SF begins Market Street traffic experiment

September 29, 2009 7:41:29 AM PDT
One of San Francisco's main thoroughfares is about to undergo a six week experiment. Starting Tuesday, cars will not be allowed on a short stretch of Market Street.

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Market Street is one of the most congested in San Francisco, clogged with Muni buses, bikes, cars and pedestrians. Starting Tuesday, some of that traffic crunch will ease, but only for two blocks.

Drivers on eastbound Market Street will be forced off at Eighth Street. Drivers who get on at Seventh Street will be diverted at Sixth Street.

Drivers who do not obey face a $167 fine.

Taxis and delivery trucks are not restricted and there are not any limitations for anyone heading west on Market Street.

"It's a modest pilot and what we see is either support or a 'wait and see' approach," Muni spokesperson Judson True said.

The vision is to one day turn Market Street into a world-class corridor with mini-plazas and music. One of its biggest boosters is the public policy think tank, the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR).

"When you go to international cities like Paris and Barcelona, you see they have the Champs-Élysées and La Rambla and herein San Francisco we could have a Champs-Élysées or our La Rambla," SPUR spokesperson Sarah Karlinsky said.

For years, business groups have fought the idea of a total car ban. Carolyn Diamond, head of the Market Street Association says this trial project that only affects two blocks is a good compromise.

"I think that the majority of people on Market Street are really happy there's a focus on Market Street and these improvements are coming to the street and we'll see how that all works," Diamond said.

But some business owners are still concerned they will lose business.

"We depend on the customers," Sandra Saybe of Fits Fashion said.

City officials will closely monitor traffic on Market and nearby streets. The experiment may become permanent.

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