Better Market Street Project
Market Street is one of the city’s premier streets that is historically and culturally important in connecting neighborhoods, yet, the corridor needs to be upgraded and updated. The Better Market Street project is a special opportunity to envision a new Market Street. The goal of the project is to revitalize Market Street from Octavia Boulevard to The Embarcadero and reestablish the street as the premier cultural, civic and economic center of San Francisco and the Bay Area. The new design aims to create a comfortable, universally accessible, sustainable, and enjoyable place that attracts more people on foot, bicycle and public transit to visit shops, adjacent neighborhoods and area attractions.
The project is a collaboration between five key city agencies along with community partners. For more details on proposed designs, please click the button below:
The Better Market Street project finished its California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) environmental review and received project approvals in October 2019. In January 2020, the SFMTA used its Quick-Build program to deliver car-free Market Street, improving safety and making transit more reliable through low-cost improvements such as signage and paint. Better Market Street is now preparing to start the first phase of construction, between 5th and 8th streets, in early 2021.
Due to the impacts on the local economy and our city budgets related to COVID-19 and because of the greater-than-anticipated success of car-free Market Street, our plans for the first phase of construction must change. When private vehicles were removed from Market Street, transit became up to 12% faster and the number of people biking increased by 25% – over 800 people per hour at peak. The original designs for a new sidewalk-level bikeway would not have enough capacity to keep up with the updated demand of people biking on Market Street.
Furthermore, as local businesses work to recover, we need to minimize construction disruptions – especially on the sidewalks in front of their stores. With this new reality in mind, we will host a series of open houses about changes to the deign ideas for phase one.
November 2 – 13, the project is hosting a virtual open house to share updates with the public. There will also be two virtual public meetings on November 4th at noon and November 9th at 4:30pm to share project details and hear feedback. Learn more about the Open House and join the Virtual Public Meetings.
The project goals remain to improve safety, transportation, accessibility, infrastructure and revitalize Market as the city’s preeminent civic space and ceremonial street. The first phase of construction between 5th and 8th streets is focused on four key components:
- Upgrade and replace aging infrastructure like the rails, overhead lines, traffic signals, sewer and water lines, and repave the street
- Build new accessible boarding islands to improve the customer experience, transit functionality and capacity, and new wider curb ramps to upgrade sidewalk accessibility
- Replace unhealthy trees and new street furnishings but postpone replacing the brick sidewalks to minimize disruptions directly in front of local businesses
- Create a bike facility that will safely accommodate more people on bicycles
Graphic: Shared curb lane with new safety treatments propose for the first segment of construction of Better Market Street between 5th and 8th streets. San Francisco Public Works.
Better Market Street: Car-Free Quick-Build
In January 2020, the SFMTA used its Quick-Build program to make Market Street safer and make transit more reliable, in preparation for the start of the Better Market Street project. The hallmark of the Quick-Build is that its elements were installed relatively quickly and provided immediate improvements the street ahead of project construction, which will be phased over the coming years.
Quick-Build Elements Included:
- Making Market Street a car-free zone westbound from Steuart to Van Ness and eastbound from 10th to Main – Completed January 2020
- 100 new cross-street passenger and commercial loading zones to accommodate safe loading
- Peak hour loading restrictions on Market Street to reduce conflicts between people on bicycles, transit and commercial vehicles – Completed January 2020
- Extending existing transit-only lane east from Third to Main Street - the segment of Market with the most transit service - and making it Muni-only (taxis and non-Muni buses will no longer be allowed)
- Installing painted safety zones at eight intersections to make crossing the street safer – Completed, January 2020
- Adding bicycle intersection improvements at Eighth, Page, Battery, and Valencia streets – Completed, January 2020
- Changes to sections of Ellis (completed March 2020), Jones (coming in 2021), 2nd and Steuart (completed January 2020) streets to improve safety and vehicle movement. See below map for details.
