encourage people to pick alternate routes downtown. I hated driving around there, and avoided it as much as possible.

    I wonder, though if forced right turns are going to work out. After all with all the people and people on bikes there, the people in cars will have to wait. that could end up causing some accidents, as people in cars get impatient.

    I see this a lot at Irving and 9th. Every day someone is nearly run over by impatient drivers who HAVE to make that right turn, and don’t pay attention to the people in the crosswalk.

  • John, while that sounds like a good idea, you need foot traffic and business in the area to attract people who aren’t of the nature you are describing. Getting rid of the buildings will not get rid of that element.

  • @Daniel, difficulty making a mandatory right turn on Market is a good reason not to drive on Market to being with. Local drivers won’t take long to find a better route.

    Like you’ve observed, the pedestrian volume is lower mid-Market and all the Muni lines on Market make island stops (there won’t be any busses in those side lanes where the cars are waiting to turn) until after the second right turn at 8th. Drivers who don’t take the hint at 10th, will be forced off at 8th, clearing the lane for the 5 and 6 which make a curbside stop the next block.

  • Brett Mac

    This might unveil some unexpected issues, but it sounds like that’s the point — to try it out and refine from there. It’s a great start to fixing a highly problematic avenue.

  • Christopher

    If they are smart, they will alter the traffic signal configuration and timing to give drivers a protected right turn (green arrow) at 8th and 6th, and then set up a separate pedestrian/bike crossing or scramble cycle. This would be similar to the way that Market and Duboce is set up. Otherwise, they are going to have the same right turn / through bike collision problem that caused the bike lobby to complain about right turns from Market onto the freeway at Octavia.

  • Nick

    I can also see that there could be blatant disregard for the new signage- similair to the illegal turns at Market/Octavia.

    If drivers want to keep going straight on Market they’ll just follow the yellow taxis and claim ignornace of the law.

  • Pat

    While you are riding in the newly car-dieted area on Market in October, stop in at Etiquette Lounge and get some coffee from Bicycle Coffee Company. If the gate is closed, that is just for the crackheads, knock or just go in and enjoy.

  • Dave Snyder

    @ Christopher, the difference is that at 8th Street, unlike at Market & Octavia, speeds are slow and there is room for a quality (i.e., wide) bicycle through lane to the left of the right-turning lane for cars.

  • Kate

    As a cyclist and pedestrian I’m thrilled! This is certainly a step in the right direction in managing Market St. It’s always nice to know the City is taking steps that will hopefully make my rides, and the rides of others, safer.
    As a pizza delivery person, however, I am horrified! It is already exceedingly difficult to access some blocks of Market St, especially with the very limited number of places I can legally leave my car, and this use-deterrent program is likely to make my situation worse. It’s bad enough that I sometimes have to go five blocks deep into the TL just to make a complicated series of turns that will land me on the correct block (what with the no left restrictions and multiple one-ways), but now being shunted off Market at 6th and 8th stands to make any delivery a nightmare.
    I realize that the Better Market St project website says delivery vehicles will still have full access to Market St, but it’s been my experience that the City does not generally mean Thai, Chinese, or Chicago-style pizza delivery, considering the tickets I’ve been served and the towings my coworkers have enjoyed; I feel like that caveat of theirs is more to assuage the fears and stifle the cries of Market St merchants.

    However, if the only negative side effect of the trial is that the people living on Market or staying in its hotels won’t be getting pizza, that’s something I can live with. I hate delivering there anyway.

  • Closing main thoroughfares to traffic is a decades old idea that has failed in several eastern cities. For example, in Chicago, State Street was closed in 1979. This resulted in many retail businesses to suffer losses and some to close. Fifteen years and 25 million dollars (what’s that in today’s money?) later they reopened it. It has never fully recovered. Other cities have the same result.

    After 12 years in SF, I still can’t believe how this “progressive” city continues to trot out old, failed ideas.

    Bye bye, Union Square and other upper market destinations. Let’s see how much shopping the bicycle crowd is willing to do. Market was the only practical way to get from downtown to West Portal and other south west neighboorhoods.

    For the “progressive” idiots that claim to build a great city by blocking traffic flow: A great city is a regional destination. SF wuld decline if it was not for the suburbs patronizing the stores, restraurants and cultural instutitions. Go ahead, shut your self in, then you can peddle around the ghost town by yourself.

    Seriously, the Luddite opposition to road improvements in SF makes a once pleasant City utterly wretched to get through, or to ship goods and services. Most of the traffic on Market is commercial shipments to and from the businesses there, and people who have no choice but to cross it, now that other routes no longer exist.

    Those who bring us the farce of “traffic calming” have a “butt-plug” mentality; they enjoy constipating the traffic flow for those who need to commute in or through the area. Many of them are Luddites who want us to ride unicycles whereever we go. (OK, bicycles, but anyone carrying groceries and children knows this to be unrealistic.)

    No, I really don’t care what people do in their private lives, but the metaphor is really appropriate when you think of the demographics of the “rainbow city”.

    What to do? Give San Francisco underground tunnels and bypasses. That would give The City a Traffic Enema; perhaps perhaps many there could appreciate that metaphor.

  • Sprague

    Traffic calming and pedestrian zones were implemented in many European city centers over the last forty years or so, and they have certainly raised the quality of life in those areas. Some argue that U.S. cities are different and this can not be done (right) in our country. However, ample foot (and bicycle) traffic in a high population density area (as the mid-Market area is becoming) will help ensure the success of such measures. One reason why most Europeans prefer their cities to ours is because of the less auto-dominated quality of their central cities.

  • michael b

    JUST DO IT! it’s amazing how much planning & time it takes in sf to paint a few lines on the street. this project could be done in 1 weekend!

  • GSW

    mmm … what are the chances we’re going to see more responsible cyclists when all this happens — between dodging them racing down sidewalks, and hopping out of the way in crosswalks they’ve become as big a menace as cars… a far less dangerous menace, but a menace all the same.

  • Sk

    Forget byciclists. Maket street needs to he revamped because of all the drug pushers and homeless. Cars have nothing to do with that. Byciclists do not obey street signs so I am u sure why you guys are complaining about safety.

    Hopefully they can make market a cleaner place with or without byciclists or cars.

  • Sk

    Look at Santana row. Look at mahattan ny. Lots of cars bikes and everything else but you will not see crackheads wondering anywhere near tourists children or a scene of what looks to be a zombie infestation a block away from a vibrant street. The stephensen meth clinic must be relocated. It draws the nastiest people all over market.

    Let’s not blame this on cars. Byciclists seem to care less about the neighborhood improment and more about how wide the lanes will be.

  • Sk


    SF is too liberal to simply knock a tree down or do something without 100000 people complaining. NY cleaned up so fast in several areas With such a higher population and it turned for the better.

    This project will be halted several times. They are already blaming the wrong population (drivers) for market being filthy. Does this all make sense?


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