Three years after Gavin Newsom's hair started turning away cars on Market Street downtown, several city agencies have joined forces to eradicate automobiles altogether from Octavia Boulevard to the Embarcadero. Backed by SFMTA, the planning department, DPW and other city agencies, the superlatively titled Better Market Street plan hopes to take the next big step in revitalizing the city's major thoroughfare by being more accommodating towards bicyclists (who fear cars) and pedestrians (who fear getting stabbed).
Like the other efforts to make Market Street the Champs-Elysée of the West, the Better Market Street plan aims to clean up the street by getting people to actually use it, and private automobile traffic (not to mention being generally gross in places) is really hindering that. The most aggressive strategy discussed in a presentation to the MTA Board yesterday would ban all private vehicles on Market Street in both directions from Steuart Street to Franklin Street west of Van Ness Ave.
With fewer drivers on the road, Muni might actually run on time and bus loading zones could get reconfigured to better separate the bikes from the buses. According to the studies on the current traffic pattern, there's been an increase in the number of bikers on Market Street since Newsom's traffic experiment began in 2009. For the pedestrians, the plan would introduce a "streetlife zone," which is not as gritty as it sounds and basically just means we'll be seeing a great deal more furniture and plant life on the sidewalk.
Still, the days of blissful car-free bike commutes, on-schedule buses, and leisurely al fresco dining on Market Street are a long way off. Representatives from the BMS coalition will be workshopping their ideas in July and will lay out the exact details by the end of the year. After the necessary environmental reviews and city hall approvals, construction could begin in 2015 and the project completed by 2016.