SFMTA: Market Street pilot program reducing congestion

A one-month-old pilot traffic project that diverts eastbound cars off of San Francisco's Market Street seems to be easing congestion and improving travel for buses and streetcars, a San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency spokesman said today.

While the SFMTA won't be reporting any official data for another two weeks, spokesman Judson True said the program has been going well so far.

“We've seen fewer cars headed downtown on Market Street, which has made it easier for Muni vehicles to get to the boarding islands,” he said.

Mayor Gavin Newsom announced the program early last month, as part of a long-term plan to improve the aesthetics and efficiency of San Francisco's congested main boulevard.

The program does not affect westbound traffic, but vehicles heading east, towards the Ferry Building are encouraged to turn right at 10th Street, and forced to do so at Eighth Street. Vehicles that turn onto Market at Seventh Street are again forced to turn right at Sixth Street.

The SFMTA has been collecting traffic data at intersections along Market Street, as well as other nearby thoroughfares, including Mission and Folsom streets, True said. The agency is also performing bicycle counts and monitoring Muni travel times in the area.

While analyzing Muni data will take a bit longer, True said the agency expects to have some traffic counts by the end of the six-week trial period. The MTA will also make “qualitative conclusions” about how the changes affect pedestrians.

Since the program began Sept. 29, bicyclists are “noticing a more pleasant and less hectic ride on Market Street,” said Andy Thornley, program director for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

Sitting in his office overlooking Market Street, Thornley said a typical day sees more bicycles than automobiles on the thoroughfare. The SFBC hopes this is simply the first of a series of trials to better synchronize the flow of bikes, buses, cars and pedestrians, he said.

“Our vision for Market Street as a really top-notch, world-class, grade-A bike street could look a lot of different ways,” he said.

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