Traffic Changes and Impacts of Quick-Build:
- People riding bicycles increased by over 25% before shelter-in-place, and transit times improved by up to 12%.
- Private vehicles – including ride shares like Uber and Lyft – are now prohibited from turning onto or using Market Street in the car-free area.
- Paratransit, taxis and commercial vehicles can continue to use Market Street but may not use the Muni-only transit-only red lanes.
- All traffic can still cross Market on cross street.
Private vehicles are prohibited from turning onto or using Market Street in the car-free area. All traffic is still able to cross Market on cross street.
Car-Free Market Street: Frequently Asked Questions
1. What does “Quick-Build” mean?
A Quick-Build project consists of parking and traffic modifications that are fast and relatively cheap to implement. Examples include painted safety zones, bike lanes, adjustments to parking regulations, parking and loading changes, changes to the configuration of traffic lanes. Crews typically use materials such as paint, traffic signs, traffic delineators, and traffic signal changes. Quick-Build projects do not involve large capital construction elements since those involve much longer design, higher cost contracting, and construction phases.
2. How many people use Market Street?
Prior to the shelter in place orders temporarily changes travel routes, Market was our city’s busiest street for people walking, biking and riding transit. About 200 to 400 cars drive in the peak direction on Market Street during rush hour. These changes will require those cars to find an alternative route while benefitting all the people walking, biking and using transit:
- 500,000 people walk on Market Street daily.
- 200 buses an hour during peak times.
- 650 people per hour ride bikes on Market Street during rush hour.
- 75,000 daily transit riders above ground.
3. What changed with the Quick-Build?
Better Market’s Vision Zero quick-build phase started on Wednesday, January 29, 2020 and included:
- Making Market Street car-free eastbound from 10th to Main, and westbound from Steuart to Van Ness. Vehicles will still be allowed to cross Market street at intersections.
- Similar car-free restrictions on Second Street (between Stevenson and Market) and Steuart Street (northbound between Mission and Market; southbound travel unchanged) to facilitate making Market Street car-free.
- Peak hour loading restrictions on Market Street to reduce conflicts between people on bicycles, transit and commercial vehicles
- No southside loading in the eastbound direction (towards the Ferry Building) on weekdays between 6:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.
- No northside loading in the westbound direction (towards Twin Peaks) on weekdays between 3:00 pm and 7:30 pm.
- Prohibiting right runs onto Valencia from eastbound Market Street (effective Friday 1/31/2020)
- Over 100 new cross-street passenger and commercial loading zones to accommodate safe loading. Extending existing transit-only lane east from Third to Main Street, the segment of Market with the most transit service, and making it Muni-only (taxis and non-Muni buses will no longer be allowed).
- Converting the existing red bus/taxi-only lane to Muni-only between 9th and 3rd streets.
- Installing painted safety zones at eight intersections to make crossing the street safer and shorter.
- Adding bicycle intersection improvements at Eighth, Page, Battery, and Valencia streets.
4. Where is the car-free area?
Private vehicles are prohibited on Market Street eastbound from 10th to Main and westbound from Steuart to Van Ness. The car-free area is shown in the red areas below along with other changes shown by blue arrows.
5. Can I still use Market Street to access Franklin and Gough?
Yes. The Quick-Build phase only restricts traffic east of 10th or Van Ness. The future capital project would extend the turn restrictions west to 12th Street but will not affect access to Franklin or Gough.
6. How did Quick-Build improve accessibility?
The private vehicle restrictions on Market Street and newly painted safety zones at select intersections reduce pedestrian conflicts with vehicles. We have also provided additional loading zones on cross streets – over 100 new loading zones, including 23 new white zones and 8 new blue zones. The vast majority of the loading zones on cross streets are for general commercial loading (unlike the ones on Market, which are restricted to six-wheel vehicle restrictions) and can be used for up to three minutes for passenger loading. Maps of all the new and existing zones can be found here: SFMTA.com/BetterMarketStreet
7. How much did it cost?
The Quick-Build phase cost approximately $3.5 million and was funded through local general funds.
