Clearing a Path on Market Street?

The Chronicle’s story the other day about a study to restrict automobiles on Market Street downtown contains an important nugget of information that got buried in the story.

“‘There has been a change in attitude over the last five years,’ said Carolyn Diamond, executive director of the Market Street Association, a nonprofit organization that promotes the beautification and economic development of the central corridor. ‘This may be a way for the city to become better,’ she said.’

Merchant opposition to any auto restrictions on Market has been a big stumbling block to speeding transit service, including F-line streetcars of course. Sounds like there’s greater understanding now that with no parking, left turns, or driveways between Eight Street and the Ferry Building, moving cars off Market won’t hurt shopping. And this time, the study appears to be on a fast track — three months for the County Transportation Authority to take a look and report back.

The main legislative proponent of the change, Supervisor Chris Daly, first raised it with us at our annual meeting something like five years ago, and we told him we would likely be supportive depending on the details. In the Chronicle article, he says he expects to implement it in “baby steps,” probably with daytime restrictions first.

This is an important issue to Market Street Railway because automobile traffic on the tracks east of Fifth Street can greatly slow F-line service, adding several minutes to running times which, in turn, cuts the effective capacity of the line. We’ll be watching this…let us know what you think.

Comments: 14

  1. Closing Market would have impacts on more than just Mission Street. Traffic studies might even consider further changes, like making Howard and Folsom two-way streets if Mission Street can’t handle the projected overflow.

  2. For a bit of ancient history, there’s a movie taken from the front of a cable car heading inbound on Market St. in 1905. It’s been available from various sources, and may be on YouTube now. Probably because vehicles couldn’t move very fast in those days, traffic was rather chaotic, with people jaywalking, horse-drawn wagons rumbling along, and even one o’ them new-fangled horseless carriages chugging up the street.
    Here in the 21st Century, I agree with tighter restrictions on traffic for Market St. (not being a resident of MuniLand, my opinion doesn’t cut much ice, but here it is). If customers want to consider riding the streetcar to go shopping, there should be enough cars so that they aren’t packed like the proverbial sardines–a crush-loaded transit vehicle is not conducive to a good shopping experience.

  3. That video of Market Street, which we now believe was actually made just before the 1906 earthquake, can be seen at our museum, 77 Steuart Street, by the way.

  4. Today the “new-fangled horseless carriages” are not few and far between, they are crowding Market Street and limiting how fast busses and streetcars can move. Most of downtown has dedicated bus only lanes, but it only takes a couple cars violating those lanes to back up and delay transit vehicles from being able to drop off and board at the island stops.
    Removal of private cars will allow transit to run more smoothly and reduce chushloading. Anyone who still wants to drive though, can do so because it’s only Market that would close, the rest of the streets will still be open.

  5. I don’t put much stock in yet another study. The TA already studied closing market and did nothing about it. Then they studied improving service with better signs and markings and couldn’t even be bothered to put done some paint.
    I don’t expect the TA to do anything more than a Powerpoint this time either if the TA is involved.

  6. An elevated median works on Judah since it’s only the trains on the N-line using it and they don’t move in and out of it like the bus lines converging and crossing Market Street. It might as well have speed humps, plus there’s the cost and trouble of rebuilding the F-line tracks just too move them up a couple inches along with having to rebuilding the vents over the subway stations.
    The most recent study the TA never did anything with would have had the center lanes painted, either a solid color or hashed the entire way, to make it clear it was not for driving on. Sadly, after spending our money yet another study the TA yet again didn’t do anything about it.

  7. Is there any reason to expect cars would stay off Market Street any more than they stay out of the bus only lanes now? There’s no enforcement at all. The police don’t do any enforcement, though I wouldn’t be surprised if they were charging Muni for it.
    The center lanes east of Fifth are already transit only lanes. There shouldn’t be any traffic problems, right?

  8. Once the E line is complete, what about removing the F line from Market entirely? The awkward turn onto Embarcadero takes several minutes.
    We need fewer transit lines on Market as it is already very congested in the F/bus lanes. Moving all historic trolleys onto Embarcadero would provide a high capacity, reliable means of transit between the ballpark and Fishermans wharf and perhaps to Ft. Mason.

  9. Well, the F-line attracts 23,000 riders a day, a huge chunk of them on Market. There’s a very large ridership that uses it to reach points on The Embarcadero from points downtown, without transferring. Removing it from Market will force a transfer, which has been shown to drive ridership down. There is plenty of capacity on The Embarcadero for both E and F line cars, and within two years, there’ll be plenty of cars for both lines as well. On top of that, it would mean the end of surface of rail transit on Market, which extends back to 1860.
    By the way, about that awkward turn onto The Embarcadero: Market Street Railway opposed that routing strongly during F-line design, preferring a straight shot through the plaza at the foot of Market to the Ferry Building. But it was turned down on regulatory grounds, because that concrete plaza, which traditionally was the first block of Market Street itself, is now dedicated “parkland.” History doesn’t matter; concrete doesn’t matter; delay the riders by making them go around. We still don’t agree, but it’s a done deal now.

  10. I read in the Economist a while ago that when a city (in Asia somewhere) closed a freeway traffic flow improved. There are a number of reasons why this can occur. The most common reason is people are ‘cutting in line’ which slows other corridors down. That might be the case on Market Street, but I doubt it. Nonetheless, I think closing Market Street to through traffic would improve traffic flow because, lets face it, most people driving on Market Street are lost, and trying to do whatever they can to get off of Market Street. There are so many restrictions on Market Street already that it’s just not much use for regular automobile traffic.

  11. At many island stops on Market, the presence of autos on the tracks means that the streetcars take an extra cycle of the lights to get through the intersection. The islands will typically accommodate two transit vehicles, but a two autos (or one auto when one of the transit vehicles is an artic bus) means that only one of the Muni vehicles can load or unload at a time.
    And, as someone else noted…there is never any enforcement of any current transit restricted lanes now.

  12. Please do this. There will be no loss of business, and actually, with more people willing to walk around and take the bus/train without cars in the way, would improve business!

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