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SF votes to ban cars from Market Street

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$604-million project will turn San Francisco’s main thoroughfare into a safer space for everyone

Market Street.
Photo by Shutterstock

Update: Following hours of public comment and a rally outside City Hall, the SF Municipal Transportation Agency board of directors unanimously approved the Better Market Street Project.

“A half million people walk on Market Street each day, yet it’s one of our city’s most dangerous streets for traffic crashes,” said Jodie Medeiros, executive director of Walk San Francisco. “The Better Market Street plan will finally change that, plus create a more climate-friendly city and an incredible public space at the same time.”

This approval will authorize numerous changes to Market Street from the Embarcadero to Octavia, “including fully protected bike lanes, extensive car restrictions to private automobiles, transit-only lanes and pedestrian safety improvements,” according to a statement from the SF Bicycle Coalition.

It’s a large project. An important one, too. One that could—and should—change the way denizens use Market Street, San Francisco’s busiest artery.

Today, the SF Municipal Transportation Agency board of directors will vote on the $604-million Better Market Street Project, a proposal set to transform Market Street between Octavia Boulevard and the Embarcadero—most notably, restricting private vehicles between Steuart and Gough.

Under the current proposal, Muni buses, emergency vehicles, paratransit, bikes, and legit taxis would still be allowed to ride this stretch of Market Street, but personal cars would be barred from driving along Market Street.

Uber and Lyft ride-hailing cars would also be verboten, but would be allowed to drop passengers off at cross streets. The current plan includes the addition of over 40 new white passenger loading zones and more than 200 yellow commercial loading zones on side streets near Market.

It’s important to note that this plan wouldn’t simply turn Market Street into one giant bike lane; the city’s main thoroughfare would also become a safe space for pedestrians, a group that has seen an uptick in fatal collisions this year.

The Better Market Street Project, an idea that would have seemed heretical 30 years ago, has backing from a number of city agencies, elected officials, and Mayor London Breed, who, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, endorsed the project Monday.

Aerial map of Market Street.
Click to enlarge.
Map courtesy of Better Market Street Project

“After a lengthy public planning process that included hundreds of outreach meetings and conversations with stakeholders, the city has developed a design that will support Vision Zero safety goals, improve transit and transform Market Street for our next generation,” the mayor said in a letter to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board.

In addition to altering the street, the audacious project could help mollify the blighted stretch of Mid-Market, a problem that Twitter, luxe apartments, and chef-driven eateries haven’t managed to cure.

The Better Streets Project notes that, if approved, construction for phase one could start as soon as 2020, pending approvals. “Once a preferred design is chosen, the city will work with the community members and businesses to ensure the least impact possible during construction.”

Expected date of completion is 2025. Here’s what it might look like: