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All hands on deck to kick off new era of ‘car-free’ Market Street

Transit officials are warning motorists about substantial traffic changes on Market Street effective Wednesday morning. 

Private vehicles will be banned from a portion of Market Street, from 10th to Main streets in the westbound direction and from Steuart Street to Van Ness Avenue in the eastbound direction. 

Only commercial vehicles, taxis, emergency vehicles, paratransit and Muni buses will be allowed to use the “car-free” portion of The City’s busy corridor, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency said. 

The plan to close the street to private vehicles is part of the Better Market Street plan aimed at improving pedestrian and bike safety, as well as Muni bus service.

During an SFMTA Board of Directors meeting held earlier this month, Director of Transportation Jeffrey Tumlin said safety was a driving force behind the private vehicle ban decision.

SFMTA Quick build traffic changes that will close a portion of Market Street in San Francisco, Calif. to private vehicles beginning Wednesday, January 29, 2020.

Tumlin said:

“Half of the top 10 most dangerous intersections in San Francisco are on this stretch on Market Street. It’s resulting in about 100 injury collisions a year.”

The San Francisco Police Department will issue citations to drivers who turn and drive onto Market Street, but Tumlin said tickets will not be given for a least the first day.

He said the transit agency wants to allow time to educate motorists of the changes and give them a period to adjust.

Tumlin warned that parking control officers will initially be taken from their other duties in order manage Market Street traffic as the traffic changes roll out.

Tumlin said:

“The bulk of the staffing early on will be our parking control officers who we’ll have to pull from parking enforcement as well as from the work that we do in keeping our bike lanes clear.”

The coming days will pose a challenge to the transit agency, which faces a parking control officer shortage in addition to Muni operator and maintenance worker shortages, Tumlin said.

Tumlin said the number of parking control officers stationed at Market Street will be adjusted based on motorist compliance.

SFMTA Rendering of proposed Better Market Street project that begins with banning private vehicles from a portion of the San Francisco, Calif. street as of Wednesday, January 29, 2020.

Transportation network companies, or rideshare companies, have also made preparations for the major change.

Uber told SFBay they will close Market Street off in their internal driver’s app. Drivers will not be directed to take Market Street when picking up or dropping off passengers — they have already been notified of the traffic reconfiguration through an in-app email.

Additionally, the company said passengers making requests to be picked up or dropped off on Market Street will instead be directed to a nearby side street.

A Lyft spokesperson told SFBay in a statement:

“We support the Better Market Street project because it is deeply aligned with Lyft’s vision: reorienting our cities around people, not cars. We are excited to continue to put our civic muscles to work in support of safer streets designed for everyone: wide tree-lined boulevards for strollers and people on foot, protected lanes for riding bikes and scooters, dedicated travel lanes for reliable public transit service, in close coordination with dedicated loading zones along side streets for pick-ups and drop-offs.”

City officials will celebrate the car-free Market Street kickoff with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday morning. 

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