Market Street taking a turn in a new direction

Forced detours from Market Street in The City are intended to be a turning point for the bustling thoroughfare’s future.

Beginning Tuesday, eastbound drivers will be forced to turn off Market Street at two intersections. It’s part of a study that will look at limiting vehicle traffic and boosting transit service and pedestrian usage along the corridor.

The changes mean drivers will be encouraged to turn right off Market Street at 10th Street and then be forced to turn right at Eighth Street. Vehicles that turn right on Market Street from Seventh Street will be pushed back off to Sixth Street.

Muni, taxis and delivery vehicles are exempt from making right turns at any of the intersections.

The traffic-calming effort will make way for a number of crowd-luring ideas aimed at cleaning up the downtrodden strip of Market Street.

During the next six to 12 months, The City hopes to install sidewalk cafes, new open spaces, landscaping improvements, colored bicycle lanes and even artwork in vacant Tenderloin storefronts, officials said.

All plans are subject to change. The idea is to have a trial period to see what works before making anything permanent, Mayor Gavin Newsom said. The full implementation of changes on Market Street is scheduled to begin in 2013, after input from the community and an environmental review.

The mayor said the plans were partly inspired by New York City’s Broadway, where a similar idea has already taken shape.

That nothing is permanent is comforting to business leaders and residents, some of whom have been skeptical about auto limitations.

Former Mayor Willie Brown first pitched the idea of shutting down the entire eastern strip of Market Street to private vehicles. Some commuters and business leaders viewed the idea as too restrictive, saying traffic would then be diverted to Mission Street and other SoMa streets.

Supervisor Chris Daly also pushed for the trial changes about a year ago.

“I am happy to see San Francisco is willing to experiment,” said Gabriel Metcalf, executive director of the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association. “Market Street is not working right now.”

Mid-Market, The City’s supposed theater center, ought to be “jam-packed with people going shopping, going out to eat, to the theater and people-watching,” he said.

Jim Lazarus, vice president of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, has opposed the idea of closing Market Street entirely to vehicles, but he said he supports testing new ideas that aren’t so far-reaching.

“The proof will be in the outcomes of the test,” Lazarus said.

He did say, however, he’s concerned that limiting traffic will make the corridor less safe at night.

“You reduce the appearance of eyes and ears on the street,” Lazarus said.

Lazarus said he’d like to see a more balanced approach to reinventing SoMa and Market Street that incorporates all transit modes.
Area leaders say they are looking forward to the traffic changes.

“We’ve been talking about it for a long time,” Market Street Association President Carolyn Diamond said.

“We are relying on feedback from all Market Street users,” Daniel Hurtado of the Central Market Community Benefit District said.

Traffic update: Vehicles to be diverted off Market

Private vehicles headed east on Market Street past 10th Street will encounter a requested right turn followed by two mandated right turns starting Tuesday.

  • Eastbound traffic on Market Street will be requested to turn right on 10th Street
  • Eastbound traffic on Market Street will be required to turn right on Eighth Street

Source: Municipal Transportation Agency

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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