SFMTA Directors Favor More Car Restrictions to Improve Market Street

Photo: ##http://www.orangephotoraphy.com##Myleen Hollero/OrangePhotography##

The idea of getting more private automobiles off Market Street is gaining serious traction at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA). Following the success of measures diverting cars off Market at 6th and 10th Streets, the SFMTA Board of Directors today showed a broad consensus favoring potential pilot projects that could further reduce the impacts of cars on and around Market.

“Those two forced right turns gave us an increase in transit speed by 3 to 5 percent,” said Director Cheryl Brinkman. “I know that some of the things we choose to do…might be considered onerous by some motorists — to have to not be able to travel on Market Street — but I think right now the transit conditions on Market Street are already onerous for every transit rider.”

Five ideas for pilots were presented to the board by staff as trials for the Better Market Street Project. Two in particular stood out to directors who said they could be effective and feasible during the construction of the Central Subway.

One project would attempt to reduce blockages caused by cars waiting to turn right from Market onto New Montgomery Street by prohibiting that turn altogether. That could help speed up Muni and provide some breathing room for the high volumes of people on foot and those on bikes. However, an SFMTA document [pdf] pointed out that “the unintended effect may be to have more vehicles stay on eastbound Market Street and create a new problem at 2nd Street.”

The other project would calm motor traffic on Sixth Street by removing a prohibition on curb parking during peak hours in the northbound direction, which mostly encourages drivers to speed.

“A trial removal of the peak-period tow-away lane restrictions on the east side of 6th Street between Folsom and Market streets may improve pedestrian safety and comfort by decreasing the pedestrian crossing distance across 6th Street and by increasing the separation between pedestrians and moving traffic,” the SFMTA document said.

“If the project is successful, curb parking spaces could conceivably be converted to other uses such as parklets to increase the amount of open space in the area,” it added.

Director Malcolm Heinicke said he was originally skeptical of the forced right turns but is now convinced that “it’s feasible to eliminate everything but transit, bikes and taxis on that corridor.”

“That’s my clear way of saying these initial pilot projects are certainly okay by me,” he said.

San Francisco Bike Coalition Executive Director Leah Shahum said the organization is “encouraged by what seems to be a clear desire from the SFMTA Board of Directors to prioritize speeding up transit travel on Market Street while improving safety for the growing number of people walking and bicycling there.”

“The SFMTA should be commended for the improvements made recently on Market Street and encouraged to keep up this momentum for progress,” she said.

Directors Cheryl Brinkman, Joél Ramos, and Bruce Oka also stressed the need for experimentation to improve the corridor.

“I’m eager for the day that we have no more private vehicles on Market Street,” said Oka. “I am not going to hold my breath on it, but I have seen so many near collisions and the pedestrians are not safe because the traffic is so congested in some parts. The sooner we get them off of Market Street, the better it’s going to be for everyone.”

  • Easy

    Wow, this is very encouraging news – way to go MTA board!

  • maaaty

    what an outrage!  Imagine if cars had been restricted along Paul Revere’s route, as he was ringing those bells and warning the British.  Just imagine.

  • On that note, here is my vote for the worst car commercial.  Ever.


  • mikesonn

    Can we get rid of that awful right turn lane on 3rd at Market? There shouldn’t be a right turn there anyway and all it does is force MUNI to merge to the left and traffic rarely accommodates.

    Overall, great news. The more we do to speed transit on Market and make biking more attractive is all for the best. Well done SFMTA.

  • JF

    Something needs to be done about all those vehicles heading south on Montgomery which turn onto Market for the half block and then turn onto 2nd street. That short blocks slow bus traffic down to a crawl.

  • Bob Davis

    I was amused by the term “serious traction”–it brought up visions of the “Roar of the Four” when Market St. had four parallel streetcar tracks (which was the case up to the late 1940’s).  Of course now we have six tracks, but four of them are underground.

  • No, we can’t.

