Two miles of San Francisco’s iconic Market Street will soon be car-free

On the Market

Two miles of San Francisco’s iconic Market Street will soon be car-free

Market Street, San Francisco's busiest thoroughfare, as seen from Twin Peaks (Wikipedia Commons)

On October 15, the San Francisco Transportation Agency approved the Better Market Street Project, a bold plan to transform two miles of the city’s legendary Market Street into a pedestrian-only zone. The $604 million proposal will add fully-protected bike and transit-only lanes as well as a streetcar loop. To improve pedestrian safety and user experience, the street’s sidewalks will be widened, its uneven brickwork will be replaced with concrete pavers, and several benches and tables will be installed throughout.

“A half-million people walk on Market Street each day,” commented Jodie Medeiros, the executive director of the nonprofit group Walk San Francisco, “yet it’s one of our city’s most dangerous streets for traffic crashes.” In response, the most significant aspect of the Better Market Street Project is its ban on personal cars altogether, an idea that sounded radical when it was first proposed ten years ago. The plan does, however, include over 200 yellow commercial loading zones on nearby side streets to accommodate local businesses, and personal cars will be allowed to pass through select intersections.

Map showing plans for street development in San Francisco
Map showing the initial plans for the 2-mile long proposal for Market Street. (Courtesy Better Market Street Project)

As the city’s busiest thoroughfare, the proposal to transform Market Street was not taken lightly. “After a lengthy public planning process that included hundreds of outreach meetings and conversations with stakeholders,” San Francisco mayor London Breed wrote in a letter to the city’s Municipal Transportation Agency board, “the city has developed a design that will support safety goals, improve transit and transform Market Street for our next generation.”

Now that the Better Market Street Project is approved, a design will be chosen by the city and construction for its first phase can begin as early as next year.