San Francisco News

Drivers adjusting to new Market Street rules

Tuesday, September 29, 2009
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Police are helping drivers negotiate new traffic rules that took effect Tuesday in downtown San Francisco. The busiest stretch of Market Street is now off limits for most private cars. It's a new test program aimed at transforming Market Street.

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The city's grand idea is to make Market friendlier for pedestrians and cyclists and faster for mass transit.

A lot of drivers have intended to travel straight, but are getting stopped and redirected by police officers standing at the intersection. There's been a lot of braking, but all with the goal of making a better Market Street.

Police officers are stationed on the corners of San Francisco's Market and 8th Streets, and at 6th street; it is part of a two-block diversion experiment and it's not making every driver's commute easier.

A transportation pilot project is requiring private motorists travelling eastbound on Market to turn right on 8th and 6th streets. Muni, taxis, delivery vehicles and bicycles are not affected. Part of the goal is to reduce traffic flow along the heart of Market Street by about 200 cars each hour.

"So if we can reduce the congestion by about 15 percent in the downtown area, that will make a big difference," said San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency spokesperson Judson True.

True says this traffic diversion experiment aims to improve Muni's on-time performance and the pedestrian experience. It's all a part of the "Better Market Street" project to revitalize it to the point where people are drawn to gather, spend time and enjoy the sights of the city. Many San Franciscans like the idea:

"Market Street should be our Champs-Élysées, it's a beautiful street, but it's never really realized it's potential in all the years I've lived here," said Ben Davis of San Francisco.

Area business associations believe in the long run, a permanent small traffic diversion like this will help the local economy by drawing more people without the chaos of cars. Already many think it's a visible improvement.

"It's very calm, if you look down Market Street there's just like no cars. A lot of bicyclists are just able to use the full lane, and pedestrians aren't fighting or competing with cars in the intersections," said Dana Hilliard of the Tenderloin Business Association.

"They have to get down there to get by us. It creates a hazard we'll let them go straight," said SFPD Officer Dave Kranci.

"You haven't given anyone any fines today?" asked ABC7's Teresa Garcia.

"No we're not going to give any tickets right now," said Officer Kranci.

"Eventually?" asked Garcia.

"Yeah," said Officer Kranci.

Officers can give a $167 fine to those who don't obey the right turn sign.

For the next six weeks transit officials will review how well this works and then other pilot programs will begin.

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