On Tuesday, with broad support from a coalition of advocacy groups, a plan was finally made official and final by the SFMTA to ban private vehicles from the lower half of Market Street and undertake a variety of street improvements over the next six years.
In typical "let's-study-this-for-a-decade" fashion, the Better Market Street plan has been in the works for ten years, aiming to make SF's main artery more pedestrian-, bike-, and transit-friendly. Starting in 2009, private vehicles heading downtown began being forced to make turns off the street either at Sixth or Eighth Street, and that was later pushed up to Tenth Street. Then-mayor Gavin Newsom talked of wanting to turn the street into "the Champs-Elysée of the West."
With the advent of Uber and Lyft around 2011/12, we saw even more car crowding onto SF streets, and they were included in the ban on private vehicles even though traditional taxis were not.
As Streetsblog reports, the finalized plan and design will extend the car ban from Steuart Street at the eastern end of Market to Octavia Street, and add a raised, sidewalk-level bike lane that will be more protected for the entire length of the boulevard. The other big change: All the brick sidewalks are going to get ripped up and replaced with concrete pavers.
The animation below gives a sense of the change, with the addition of light-rail vehicles and buses that do not come from any current SF fleet. (Just imagine those blue things are F-line streetcars.)
The extended bike lane will change the configuration of Muni stops
How different will all this be for pedestrians? Not incredibly different. There will still be crushes of cars trying to get around the city on perpendicular streets pouring through intersections across Market Street. There will still be taxis and commercial vehicles going up and down the street between buses and streetcars — though commercial vehicle loading zones will be more limited?
And for most drivers, not much is changing east of 10th Street — you basically haven't been able to drive down Market Street in about eight years, though Ubers and Lyfts have been able to drive up Market from way downtown and that is going to end.
But the changes are being touted as the most major reimagining of a major street here in five decades. "Market Street is by design our central boulevard, and it could be ... a street that reflects the best of our values: community justice, sustainability, elevating people and their daily experience above cars getting someplace quickly," says Bicycle Coalition executive director Brian Wiedenmeier, speaking to the Chronicle.
How long will all this take? Well, they're saying they want to be done by 2025, per Streetsblog, with DPW Cristina Olea telling the site that the complications that have dogged the never-ending Van Ness bus-lane project should be "avoidable" because detailed maps of sewer and gas lines were made after the BART construction in the 70s.
Construction on the first phase of bike lane and sidewalk, between Fifth and Eighth Street, is expected to begin next year. And as the Chronicle reports, certain "quick-build" portions of the project may get implemented even quicker — including the implementation of the car ban.
Banning cars on Market Street was once a "radical" notion, as the Chronicle notes, though support for pedestrian- and bike-only streets has grown. San Franciscans have a wish list of places all over the city that they want made car-free, some of which were batted around on Twitter after a new plan to ban cars next to Patricia's Green on Octavia was revealed in July.
As the Business Times notes, implementing this project is currently expected to cost $604 million, with the first phase from Fifth to Eighth costing $150 million.
So, starting next year, expect to see Market Street begin a new phase of perpetual construction that make our current chaos look like a walk in the park!