SFMTA Proposes New Steps to Divert Cars Off Market Street

With new diversions for private autos on Market Street, the SFMTA would direct traffic on to these possible routes instead. Image: SFMTA

The SFMTA has proposed new forced turns for private autos at intersections on the most congested stretch of Market Street, which could be implemented in phases early next year. SFMTA staff presented the changes [PDF] to the agency’s board of directors Friday — not just as a way to speed up transit, but to make the thoroughfare safer for walking and biking.

The SF Chronicle reports:

“This is primarily a safety project,” said Timothy Papandreou, director of strategic planning in the sustainable streets division of the Municipal Transportation Agency…

The changes announced Friday include stepped-up enforcement of existing transit-only lanes and turn restrictions. Early next year, additional mandatory turns are to be installed at Third, Fourth and Fifth streets and transit-only lanes would be extended eastward down Market.

Market Street between Eighth and Montgomery streets has twice as many collisions as parallel Mission Street despite having only a third of the traffic, Papandreou said. It also includes four of the city’s 20 worst intersections for collisions that injure or kill pedestrians — Fifth Street, Sixth Street, Eighth Street and Main Street. Two of the worst intersections for bike collisions are also on Market at Third and Fifth streets.

The MTA will focus first on Montgomery to Fifth streets before considering whether to head farther down Market.

As we reported last month, the SFMTA is implementing near-term measures in the meantime, including re-timing traffic signals, painting the transit-only lanes red (an effort that began on Third Street last week), and installing “Don’t Block the Box” paint and signage at intersections, all of which will come with increased enforcement by early summer.

The eastward extensions of Market’s transit lanes would go to Fourth Street or farther, depending on traffic data to be collected by planners, said Papandreou.

Malcom Heinicke, the SFMTA board’s biggest champion for a car-free Market, thanked the agency’s staff for finally presenting new car restrictions following the successes of the existing forced turns at Sixth and Tenth Streets. But, he added, he hopes it’s “just a start.”

“I think we need to be looking at the full closure all the way down to the Ferry Building,” said Heinicke. “This is not just an issue of transit effectiveness, this is an issue of life and death. A small number of private vehicles are causing the problems.”

Cheryl Brinkman, the SFMTA Board’s Vice Chair, noted that most drivers on Market seem to end up there by accident. “A confused driver is probably the worst thing any of us could want,” she said. “A confused driver is looking for something else and just not paying attention to the street.”

Papandreou said the traffic diversions may come with navigational signs to help direct downtown drivers towards to the intended routes. The cost is estimated at $2.2 million, which Papandreou said could be funded using the agency’s “Customer First” grant program for capital transit improvements.

  • Somehow I don’t care about this one way or the other. I’d much rather see some of the busier streets converted to European-style carless streets, like Haight or Valencia.

  • Jamison Wieser

    What the SFMTA Board was considering friday was projects within the scope of the 2015/16 budget. The Better Market Street project is more comprehensive redesign of Market Street east of Van Ness undergoing environmental study with construction starting sometime after this budget cycle.

    Minor changes that can be implemented now (without a new environmental study) to improve pedestrian and bike safety, knowing that within 3-5 years (when they’d need to start repainting anyway) Market Street will be torn up for major a reconstruction.

  • Justin

    All I want to see is a car free Market Street from at least Van Ness all the way to the Embarcadero. Giving that priority and more space for people on foot, bikes, Delivery trucks, cabs and Muni. Doing that should include a protected bike lane that connects the Embarcadero to the existing protected bike lane on Market and Van Ness. All of this is so long overdue and should be implemented ASAP WITHOUT ADDITIONAL RED TAPE!!!! The area would be so much more welcoming, safer better for people, mobility and businesses such that they would so not be affected in a bad way, but in a good way!! 🙂

  • m

    Does anyone know if it’s legal to turn left from Polk to Market again? The ‘no left turn’ sign disappeared a few month ago and now the spot where it was is painted over so it looks intentional.

  • Michael Smith

    Good start, but this only appears to affect eastbound traffic. No forced turns off of Market going west. Has anyone heard of plans to improve the situation for westbound traffic?

  • baklazhan

    I think Market St. really could be amazing. As I understand it, a major paving and improvement project is scheduled, which will probably set in stone the configuration for another decade or more. Demonstrating the feasibility of a Market St. without significant auto traffic is an important proof-of-concept, which will pay off in the long term as decisions are made about the permanent layout.

  • Bruce Halperin

    With the new contraflow (northbound) bike lane going in on Polk there, I’m not sure they ever will be allowed again. In any case the construction is probably the reason the sign was painted over.

  • Sean

    Good luck paying off the garage owners for their 5th amendment takings for loss of access. We can’t even ban cars at the Church/Duboce intersection which would have been done anywhere in Europe.

