San Francisco's Market Street Is Going 'Car Free' — 7 Things You Need to Know (and a Map)

Market Street, near Second Street, in downtown San Francisco. Beginning Jan. 29, private vehicles like those shown here will no be permitted to travel on the street.  (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Updated 2:20 p.m. Tuesday

T

his week, on Jan. 29, private vehicles will no longer be allowed to travel the busiest stretch of San Francisco's Market Street, from near Van Ness Avenue all the way to the waterfront.

The prohibition on private vehicles marks the first tangible step in an ambitious city plan to remake its principal boulevard into a thoroughfare that will emphasize transit and feature a wide range of physical changes to make the street safe and user-friendly for pedestrians, cyclists and others who don't happen to be moving through the city in cars.

San Francisco's Market Street Plan
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On another level, this is the latest development in Market Street's long evolution from the chaotic and often deadly boulevard depicted in a famous 1906 film.

Below: Questions and answers about Car-Free Market Street. Have more questions about how a car-free Market Street will work? I'm doing a Reddit AMA (Q&A) on Wednesday, January 29 at 12:30 pm P.T. Come ask your question.

1. Why is the city banning private cars from Market Street?
The new ban is the beginning of a sweeping transformation of downtown's most important thoroughfare. The changes, which will eventually include reconfiguration of sidewalks, pedestrian crossings, transit boarding areas, bike and bus lanes and more, is designed to improve the performance of transit on the city's most important stretch of pavement and make it a safer place to walk, cycle and, yes, ride your favorite micromobility device.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency says that during the morning and evening rush, more than 200 Muni buses use Market Street every hour and that easing traffic congestion there ought to improve transit performance throughout the city.

On the safety side, the SFMTA says that five of the city's top 10 most dangerous intersections for pedestrians and cyclists are along Market Street. The agency says that since 2014, Market Street has averaged 106 injury collisions per year and that about three in five of people hurt in those incidents have been pedestrians or cyclists struck by vehicles.

2. When will private cars be prohibited from using Market Street, and what part of the street will be affected?
Beginning early the morning of Wednesday, Jan. 29, private cars will be barred from using Market Street eastbound from 10th Street to Main Street, and westbound from Steuart to Van Ness. The ban is permanent.

Find full details of new turn restrictions and one-way systems on the SFMTA's website.

3. What vehicles will be allowed to use Market Street?

  • Muni buses and streetcars. Paratransit vehicles, too.
  • City-regulated taxicabs — those operated by Yellow Cab and Flywheel, for instance.
  • Vehicles with commercial license plates — generally trucks and delivery vehicles.
  • Emergency vehicles.

4. What's going to happen to Uber and Lyft vehicles?
Uber and Lyft vehicles will not be permitted on Market Street from 10th Street east to Steuart Street. In part to accommodate passenger pickups and dropoffs, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is setting up new loading areas on Market's cross streets.

One of the main goals of the ban on private cars on Market Street in downtown San Francisco, to take effect Jan. 29, is to improve service on the city's busiest transit corridor. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

5. Will there be a penalty for drivers of private vehicles who travel on the off-limits section of Market?
Yes. Those drivers can be cited for a moving violation. The penalty: a fine of $238 and a point on the license of the cited driver.

6. Will it be legal for private vehicles to cross Market Street?
Yes. Traffic on side streets will continue to be allowed to cross Market.

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7. What other changes are part of the 'Better Market Street' project? Where can I find more information?
All of Market Street from Octavia Boulevard 2.2 miles east to Embarcadero Plaza will get a makeover, including new sidewalks, pavement, train tracks and intersection improvements. The first phase of the project will focus on the stretch of Market between Fifth and Eighth streets and is scheduled to begin in 2021 and last through 2023. The second and final phase of construction has been slated to begin in 2023 and be completed in 2025. The total projected cost of the project, which includes replacing or upgrading infrastructure like sewer and water mains, traffic signals, streetlights, traffic signals and the electrical systems used by Muni streetcars and buses, has a price tag of $604 million.

A profile view of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency's Better Market Street plan depicting how the thoroughfare will be reconfigured. Click on image for larger view. (SFMTA)

For more information, we've got links:

  • SFMTA's Car-Free Market Street page, with information on the car ban taking effect Jan. 29.
  • The SFMTA staff report on the project, prepared for the Oct. 15, 2019, meeting at which the project was approved.
  • The SFMTA slideshow from October 2019 detailing key aspects of the project and its timeline.

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