Making a Better Market Street in San Francisco
For decades, planners and transportation specialists have debated how San Francisco's most important street could be re-visioned to make it work better for transit, pedestrians, cyclists, shoppers, and those living on or near it. Now, as the Better Market Street Project moves forward with trial traffic diversions, the Art in Storefronts project, music and programming in public spaces, greening along sidewalks, and pedestrian safety improvements, San Francisco's political class is intent on revitalizing the street for the long haul. Though the concrete vision for what Market Street will eventually look like is some ways off, there is more effort now than in many years to improve the public realm and ensure the street lives up to its great potential.
[music and sound effects]
Speaker: [0:04] Once upon a time in San Francisco, before the great earthquake, this is how Market Street looked. Even back in those days, Market Street was the city's main boulevard; its geographic center; a commercial hub; a main artery for public transit; and a tricky route for cyclists competing with automobiles. [piano music]
[0:23] In 1933, here's how the Journal's spokesman described nightlife in the Tenderloin along Market Street.
Speaker: [0:33] All together the street is like the fairway of an enormous circus or carnival. Colors, lights, crowds, music, candy, hawkers, ballyhoo. Everything is there but elephants and the sawdust.
Speaker: [0:45] As the years went by, Market Street saw a lot of changes. From the hustle and bustle of the Farmers Market at Du Bosin Market in 1950s, to the big dig that built the BART and Muni Subway lines in the late '60s and in the 1970s. [0:59] Market Street always seems to be changing. And with repavement scheduled for 2013, advocates for a more livable city want to make sure that this time San Francisco builds a better Market Street.
Dan Goldes: [1:11] Market Street stretches this grand expanse of San Francisco from the hills, essentially up Twin Peaks, all the way to the Waterfront. It's this phenomenal boulevard. It changes character from neighborhood to neighborhood as it marches through the city. [1:26] And it really should play the role of connecting the water and the hills of Twin Peaks, and creating a grand statement, a really exquisite vision of what San Francisco means.
Sarah Karlinsky: [1:37] Internationally, other cities like Paris and Barcelona, they have an incredible main civic throughfare. In Paris, Champs-ÃƒÂƒlysÃƒÂƒÃ‚Â©es. In Barcelona you have Las Ramblas. And even in cities like New York, which previously were not as friendly to pedestrians, are really thinking about their streets as more than just infrastructure for cars to move along. [2:02] They're really places that people want to make use of.
Kit Hodge: [2:09] The goal is to make Market Street a great place. Lower Market Street from Van Ness to the Embarcadero, should be a wonderful place that people from all over the world, and all over the city, take pride of and want to be at all day. [2:21] Some things that are happening are the art in storefronts project, which is bringing interesting, eye catching certainly, new art to Market Street. And you will see a lot of people stopping to take a look at it which is very exciting.
[2:32] Another thing is the people and plazas program. Which puts on small concerts up and down Market Street that has people out for lunch, enjoying music for a change, taking a fresh new look at some of the plaza spaces along Market Street.
[2:46] One of the other elements is this Green Pod down at eighth and Market Street, there'll be more coming to the street elsewhere. And as you'll notice there is nowhere to sit on Market Street right now. This is actually the first attempt to reintroduce managed seating to Market Street.
Joanne Tan: [2:59] Basically a Green Pod is a seating area, not only for the clients of Hotels within San Francisco, not only for the clients of Market Street Grill which is a restaurant, it's also for any locals, any tourists who are passing by in front of the hotel and would like to just sit down and relax, and enjoy the greenery right here on Market Street.
Kit Hodge: [3:18] The third component is the access component which is the transportation element. [musical interlude]
Judson True: [3:35] What's happening today is that eastbound cars on Market Street, private automobiles, are being required to turn right at eighth street and right at sixth street. So what we are seeing is the San Francisco police department out here directing folks as they are trying to get used to this new regulation which is really designed to make Market Street better. [3:51] It's really about reducing the through traffic on market street. Improving Muni travel times further downtown. And also improving the pedestrian experience, and of course, the bicycling experience as well.
Sarah Karlinsky: [4:01] If you are a bicyclist on Market Street, you know how it feels to get stuck behind an automobile that's a little confused about where it's going. Or even worse have an automobile that's trying to go very quickly right behind you, not wanting you to take the lane. [4:18] And so, what this is going to do is reduce that amount of auto traffic, and make it safer for bicyclists, and more pleasant frankly.
Speaker: [4:32] I didn't know that they were doing it, but I did notice that it was a lot easier to bike. There were less cars. Not that Market Street is that wonderful to bike on, but when there are less cars, it's definitely a lot nicer. [musical interlude]
Dan Goldes: [4:50] The art installations that are happening on Market Street are part of actually a larger program that I think is also going into the Tenderloin as well. And it includes some large installations into some storefronts that otherwise would be vacant.
Leanne Miller : [5:05] Our particular mural that we propose is about the natural flora and fauna of San Francisco before the city moved in and chased most of it away, against the backdrop of the black and white cityscape.
Speaker: [5:18] I live on Jones and Turk, and the environment is really, really, kind of dark and depressing, even scary at times. And so when I saw the first piece right on Jones where I live, it was beautiful, and I was surprised to see the rest of it. It kind of just like changes the environment and the atmosphere.
Helen Bayly: [5:35] The reactions that I've had. This is our fourth day out here, and it's overwhelmingly positive. There are so many people that respond to art, when it's outside of a gallery context.
Mona Caron: [5:46] I'm standing in front of a mural that I have been working on for several months now here in the Tenderloin district. We are at Jones and Golden Gate. It's a mural that comprises several panels showing different views of the Tenderloin. And that's one of the things that I am about is trying to envision public space that is more conducive to like convivial uses and places where people can meet and hang out. A place that's just not for traffic or shopping or something, but is basically for people who actually live and interact with each other.
Dina Hilliard: [6:22] I heard something from the MTA, which is the Municipal Transportation Authority. They've been kind of crunching the numbers, forcing right turns on sixth street and eighth street has led to a 60 percent reduction in private vehicles along Market Street. And it has increased pedestrians to about 250 more per hour.
Kit Hodge: [6:41] Muni speed times are up in the trial zones by almost a minute. Which is actually quite significant.
Dina Hilliard: [6:46] Which is exactly what we are trying to do. Not close Market Street off but just make it a plaza where people can roam and leisurely walk and take in the scene around them. Instead of having to fear for their lives crossing the street.
Leah Shahum: [7:01] Remember that this is all building up to the planned repavement of Market Street in 2013. It's going to be a major project, a major opportunity to reimagine Market Street. Let's not wait until 2013 to do that. Let's really think about it now. Let's plan for the best street we can now, so that when 2013 comes, and a lot of resources are being put into redoing this street, we are putting it back better. [music]