SFMTA to Paint the Transit Lanes Red on Mid-Market This Weekend

Red paint will be added to send a stronger message that private auto drivers should stay out of mid-Market Street’s transit-only lanes. Photo: Google Maps

The SFMTA announced that red paint will be added this weekend to the transit- and taxi-only lanes on mid-Market Street, between Fifth and 12th Streets. The treatment, already rolled out recently on bus lanes on Third Street and the Geary-O’Farrell Street couplet, is intended to make it more obvious that private auto drivers shouldn’t be in the heavily-abused Muni lanes.

“These lanes represent a low-cost, but high-impact measure to decrease travel time, by preventing cars from using transit-only lanes,” SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin said in a statement.

The red paint is one of several short-term measures the SFMTA plans to take to help keep Muni moving on Market, along with re-timing traffic signals and adding cross-hatched markings in intersections to tell drivers not to “block the box.”

The coloring should help — it’s appeared to be fairly effective at keeping drivers out of the way of Muni vehicles on Church Street. But it’ll still be a while before the SFMTA takes stronger measures, like more car diversions and extending the transit-only lanes east of Fifth, and further into downtown. Those improvements aren’t expected to come until next year at the earliest.

The SFMTA said construction on the Market transit lanes will happen at night.

A transit lane on Third Street was painted red in March. Photo: SFMTA
  • helloandyhihi

    This is great. Along Market, people block the box, which holds up many of Muni’s key lines. It’d be awesome if they also put in camera light enforcement on every intersection along Market.

  • The really good things about these lanes is that they make infractions obvious and hard to get out of using the “how could I have known?” excuse.

    As long as the cops are willing (and have the resources) to enforce these lanes, it should help.

    But, honestly, isn’t there a better solution than having to paint all our roads like it’s Christmas?

  • Marco

    Wish they’d get rid of the sidewalk stops, mid-Market. The 71, for instance should stop on the islands; allowing the right line to be completely for bicycles.

  • Gezellig

    I’m wondering why we don’t just close Market St to regular auto traffic in general? There’s really no reason for autos to be on Market. Maybe allow delivery vehicles during certain hours or something but otherwise how amazing would it be to finally have space for the F and bus lines to move unimpeded and also make biking a pure joy!

  • murphstahoe

    That would require a painful spine transplant for too many politicians

  • BBnet3000

    Curbs. They are widely used in other countries as well as on the T-Third.

  • coolbabybookworm

    I think that MIGHT be coming early next year if they don’t delay it again. The SFMTA board and the supes have been talking in circles about it for years now.

  • DaveTheNeighbour

    Does anyone know a source for the law regarding bicycling on the red painted lanes? I had a Muni driver on 3rd street tell me I wasn’t allowed to ride on them.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    Driver education?

  • zoehoster

    Camera enforcement, like in the UK

    You’re sent a notice in the mail, complete with a picture of your vehicle in the bus lane and a through-the-windshield picture of the driver.

    It’s effective: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2532929/Spy-camera-fines-cost-drivers-135million-Huge-rise-bus-lane-box-junction-offences.html

    Though I believe this kind of enforcement in illegal in CA due to privacy regulations.

  • Jamison Wieser

    You can learn more about the project to redesign Market Street here. The draft environmental study report should be out later this year.


  • RoyTT

    The usual reasons. Access has to be reserved for emergency vehicles, shuttles, delivery trucks, contractors’ vehicles, trash vehicles, access to private garages and driveways, transport for seniors and the disabled, and so on.

    So you cannot literally block access to private vehicles, which means you’re back to the same old enforcement issue.

  • RoyTT

    The UK situation is different because they do not have our protections against self-incrimination. So in the UK, even if there is no clear shot of the driver’s face, the driver can only get off the ticket if he reveals who else was driving. He cannot remain silent.

    Otherwise the ticket defaults to the owner of the vehicle. The UK has a rather dubious “right to silence” protection and it can be taken into account at trial if you fail to volunteer information or refuse to answer questions.

