PHOTO BY ANDREAS PRAEFCKE/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors on Tuesday unanimously approved a plan to eliminate private vehicles from driving one of the city’s busiest streets.
The Better Market Street project would create a more than 2-mile stretch of downtown Market Street that would only be used by buses, taxis, bicycles, and commercial vehicles, as well as emergency vehicles like police cars and fire trucks.
The plan would create a bus-only lane as well as a separate taxi-only lane. It would also add a protected bike lane on Market from Octavia Street to The Embarcadero.
Although all private vehicles would be prohibited from turning onto or using Market Street for the majority of the downtown corridor, all traffic would still be able to cross Market Street at most intersections.
In a statement, San Francisco Mayor London Breed voiced her support for the project.
“Market Street is at the heart of our city, and we need to do everything we can to make it a safe, more livable, and more vibrant place for our residents, workers and visitors,” Breed said.
“Last year, there were 123 injury collisions on Market Street and the majority involved people walking or biking. Better Market Street and the project’s near-term improvements are critical to achieve our Vision Zero goals and ensure everyone can feel safe on our most traveled street,” she said.
The project is expected to be rolled out in several phases, with the first phase, featuring quick-build enhancements, private vehicle restrictions and Muni-only lane extensions, starting as early as the beginning of 2020.
During a rally outside of City Hall ahead of the SFMTA meeting, Supervisor Matt Haney said, “Today’s vote is a historic opportunity to transform the main corridor of our city into a safe and inviting place to walk, bike and take transit.
“Market Street is not only one our most important corridors, it is also one of our city’s most dangerous corridors. In the past few months alone, there have been far too many horror stories of pedestrians and cyclists getting severely injured or killed. No one should have to fear for their lives because of preventable traffic collisions, especially in the heart of our city,” he said.
“This is the project that I’ve been pushing for quite some time now and it is the most important project that Public Works has undertaken because of the safety,” Department of Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru said.
“Market Street is the busiest transit, pedestrian and bike thoroughfare, but it is also where we hold parades and civic celebrations and a makeover is long overdue,” he said.
SFMTA Board Chair Malcolm Heinicke likened the future bus-only lane as having an “above-ground subway.”
“It’s not just going to be magnificent, it’s also going to be a model,” he said, adding that he hoped to push for more streets in the city to become free of private vehicles.
“I’m not only going to adopt this project, I’m going to tell them to speed it up,” he said.
According to the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, Market Street is one of the city’s most dangerous streets, with 75 percent of the 123 injury collisions reported along the busy corridor in 2018 involving pedestrians or cyclists.