Market Street To Be Car-Free? David Chiu Introduces New Resolution

Board of Supervisors President and mayoral hopeful David Chiu has introduced a resolution urging the city to do more to limit the numer of private automobiles on Market Street.

Chiu's non-binding resolution proposed, "additional near-term pilot projects on Market Street…[testing] further diversions of private automobiles from Market Street in both directions as well as other strategies to reduce Muni delays, improve the safety and attractiveness of Market Street for people walking and bicycling, while still supporting the business and cultural environment."

In recent years, the city has forced eastbound drivers off Market for a four-block span between Sixth and Tenth streets in an effort to tamp down on private automobile traffic—decreacing automobile traffic on the thoroughfare by three percent since 2009.

There have long been efforts to ban cars on Market Street outright; however, protests from business-owners along the boulevard worried that fewer cars on the street would equal fewer dollars in their pockets have prevented those plans from ever coming to fruition.

"I believe the time is right to explore making Market Street closed to private car traffic," said Chiu, who is also hosting a petition on his campaign website supporting a car-free Market Street.

In a San Francisco Bike Coalition endorsement questionnaire filled out by nearly all the mayoral candidates, Dennis Herrera, John Avalos, Terry Baum and Chiu all expressly supported either the reduction or complete elimination of car traffic on Market.

According to a study by SFMTA and the Department of Public Works, approximately 25,000 people travel along Market Street every day. Of those, half are on foot, a third come on one of the 20 Muni lines running down the street, 15 percent use private vehicles and approximately five percent are on bicycles.

Chiu noted that between 80 and 85 percent of all traffic at Market Street intersections came from drivers crossing the iconic boulevard instead of traveling along it. Private vehicle trips on Market average two blocks—indicating that most drivers on Market are simply looking for parking rather than using the street to get from one part of the city to another.

Traffic flow on Market Street his been a hot topic of late, as the transformation of the mid-Market area has become one of City Hall's highest priorities. SF Appeal reports:

Mid-Market is a blighted neighborhood in one of the most prime locations in all of San Francisco, so it makes sense that the city would want to turn it into someplace that, at the very least, tourists would feel safe walking through during the middle of the day. Yet, what City Hall has planned is wildly more ambitious. The ultimate goal is to create an arts-focused, West Coast version of Times Square. The vision is to turn those handful of blocks into the Bay Area's central hub for the for live music, art, theater and dance—with properties like CityPlace Mall and a bevy of the Bay Area's most exciting high tech companies gobbling up the rest of the real estate.

As a result, there's been a flurry of activity looking at how to deal with all the increased traffic on the street when mid-Market becomes a bona fide cultural and shopping destination.

In his resolution, Chiu mentioned that SFMTA officials briefed the Board of Directors in June on a number of possible traffic reducing projects, but he expressed doubts that any of them go far enough to significantly increase the speed of Muni vehicles on the street; hence, his call for a new round of proposals.

Chiu knows a lot about the best way to travel down Market Street. Last month, his campaign staged a race to determine which mode of transportation offers the shortest travel time from City Hall to the Ferry Building. Chiu (and his trusty Schwinn) arrived first, with the one of his campaign staffers who took a cab coming in at nearly double the bike's time.

Sadly, Chiu's Muni-riding campaign mascot Chewbacca clocked in at a distant fifth place.

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