8. Which vehicles are allowed now that private vehicles are restricted?
Buses, paratransit, taxis, commercial delivery vehicles and emergency vehicles (Transportation Network Companies such as Uber and Lyft are not permitted). All vehicles continue to be allowed to access Franklin and Gough streets.
9. Are there any exceptions for vehicles with disability placards?
Vehicles with disability placards are not exempt from these restrictions unless they have commercial plates. It should be noted that there are not currently any blue zones or other legal parking available for vehicles with disability placards on Market Street, so Better Market Street does not add any new parking restrictions for people with disabilities.
10. Are deliveries still allowed on Market Street?
Yes, as long as the delivery vehicles have commercial license plates. As was the case before Quick-Build, most of the loading zones on Market Street require vehicles to have at least six wheels (big trucks and buses). In addition, there are new restrictions on deliveries during the peak-hours in the peak-direction to improve safety:
- Southside loading in the eastbound direction (towards the Ferry Building) would not be allowed on weekdays from 6:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.
- Northside loading in the westbound direction (towards Twin Peaks) would not be allowed between 3:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
11. Can City government vehicles use Market Street?
Only in certain cases including: if responding to an emergency, street sweeping, construction and maintenance, servicing a vehicle or street infrastructure, or parking or traffic enforcement. City vehicles are issued government exempt license plates, which are different from the commercial license plates issued to commercial vehicles. As a result, City vehicles are not permitted to park in yellow zones, make restricted turns or access streets that are reserved for commercial vehicles only, unless such vehicles are responding to an emergency.
SF Fire Department and SF Police Department vehicles are exempt from these restrictions due to their public safety responsibilities.
12. How are you coordinating with Uber and Lyft and other Transportation Network Companies (TNCs)?
TNCs are typically not commercial vehicles, and as such, they are not allowed to drive on Market Street. However, we have coordinated with Uber and Lyft to have the white zones added to their apps, so that passengers wishing to have a pick-up on Market Street will be redirected to the closest cross-street white zone for their pick-up.
13. With cars no longer allowed to travel on Market Street, has traffic gotten worse on Mission Street and other parallel streets?
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic hitting shortly after Quick-Build car-free Market Street was implemented, we do not have accurate traffic information currently. However, we did extensive traffic modeling to understand the impacts of removing cars from Market Street. Before Quick-Build, about 200 to 400 cars drove on Market Street during peak hours, depending on the block and direction. Because streets north of Market and those in SoMa have grid layouts, people driving have extensive choices about which street to take and will not all be diverted to the same street. We anticipated that about 100 cars per hour would shift to Mission Street, which would not significantly impact general traffic or transit on Mission Street. In addition, the turn restrictions reduce congestion at intersections by removing cars blocking traffic by turning onto Market Street from cross streets as they wait for a gap in pedestrians crossing to complete their turn. The turn restrictions improve traffic flow as well as pedestrian safety.
14. When was the project approved?
The Better Market Street project’s State Environmental Impact Report was certified by the Planning Commission on October 10, 2019. The Public Works Hearing was held on October 11. The SFMTA Board approved the project on October 15, 2019. The federal Environmental Assessment was completed on September 11, 2020 and delivered with a finding of no significant impact.
15. Quick-Build is exciting, but when will the bigger construction project start?
The capital project will be built in phases, with each phase estimated to be $150-200M. Much of the costs are state of good repair work, including rail and trackway replacement, the overhead wire system, traffic signals, repaving, streetlights, sewer, and water. Funding for Phase 1 has been secured through several existing local sources, including the voter-approved Prop A General Obligation Bond and Proposition K (formerly OBAG), as well as some federal funding through a BUILD transportation grant. The Better Market capital construction project is currently in design, with the first phase between 5th and 8th Streets anticipated to start construction in early 2021. We have more information on the full capital project construction and design available.