    You see, if we just got rid of the private motor vehicle right from Third onto Market, we would deliver more mobility benefit to San Francisco than the entire craptastic two billion down the crapper pork-bonanza corruption-fest that is PBQD’s Central Subway.

    And we could never have that.

    Enjoy fuming and watching the 8X/30/45 (ably piloted by TWU-250A members who get paid whether the bus is moving or not) sit and wait through several light cycles for decades to come!

  • mikesonn

    I’m usually sitting on those buses waiting. And you are totally right, no surface improvements because then the people might not want to spend $1.6B (and growing) on the CS.

    Cheers to mediocrity. Actually, I would cheer mediocrity if the SFMTA could deliver at least that, which they can’t.

  • icarus12

    Gentle readers,
    With Market Street now almost devoid of private car congestion in both directions, the SFMTA reports a 5% speed-up in transit times.  Does that tiny improvement of 5% not worry any of you?  Market Street has improved tremendously as a place to ride a bike, but the bus and trolleys still suck.  I don’t know what the solutions would be for speeding them up on Market, but clearly getting rid of private autos is not doing very much.  Any suggestions?

  • Sprague

    On all streets with transit service, buses and light rail vehicles should have signal override priority so the lights can be held green longer ’til they pass through or switched green sooner when the doors are closed and they’re ready to go.

  • Chris K

    Why not ban all private cars from all the streets ?  Then we’ll all be completely dependent on the MTA to get anywhere and they can charge us anything they see fit for ever more inconvenient, unreliable, incompetent service. At least then the parking ticket / towing low lifes would have to go out and find real work. 

  • Market Street is in no way devoid of private car congestion. The only two blocks that are relatively car-free are the two directly after the forced right turns at 10th and 8th. By 6th Street, cars spring out of nowhere and fill the lanes again. And going west there’s been no attempt to reduce private cars at all.

    So if three to five percent improvement in transit time comes from just these two forced right turns, there is great potential to improve transit time further on Market Street by further reduction of private car travel.  (I’m assuming that transit time improvement refers to transit time to traverse the entire stretch of Market from 10th to the Embarcadero, not just the stretch between 10th and 8th streets.)

  • NoeValleyJim

    Far too many cars ignore the right turn restrictions and continue straight anyway, then making an unsafe lane change across the bicycle lane. Can we a camera here for enforcement?

    I have seen people break this law even in front of police cars rolling down market, the police did nothing.

  • Why did we bother spending the millions of dollars back in the ’70’s to put the Muni stations underground if they are now going to take over Market street entirely ?  Here’s a novel idea: improve traffic flow for everyone on the road and muni won’t have to deal with the same delays everyone else does.  Just take the central freeway replacement with the Octavia st. quagmire for example.  No amount of “Except Muni” prohibitions or camera enforcement is going to change the fact that one right turn lane (Fell to Octavia) can’t handle the number of people who need to get on the freeway.

  • Sean

    Charles, those stations were originally for BART to Marin. Have you see the F-line speeds lately? As much as Id like to see the return of the ‘roar of the four’ tracks across market, the subway tunnel already over capacity as it is. Seattle has a nice solution of a mixed underground busway/light rail ROW, but it cost $300 million a mile.

    I have to agree with you on Octavia, but I think the problem lies with the demand and not the supply. There just isn’t an express option to Caltrain from West/North/Central SF. The 22 and 47 are much too slow. This lackluster bus connection makes driving much more attractive.

  • @Sean:twitter BART to Marin was never actually planned to be on Market except in one 1960 concept where Montgomery station would have been shared.  The second level was always intended either for a Twin Peaks BART line or for Muni.  The Marin line would have terminated at Market instead of merging into it.
    That said, the subway has always only been a fraction of Muni’s service on Market Street — all the buses still need to get through too.  There is no way to “improve traffic flow for everyone on the road” when all the street space and crossing time that can be given to vehicles already have been given to them.


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