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New plan would ban cars on Market Street

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Will Better Market Street plan really make it all better?

The red brick sidewalks on Market Street, shiny with rain. Photo by 4kclips

A plan brewing for years at City Hall would ban most auto traffic on the stretch of Market Street between 10th Street and the Embarcadero.

Under the Better Market Street proposals, taxis, delivery trucks, ambulances, and public transit would still be allowed in Market lanes.

But private cars—including, and perhaps most especially Lyfts, Ubers, and any other sort of ridesharing vehicles—would have to go around, as Public Works and other civic agencies hope to transform San Francisco’s main thoroughfare into a haven for pedestrians and street-level living.

The San Francisco Chronicle notes that the long percolating project is still years away from implementation but that it’s recently coalesced into a single unified concept out of many previous competing variations.

The paper also quotes SFMTA’s director of Sustainable Streets Tom Maguire saying “We have to be very careful not to allow traffic onto Market that could slow Muni” while singling out rideshares as traffic generators.

Do note, though, that the roots of the BMS plan predate such companies.Incidentally, recent analysis by the expense reporting company found that Uber use is down three percent year over year in San Francisco. But taxi use is down too, with Lyft picking up the difference between both competitors.

The plan’s initial Environment Impact Report emphasizes the goals of “decreasing transit travel time, improving pedestrian circulation and safety, creating a safer and more inviting bicycle route, and accommodating necessary motor vehicle trips.”

The principle mechanism for fostering that environment would be:

All private vehicles except commercial vehicles, emergency vehicles, taxis, paratransit vehicles, and bicycles would be diverted to other streets in the area. These restrictions would be in place 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.

Drivers would be alerted to the vehicle restrictions through a variety of means, including education, wayfinding (e.g., signage), and enforcement. Existing required private vehicle rightturn regulations on Market Street would remain.

The Market Street makeover would extend to the sidewalks too, tearing up the red brick sidewalks in favor of concrete.

Before anyone loses their temper over marring Market’s iconic look, note that this recommendation came by way not of city planners or politicos but instead a 2013 public focus group, which concluded in part:

The brick and granite scheme evokes an historic aesthetic, but [..] the brick material is wearing out and some areas are haphazardly patched; expansion joints have expanded and/or lost their mortar; tree grates are popping; utility cover plates are missing.

The smooth granite curbs are viewed as not safe for traction and slip resistance. All members of the Focus Group recommended another material replace the brick, in light of the lack of adequate slip resistance and the current materials state of wear.

Under a tentative timeline on the Better Market Street site, CEQA review would go on through 2019 with construction set for 2022 at the earliest.