  • Upright Biker

    It could be the Bahnhofstrassse of the West!


    I mean, this is a street with its own website. How cool is that?

  • vcs

    Unfortunately, pedestrian malls do not have a good history in the US. But Haight Street really needs to be upgraded with wider sidewalks, ped bulbs, etc.

    Also there is a weird stereotype of “Europe” which makes it sound more like Disneyland. There’s plenty of places where streetcars coexist with cars on low-traffic streets.

  • SlurpMcBurp

    It could be, but I believe a main drag is only as good as it’s surrounding neighborhood. The ‘Loin is still a pit, as are part of SOMA, and it spills over onto Market. Do something about the Tenderloin and SOMA, and it’ll be easier to attract people to Market.

  • The short stretch of Powell that’s only pedestrians and cable cars seems to be doing fine.

  • jonobate

    The city needs to two-way all the streets in the TL and Soma. There are a few one-way pairs which make sense from the point of view of facilitating traffic flow (e.g. Folsom/Harrison, Geary/O’Farrell) but there is no excuse for entire residential neighborhood to be made up of one-way streets. Until this changes, no-one will want to live there who doesn’t have to.

    Also, do complete streets projects on Eddy and Folsom, with wider sidewalks and bicycle tracks. These could both be thriving commercial streets with a bit of attention. Folsom is already a huge cycling street and Eddy would make a good route between downtown and Polk. Block Eddy to motor traffic between Mason and Cyril Magnin to prevent cut-through traffic.

  • vcs

    meh, it’s really dingy.

  • Only because it’s heavily traveled. You do realize they clean it every single day, right?

  • citi-zen

    “Papandreou said the traffic diversions may come with navigational signs to help direct downtown driver”… how exactly are people supposed to figure it out if the people in charge don’t feel that directional signage. The downtown area is confusing enough for locals, more so for tourists- all of whom also have to play dodge-em with the homeless in the ‘Loin!

  • BBnet3000

    Im not sure if thats so clean cut. They still have plenty of uses they can put their land to.

  • BBnet3000

    The financial district isnt exactly great for Market either. Its dead down there outside of certain hours.

  • murphstahoe

    Saying something doesn’t have a good history in the US is a cop out. The US is a gigantic country with an very wide demographic culturally and economically. How some pedestrian mall in Birmingham or Kalamazoo is not any more particularly relevant to SF than is Milan.

    I don’t think it’s any more valid than saying “pedestrian malls have a good history in NATO countries”

    If you say “pedestrian malls have a good history in Colorado”, you’d be spot on as they have knocked 2 way out of the ball park.

    California? Santa Monica did great. Sacramento not so much. Frankly SF is a lot more demographically aligned with Boulder, Denver, and London than Sacramento.

  • vcs

    meh x2

    If some grungy littery dump where tourists line up for their fun-ride is your idea of super awesome urbanism, I don’t even want to argue with you. You have bad taste.

  • If some grungy littery dump where tourists line up for their fun-ride is your idea of super awesome urbanism

    I’m sorry to hear about your learning disability. To be clear this is not a point anyone in this thread had made.

  • Elizabeth

    I grew up on a no car “street” in Los Angeles. It gets more visitors per year than Disneyland. This works in places that already have a high volume of pedestrian traffic. San Francisco may have more in common with many european cities than many of the places that pedestrian malls have failed. Santa monica was a failed pedestrian mall in the 70s, but they turned it around.

  • sebra leaves

    Who is to blame for the confusion on the streets? The drivers? The Muni
    riders? The police? The Mayor? The Board of Supervisors? The voters
    blame the SFMTA. Spending more money on traffic diversions will not
    eliminate the confusion, but will increase the anger and frustration
    among voters, who will say NO to Muni bonds and YES to a Charter
    Amendment to change the SFMTA.

  • sebra leaves

    Delivery trucks? How are you going to differentiate between delivery trucks, cabs and ordinary cars? What about the mustaches? Are they allowed on Market Street? The problem isn’t driving on Market Street. The problem is crossing Market Street.

  • m

    the sign disappeared months before the construction started, and is on the opposite side of market from the construction. then again last time i passed there (a week or two ago) the lines painted on the street so didn’t match the post-reconstructed-island that many cars were honking and almost hitting eachother. not sure why they didn’t remove the lines first.

  • andrelot

    USA is not Switzerland.

  • Upright Biker

    Your powers of deduction are astonishing!

    And Switzerland is not USA (sic). Likely we can do it even bigger and better.

  • Sfguy75

    There are cops giving tickets there all the time! I think it’s mostly for traffic going straight on Market who are supposed to be turning on to 9th. I wouldn’t risk it.


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