Clearing Cars from Market Street

Traffic cops on Market Chron photo

Market Street is fundamentally different today: private automobiles, including ride sharing services such as Uber and Lyft, are banned from turning onto the city’s main drag between Third and Eighth Streets. SFMTA, Muni’s parent, implemented the changes in support of the Safer Market Street initiative, designed to reduce the number of bicyclists and pedestrians hurt on Market.

The Chronicle has a good story on this.  We thank them for the use of the photo above, by Liz Hafalia.

The new restrictions build on earlier rules that force eastbound automobiles to turn off Market Street at Tenth Street, then again at Eighth and Sixth.  As bicycle traffic has mushroomed over the past decade, the street has gotten more difficult to navigate for everyone.  That’s especially true of transit vehicles, including of course the F-line streetcars.

Perhaps the biggest news for F-line riders in the new change is this: Muni is extending the “transit only” lane on Market — the track lane — from its current end at Sixth, eastward to Third Street in both directions.  And they’re going to paint that lane bright red, like the existing portion westward on Market.

This should speed F-line loading because the way it has been, automobiles were allowed to use the track lanes in the busiest two blocks of Market, between Fifth and Third. They’d stop next to the boarding island on red lights and delay streetcars from reaching the island to load and unload passengers. This could add another minute or more to running times per stop, slowing overall service.

We may not see the total benefit of this change right away in that stretch, because right turns will temporarily be permitted onto Market from northbound Fifth Street while Ellis Street is closed for Central Subway construction.

And of course, enforcement will be everything in making this work. A common complaint about Muni’s network of transit only lanes in the city is that you never see police enforcing them. Muni vehicles now have forward facing cameras, but under California law they cannot be used to issue tickets for the moving violation of driving a non-transit vehicle in those lanes.

Yesterday, though, many tickets were issued to drivers who ignored the clear new signage and turned onto Market Street.  We hope the SFPD will keep their motorcycle teams out there every day to ensure the new arrangement works as it should.

In the longer run, Market Street Railway is participating with many other groups and city agencies in a total redesign of Market Street, due to be implemented late this decade.  For the streetcars, this will include creation of limited stop service along Market between Haight Street and the Ferry, to be shared with a couple of major crosstown bus lines.  Having fewer stops will greatly increase the efficiency and capacity of the F-line, because riders just going a block or two will instead use the plentiful local bus service at the curb.  We have also successfully advocated to install a short-turn streetcar loop on McAllister and Seventh Street North (Charles Brenham Place), to allow a better balancing of streetcar service along the six-mile long F-line.