Seeking a ‘Better Market Street’

By Arielle Fleisher

For too long, San Francisco’s Market Street — the city’s civic backbone — has been too crowded, too chaotic, too dangerous and, frankly, too bland. Every day 500,000 people navigate Market Street on foot, while another 4,000 commute on bike and scores ride the 200 buses that make their way down the corridor – can we make the street better for them?

We can.

Can Market Street become a pleasant, safe experience, a place to stop and spend time, to meet friends and stroll? A conduit for reliable and efficient bus service? A public space that is wonderful and vibrant?

Yes, it can.

Next Tuesday the SFMTA Board has a choice in front of it: Establish Market Street as the premier cultural, civic and economic center of San Francisco and the Bay Area or continue the status quo and allow Market Street to remain chaotic and dangerous.

Transforming Market Street means the SFMTA Board must make an ambitious stand against private automobiles and wholeheartedly honor its Transit First and Vision Zero policies by reclaiming Market Street for people not cars.

Just last week, New York City banned cars on one of Manhattan’s busiest street. Far from the traffic apocalypse that was feared, businesses are doing fine and side streets aren’t overwhelmed with cars. Meanwhile, city buses are moving faster than ever and the street — in famously chaotic Manhattan — has been deemed “friendly.”

San Francisco knows the power and wonder of car-free streets. The city’s Sunday Streets and Play Streets programs are beloved by city residents who flock to these street closure programs to revel in in everything a street can offer when it’s doing more than moving and storing cars: create community, support relaxing and playing and offer a safe place for biking and walking.

SPUR has long championed a vision of Market Street as San Francisco’s grand boulevard, a great civic space that can effectively manage all forms of transportation while serving as the city’s anchor. Over the years we have held countless forums and dialogues about Market Street, its potential and its place in our city as our civic backbone.

We know that we can offer the thousands of people who depend on Market Street more. Market Street can be designed so that buses run smoothly, so that people aren’t injured or killed because they decide to travel on two feet or two wheels. Let’s make history and transform Market Street into the vibrant, efficient and calm people-space it should be.

Arielle Fleisher is transportation policy director for SPUR. www.spur.org

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