    In the US, no such requirement to incriminate oneself or others exists, by virtue of the 5th. And a clear photo of the driver is hard to get, especially as those who know they will be breaking traffic laws use visors, dark glasses, baseball caps and other devices to prevent a clear face shot.

    Many red light camera tickets have bee successfully fought here on that basis and speed cameras, which are common in Europe, barely exist in the US.

  • tungwaiyip

    I believe legally bicycle is not allowed. I’m use to ride regularly on this stretch. There really isn’t a good alternative to the red lane. So I pay attention when there is a bus coming from behind and try to stay out of way. This is fairly rare though.

  • John Rogers

    I support the red lanes. It’s telling what lengths we need to go to, to get some drivers to obey the law. Look at the Octavia/Market intersection; cameras, threats of fines, a dozen signs, concrete barriers, bollards… Every morning riding into downtown, I am astounded by how brazenly drivers ignore the Bus/Taxi lane on Market St. Hundreds of times I’ve seen people drive all the way down Market in the lane, and not a morning goes by without seeing multiple violations. Sometimes drivers are obviously confused or lost, but most of the time I think it’s just “I’m in a hurry and can’t be bothered, I’m going to get away with it, and it’s no big deal.”

  • carey

    I can’t fathom why there is not enforcement of the box-blocking people with a big fine. That would clear things up quickly.

  • carey

    Heading west, the bus-only lane is almost universally ignored between 8th and Van Ness (as well as the no-left turn at 10th and 11th). I have never seen anyone pulled over. That being said, they really need to reconsider the bus-only lane right in front of the Orpheum. There are such bottlenecks there with taxis and buses stopped in front of the theater, as well as the fact that there’s no room for a dedicated bike lane there, that drivers are almost forced to ride in the bus lane. Not very well considered at that location. Otherwise they just need to make a example with enforcement periodically and it should clear up.

  • jonobate

    It’s not legal, because of the wording of state law regarding transit only lanes. The SFMTA were talking about lobbying the state to get this changed, but as far as I know this hasn’t happened.

  • Michael James

    The red lanes do not work. It keeps a certain percentage off but I see dozens of cars use the lanes for blocks at a time. Enforcement is the key. If the motorcycle cops would go out once in awhile and enforce the traffic laws, people will learn.

  • 89CentEggs

    In the US, could we just impound the car that was used in the infraction rather than specific applying blame to the owner of the vehicle (can’t accessories to crimes be appropriated and held as evidence?). The owner wouldn’t need to self incriminate, but someone would have to pay to release the car.

  • davistrain

    We could have our driver licensing standards tightened up, like some European countries, but the automotive and petroleum industries would probably exert subtle, or even no-so-subtle pressure to keep as many drivers buying cars and burning fuel as possible. Like one of the oil companies had a slogan: “It’s not just your car–It’s your FREEDOM!”

  • Roan

    In the Netherlands, this is even simpler: if you own a vehicle, you are responsible for all speeding and red light violations caused by that vehicle, no matter who’s driving. After all, if you own a car, you control who drives it.

    So if your car runs a red light or speeds, a camera takes a picture of the license plate, a computer reads the plate number from the picture, finds you as the registered owner in the database, and mails you a ticket. If you weren’t driving, you can try to shake down whoever was driving, but the DMV doesn’t care, they collect the fine from you. If you can’t get the driver to pay you back, that’s your problem, you took that risk when you let them borrow your car.

    Of course, if you reported the car as stolen, you’re not liable, and if the DMV doesn’t screw up they’ll know about it and won’t ticket you. It takes about 4-6 weeks before the ticket comes in the mail, so this is hard to abuse. If you contest the ticket, you get the camera pictures and if you can show it wasn’t your car, you can get the ticket thrown out. Sometimes the computer will misread a plate, or there might be multiple cars in the picture and they’ve ticketed the wrong one, or someone might be using fake plates on their car. It’s uncommon, but it happens.

