The automobile restrictions that have been in place on Market Street since September have helped speed up Muni service on the artery, but those gains have almost been completely offset by slower transit times on Mission Street.
For the past 11 months, private motorists travelling east on Market Street have been forced to take right-hand turns on 10th and Sixth streets. The reduction in vehicles has cleared the way for Muni buses and streetcars, which have increased their travel speeds by 5 percent since the implementation, according to agency documents.
As a result, Muni travel times on Market Street have decreased by 33 seconds. Muni vehicles now cover the distance from First Street to Ninth Street in an average time of 10 minutes and 44 seconds compared to the previous mark of 11 minutes and 17 seconds. Increased speed is essential for the Muni system because it allows the agency to run more buses per route, thus resulting in more efficient service and less-crowded vehicles.
Paul Rose, spokesman for the Municipal Transportation Agency, which is overseeing the automobile restriction program, said the project was not only intended to speed up transit vehicles on Market Street, but also a way to attract more bicyclists and pedestrians to the thoroughfare.
He said the program has succeeded in meeting those goals.
“Based on the results we’ve seen, it appears that this project has been successful in reducing through traffic on Market Street and improving performance of Muni buses and street cars, while creating a more pedestrian-friendly and bicycle-friendly street,” Rose said.
However, the cars that have been diverted from Market Street appear to be clogging up the flow on Mission Street, where Muni buses are running on average 3 percent slower. Muni already has one the slowest bus fleets in the nation, with the vehicles lurching forward at a collective speed of eight miles an hour. By comparison Seattle’s buses move at an average of 17 mph, while AC Transit buses in Oakland travel at 12 mph.
Rose said that while buses are running a little slower on Mission Street, the automobile diversions have not caused any major service shakeups.
Even with Market Street speeds getting faster, many Muni passengers said the service improvements were hard to notice.
“I ride on Market Street everyday, and I definitely don’t think the buses are moving any faster,” said Adam Tadesse, a San Francisco resident who rides the 21-Hayes, 38-Geary and the 5-Fulton. “The buses still go real slow.”
Originally started as a six-week pilot program, the automobile restrictions on Market Street have been extended indefinitely. The Planning Department is scheduled to complete a series of environmental studies in the coming weeks that could determine the project’s permanency.
5%: Increase to Muni speed on Market Street since automobile restriction
33 seconds: Average time savings for Muni vehicles on Market Street
3%: Decrease to Muni speed on Mission Street since automobile restriction
8 mph: Average speed on Muni buses
32%: Increase in the number of bicyclists on Market Street since automobile restriction
* In September, the MTA instituted a policy that forced eastbound motorists on Market Street to turn right on Sixth and Eighth streets. In January, the forced-right turn on Eighth was moved to 10th Street.