Beginning Wednesday, most private vehicles will be prohibited on San Francisco’s Market Street from Van Ness Ave to the Embarcadero. It is expected to improve transit performance along the corridor and reduce pedestrian-vehicle conflicts at some of the city’s most hazardous intersections.

This is an open thread.

20 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Car-free Market Street”

  1. Thanks, Dan. Needed my day to start with viewing like this. In keeping with shaky resolution to stay fact-based, though, can you give me some feedback on my analysis?

    This move has exactly the same “feel” as my local bus-line’s recent switch of mindset to bus service financed by tax revenue rather than fares. In other words, a long way from “Free.” But definitely in black ink, not red.

    My guess is that the forces and powers that control these things have reached the conclusion that a transit-only street is the only kind on which people can occupy vehicles that are not job-threateningly $$$$$$$$$$$$$tuck.

    Have read that in like 1904, major motivator for the first modern New York City subway- not the one with the sofa seats and giant fan- was that on foot at rush hour, nobody could move an inch. Let alone drive anything.

    But for the record, illegally if necessary vote me negative on anything driverless except shoes in any lane or trackway not physically barricaded against vehicle, pedestrian, or bicycle intrusion. More or less a horizontal elevator shaft like Skytrain.

    Wonder if Evergreen will give me a PhD on the thesis that no vehicle should be automated that a human being can really love driving. SF reference on long-term longevity: first trolleybuses looked like horse-carriages on hard rubber tires with poles.

    Exactly like the hidden-but-extortionate cost of delays due to on-board fare collection at rush hour, think it’s time our fiscal calculations show the cost to society of a single underemployed human being. Especially if politically you call yourself either liberal or conservative.

    https://newrepublic.com/article/156000/educated-fools-democrats-misunderstand-politics-social-class

    Mark Dublin

  2. – So, cashless retail stores are racist, but cashless public transit isn’t?
    – You can’t spell Nazi without the word Socialist. Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei
    – Transit advocates always yell that slower roads are safer roads. Now they applaud that traffic on Market in SF will be faster?

    1. https://www.citylab.com/equity/2019/03/cashless-cash-free-ban-bill-new-york-retail-discrimination/584203/

      “Cashless” doesn’t mean “free”, Sam. It’s about being able to afford a bank account. Some real historian, am I right that main purpose of a national currency has always been to make trade as available as possible to the average person?

      Show Presidents a little respect…what are you, a wrong-party lady ambassador to Ukraine? Little printed message says “This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private.” You callin’ him a liar? Boy, is your face more corrupt than Hillary Clinton!”

      Having grown up in a credit union family (“U” term hadn’t yet become a swear-word) I’m a little sorry how over the years these member-owned banks have come to resemble their profit-making competition. Core belief was control over their own funds, and lives.

      Assuming perhaps shakily that anybody wants that kind of a headache. The dreaders of socialism really ought to relax. Profit-making capitalism’s strong suit has always been its ability to let people just be customers. And never reach their borrowing limit.

      Being the owner also means that in the eyes of the law, your name is on the company papers if somebody screws up or gets hurt. And you’ve got no work-hours limit or any other union protection.

      And think of a street full of vehicles like any piece of machinery. There’s a speed at which it runs cheapest and safest. Which is also easiest on you. When you drive anything that’ll get you fired for short following distance, you’ll also notice that alternating bursts of speed with sudden stops wears you out worse than your power train, steering, and brakes.

      History of the word “Nazi” should make a lot of people and places uneasy.

      It wasn’t a German Supreme Court justice who in 1927 told a pregnant poor girl that “It is better for all the world, if . . . society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind.”

      Which is really what measures like elections and impeachment are supposed to be for.

      Mark Dublin

    2. The “traffic” on Market Street will all be professional drivers, and many fewer of them. So, “Yes, Market Street will be safer”.

    3. The nazis just slapped two popular words together regardless of whether they were accurate. There’s also a third one: Arbeiter (worker). It reminds me of what my dad said about the Holy Roman Empire: “It was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire.”

  3. Market Street has a long history of being slow, and buses and streetcars stop in both lanes (island transit stops). San Francisco restricted the street for use in short distances only (right turns required) several years ago. The most recent change is symbolic, and mainly affects taxis and deliveries.

    1. I never understood the rationale for giving taxis special road privileges that other cars don’t get. At the end of the day, a taxi is car, and moves the same number of people as any other car.

      If anything, taxis shouldn’t be allowed the use an HOV lane when it’s just the driver transporting one single passenger.

      This smells like the influence of the taxi lobby at play, here.

      1. Because taxis don’t need huge parking structures so they can be stored all day?

        (I don’t know if that’s the real reason or if it is just taxi lobby feather-bedding, but it seems a reasonable argument for some favorable treatment of taxis vs regular SOVs).

        Can’t really see a public policy argument for favoring taxis vs uber/lyft. That really is just the taxi lobby & labor interests at work.

      2. Enforcement? Uber/lyfts look like normal cars. Busting violators would be tricky and involve inspecting apps on people’s phones.

      3. Djw is right, Dan. Anybody can put an Uber or Lyft light in the window and say, “I’m headed to a fare”.

        And I don’t have a problem with favoring the medallion cabs. Somebody paid several hundred thousand dollars for that medallion. The Uber-Menschen and Lyfted-Ladies didn’t.

  4. At this point, with 3 parades down Market Street in the last 8 days, and Chinese New Year parade coming soon, a parade-free Market Street would be a big help. Now, back to the plan at hand. The important thing about the cycle track is that it will clear up the right-hand lane, where currently the curb-lane buses (those routes that turn on or off Market east of Van Ness) have to drive at bicycle pace (there being no room to pass them). Cars on market (and more recently those traveling the still-legal 2 block intervals means the curb lane is regularly blocked by cars waiting the entirety of the green light to turn right across a steady stream of pedestrians. Maybe if the 14 Mission bus moves to Market it will be possible to improve Mission for cars (though I’m not holding my breath, legal left turn lanes, signaled or otherwise, would save having to make 3 right turns…crossing even more busy crosswalks and a convention center or two).

    1. It would be irresponsible to move parades off of Market Street. They are important to the economy and image of San Francisco. There is no other similar street to conduct a parade.

      A protected bicycle lane should not include concrete curbs for this reason. Removable bollards should be used instead.

      One other issue is the debris that accumulates on Market Street. Mechanized ways to keep the street clean are important to have.

      Idealized videos are pretty and inspiring — but they don’t fully illustrate how any place with intensive public use operates. I find that idealized images often paint a picture that doesn’t match reality. It’s like showing a wedding day and implying that every day of a marriage will look as beautiful as that day. Where are the belligerent homeless daily camped out on Market Street in this video?

      1. Al, I agree with your points. (Parades, economics, bollards, cleaning, idealized videos). Besides the streetcars and buses being wrong, none of the pedestrians is looking at their phones…

      2. I’m not sure he meant move or cancel the parades as much as just relief that the parades are over.

        Other cities would die to have the problems San Francisco has with revenue-generating tech companies, world-famous tourism (Amtrak shuttles go to Fisherman’s Wharf hotels), high-participation parades, and high transit mode share.

  5. Where are the articulated buses and shorter historic streetcars in this video? This doesn’t look like the transit vehicles on Market Street.

  6. It’s incorrect to say the upcoming change is symbolic. It will be substantial, but it’s another step in a long process. It’s not a sudden thing the way some of the media are portraying it. It’s also notable because Market Street is the single most important street in San Francisco, not some obscure byway.

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