    Because ticketing is so easy, speeding enforcement is much stricter than in the US. Cameras give speeding tickets even for minor violations (even for 1mph over on some freeways). Fines start low (1 over is about $15) but rise quickly (10 over is around $150 on the freeway, almost $200 in a residential area). Because so much is automated, there are a lot of cameras, and the chance of getting caught is pretty high. That’s important: if the law is reasonable (most freeway speed limits are 75 or 80 mph) and violators are likely to get caught, most people will follow the law. If the law is not reasonable and people know they can get away with breaking the law, they’ll break the law: that’s what happens on freeways in the US.

    The result is that most people keep to the speed limit or speed a little, but no more than about 5 over. The average driver gets the occasional speeding ticket for accidentally doing 53 in a 50, grumbles, pays $50 or less and moves on. You get very few people doing 100 on the freeway, because they don’t want to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for the privilege. And most freeways are 80, which is fast enough for most people anyway: even speeders in the US don’t usually go much faster than that.

  • Greg

    They should just get rid of buses entirely in SF since they interfere with bikes. SF should be biking only. If you can’t ride a bike, move out of SF.

  • Greg

    How does this stop the box-blocking?

  • coolbabybookworm

    They are going to do intersection treatments, hash marks I believe, to discourage it. Less effective than camera enforcement or red lanes, but it’s something.

  • coolbabybookworm

    If it keeps a certain percentage off then maybe it does work? It’s annoying to see, but we don’t need 100% compliance for transit lanes to be effective, especially if it reduces bottlenecks or prevents them.

  • coolbabybookworm

    Thanks for the hyperbole. That intersection, and a few others are quite tricky for the bottlenecks they create. By moving the stop slightly further (30 ft) down the street or onto the transit island w/ red lanes, boarding would not be impacted, and bikes and cars would be able to use the right lane more efficiently. As it is, it’s unsafe to pass by bike and it encourages drivers to use the transit lane if it’s clear.

  • murphstahoe

    Bus doors are on the right

  • coolbabybookworm

    I think Marco is saying to move the stops from the right lane/curb to the middle lane and use the boarding islands.

  • helloandyhihi

    It’d be nice if Market Street had as much traffic enforcement as the airport. If the airport can have half a dozen traffic ccops in tiny vehicles, Market street should, too.

  • taco

    Looks like absolute shit. I can’t believe this is happening to our city without any concern for visual impact.

  • Gezellig

    That’s a great point–other than being a full-on bike road warrior in the regular car lanes there’s often little alternative for biking on these stretches.

    I think given the circumstances it’s fine to just keep aware of any buses from behind and stay out of the way if they show up. Since biking is often faster than buses, though, it’s also my experience this is pretty rare.

  • Gezellig

    Great info–it’d be great if that could ever be officially changed. As it is now some of these red lanes can act as great de-facto super-wide Class II-ish bike lanes. In the utter absence of any other bike facility on or nearby these stretches, these can be really helpful.

    For example, for a full 8 blocks in one of the densest parts of the city (Sutter to McAllister) there’s no east-west street defined as a bike route. No bike lanes. No sharrows, even (that I’m aware of). This despite being a pretty flat area.

    Yet thankfully at the very least Geary and O’Farrell have the red lanes. If you’re biking from Union Square to Geary/Van Ness these can be a lifeline. Otherwise you have to go way out of your way up (and it is *up*) to Sutter and back down Polk or way down to McAllister and then up Polk.

    Btw, I wonder if there are any plans to do any actual bike treatments on these roads?

  • Robert Meinert

    What do you think about Market potentially being banned for cars by 2020? I find that New York has a viable solution, for instance, for their Bus Rapid Select Lines. They paint bus only lanes on 34th St, & still have travel lanes for cars that move effectively.

  • Mark

    Check the newest analysis by the NY City comptroller for an analysis of how well the Select Bus Service (that is the name of the bus line) and you will see that it really has done nothing for the people of New York.

  • Mark

    You can use the lanes to make a turn at an intersection, into a driveway, into a business. That is why they are not ticketing drivers in the TOL. Because they can drive in them.

  • Mark

    Speed cameras and red light cameras have been installed, then removed, because they raise traffic accidents overall. Particularly the red light cameras. Google it.

  • Mark



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