Mayor drives Muni-free Market plan

Mayor Gavin Newsom envisions Market Street without cars — and without the nearly dozen Muni bus lines and the historic F-line.

The City is in the midst of a six-month trial that aims at limiting the amount of private automobiles on the major thoroughfare, and the mayor says that if the data backs it up, he favors an expansion of the vehicle ban — and also moving toward removing Muni from the street.

The current vehicle ban trial began Sept. 29 and autos traveling eastbound on Market Street have been forced to make right turns at Sixth and Eighth streets. The traffic measures have been coupled with other revitalization efforts along the mid-Market stretch, including sidewalk seating, landscaped street medians, replanted trees, revamped transit station entrances and a series of art installations, including those placed in abandoned storefronts.

If data proves the Market Street vehicle ban has been a success, Newsom said he will push for auto restrictions farther east toward the Ferry Building.

But Newsom went a step further, saying he’d like to take Muni off the street as well — an idea that dates back three decades, but has never come to fruition.

One idea, he said, is to reroute Muni to Mission Street or another nearby street so that Market Street could be transformed into a place solely for cyclists and pedestrians, and include such amenities as tables and chairs in the center of the thoroughfare.

Newsom said the idea is a long way from reality, but said the current test on Market Street could lay the groundwork.

“That’s not being contemplated in the immediate term, but data collection will afford us the opportunity to determine if that’s a viable option,” he said.

The verdict is still out on the impact of restricting cars on Market Street, especially for business, said Carolyn Diamond, executive director of the Market Street Association.

“We’re still kind of waiting for the data on that,” she said.

Diamond and others are on-board with car restrictions, so long as the idea remains a trial. However, the response to banning Muni on Market Street received more skepticism.

“I think a lot of people would be upset,” she said. “I can’t imagine Mission Street being capable of handling all that traffic.”

Tom Radulovich, founder of Livable City, said he’s for revamping Market and Mission streets, saying neither “has worked very well for transit, bicycles, pedestrians or even private cars for decades.”

However, there is concern about the convenience of transferring from the many surface buses that run along Market Street to underground streetcars and BART, Radulovich said.

Banning buses on Market Street was pitched as an idea in the 1970s when the subway was built under the street, said Jim Lazarus, public policy director for the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.

While he supports the current trial, Lazarus says The City needs to study traffic on surrounding streets as well as Market.

“You can’t deal with Market Street without dealing with Mission [Street], and you can’t deal with Mission without dealing with Folsom, Howard, and Harrison [streets],” Lazarus said.

Market and Muni

5 months Time before new car restrictions may be added to Market Street

3 miles Entire length of Market Street

12 Muni lines that run on Market Street

$167 Minimum fine for failing to obey traffic restrictions on Market Street

Source: City of San Francisco

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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