The Better Market Street Plan, which has been taking shape over eight years, is responsible for pilot programs that began more than five years ago creating forced right turns for private vehicle traffic heading east (toward downtown) at 10th, 8th, and 6th Street. Private vehicles are already virtually banned between 3rd and 8th Streets, and two years ago the SFMTA approved extending those restrictions to ride-hail vehicles like Uber and Lyft as well while commercial taxis are still allowed to head on downtown and back, giving them a leg-up with hotel visitors.
Now, as the Chronicle reports, the latest approved design iteration for the Better Market Street plan has been unveiled, and the $604 million overhaul plan includes transit-only center lanes, a curbside vehicle lane for commercial deliveries and taxis only, and a protected bike lane at sidewalk level, separated from pedestrians using benches and various other dividers. The plan extends from Octavia to Embarcadero, but the private vehicle ban would be from 10th Street to Third Street essentially as it is now, but with even fewer options for ever turning right onto Market Street.
As one private driver tells ABC 7, "Well, I don't like it, that's how I make my living. I pick up people here from the Embarcadero station and drive them in. I don't know where I'd be able to pick them up if I couldn't do it on Market Street," he says.
Though Uber and Lyft have largely supplanted the taxi industry here, taxis will maintain some advantage in getting people more directly downtown. "Uber and Lyft are responsible for as much as 20 percent of the traffic on South of Market,” says Tom Maguire, director of sustainable streets, to the Chronicle. "We have to be very careful not to allow traffic onto Market that could slow Muni. Our approach to traffic is a Transit First approach."
Also part of the plan, which will be a big visual change once it takes place: All the red bricks that line the sidewalks of Market Street have to get ripped out and replaced with ADA-compliant paving stones, shape and color to be determined. Those bricks were installed back in the 1970's after Market Street was dug up and entirely rebuilt to accommodate the BART system and Muni underground.
Construction could begin on all this in late 2018, and it sounds as though there are still some decisions to get made and, as the Chronicle notes, funding to be secured.