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.
  • Mark

    I noticed that Google Maps does not tell drivers to turn off Market St at the required intersections. A quick check revealed that Yahoo, Bing, and Mapquest also tell eastbound drivers to go straight through 10th and 6th. It would help tourists if these wayfinding websites would be updated to give them better directions.

  • The 50 seconds Muni gained is impressive and represents right-turns for one lane of traffic in just 2 intersections. It’s evidence for all of us who’ve advocated SFMTA should focus on the small swift changes like this.

    Start adding other small changes like retiming the lights to favor transit, stop consolidation, far-side boarding, ticket vending machines at key stops, enforcing the existing bus only lanes, and pretty soon it adds up to substantial savings; both in time and in operating cost.

  • Nick

    Didn’t anyone take counts of driver violations late at night? It’s about a 30% adherence to the forced turns.

    I swear on a Saturday night people will cruise down Market Street in cars thinking it’s the big city thing to do.

  • the greasybear

    When the DPT enforced these experimental rules for separating motorists from cyclists and transit, things worked especially well. That is when we learned of the time savings on buses, and when cycling felt safer as well.

    In this post-enforcement period, however, there is much less “separateness” of the modes. More and more motorists are simply breaking the toothless law, opting instead to slow down the Market Street bus lane or illegally obstruct cyclists’ right of way. I’m honestly surprised to read the majority of motorists are turning right at Sixth–that is not my own experience during morning rush, anyway.

  • Thanks for collecting some data! Your report is consistent with what I’ve observed on my inbound commute, which I make mid-morning post-rush. I LOVE the recent changes and think they’ve reduced car traffic. Without so much car traffic I feel more comfortable going at a slower & safer speed. Yes, there are some violators – a few at 10th, more at 6th. And yes I’ve observed that some of them are following the orders of their GPS units (I even asked one of them to verify why they were sticking on Market St.)

  • David

    While previously I had only seen cars wriggle through the safe-hit posts to get from the turn lane into the transit lane, yesterday I saw for the first time a car wriggle through the posts to get into the turn lane (from the bike lane of course…)

  • marcos

    The City is facing a massive budget crisis, yet is leaving a revenue stream such as automated ticketing of motorist scofflaws on the table. We need 24/7 camera enforcement of a less auto burdened Market Street if this is going to work.

    Even if these treatments are extended citywide, the gains for Muni will be incremental and ephemeral under existing population growth and development scenarios.



  • anna

    I also have trouble believing that the majority of motorists are turning right at 6th. I live on that block and walk/cycle through that intersection several times a day and every time I do I see a BUNCH of people drive straight through. Day or night, but definitely even worse at night.

  • bryce

    the eastbound block between 9th and 8th is a nightmare.
    so many vehicles, particularly enormous ones, are consistently blocking the right two lanes, creating what may be the most dangerous spot in the city for an 8am bicycle commuter.
    the green bike lane is rendered useless by buses parked in the lane immediately after (and sometimes before) where the green lane stops. and on particularly bad days, there are vehicles parked in the main traffic lane, forcing bicyclists to merge into the muni lane to get past.
    as far as i can tell, every one of these vehicles is illegally parked, but the problem actually continues to get worse, week by week.
    this block MUST be fixed.

  • Illegal parking? Do what I do once or twice a week …. let DPT know they need to come ticket the offender by phoning them up. Two Verizon vehicles were parked on the sidewalk on Spear Street yesterday, and had tickets about 5 minutes after I walked passed them and made my call. You gotta make the calls …. 311 makes it easy

  • I was talking to someone at the car-free event on Tuesday and they mentioned these.

  • Alex

    Automated enforcement (e.g. traffic cameras) are problematic for a number of reasons. OTOH, having a cop or two patrol mid-Market (and maybe a similar stretch of Mission) could be very profitable (not yielding to bus passengers, bus lane violations, and failed right turns are all likely pretty hefty tickets).

  • When you see Google Maps give incorrect directions like this, please click the “Report a problem” link at the bottom so it can be corrected. Reporting a problem will get it fixed much more quickly than waiting for someone to notice that things have changed.

  • Mark, Eric Fischer: I reported this issue with the “Report a problem” button on June 2. (I mentioned this blog post and an SFMTA page.

    Yesterday, I got the message “Your Google Maps problem report has been reviewed, and you were right! We’ll update the map soon and email you when you can see the change.” I’ll comment again here when it goes up.

    (I am a Google employee (not on maps) but I don’t think this is relevant to the fact that my issue was processed; I recommend using the link whenever you find a problem!)

  • By the way, it looks like Google Maps is respecting the restrictions now!

  • Google is respecting the 10th St turn off, but not the 6th.

    But this is still good cause they use the same data as most navigation systems.

  • Mikesonn, actually, no, Google stopped using TeleAtlas data in the US several months ago, so a change on Google Maps isn’t reflective of a change on any other services or devices.

  • Oh really? That I did not know, but then again the last I heard was probably well over a year ago. Are they using their own database? I guess I can just look it up, which I am about to do…

  • Yes, it’s Google’s own map database. The announcement was


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