San Francisco considers personal vehicle ban on some city streets

San Francisco transit leaders are looking at the idea of taking car traffic off of some of the city's streets, making way for pedestrians, cyclists and mass transit.

The city has already been tinkering with traffic on Market Street, forcing cars to turn off and creating the red transit only lane. Now the city is looking at the idea of taking all personal vehicles off of some of the city's streets.

As anyone who's ever driven them knows, San Francisco streets can be crowded with cars, bikes, pedestrians all jockeying for position. In some cases, the buses can take the red transit lane. But, if there's no transit lane then the buses are in there competing too.

The city's municipal transportation agency is now taking the first steps toward a ban on personal vehicles on some roads in San Francisco. "We could be looking at what corridors aren't that great for car flow in the first place [and] just make them entirely red carpet," said Malcolm Heinicke, SFMTA Board Director.

The idea is still in the preliminary phase, even as the city pushes forward on it's better market street program, the first approved car free street. Better Market Street, now under environmental review, calls for widening sidewalks and bike lanes and has already limited private vehicle traffic by forcing vehicles to turn off Market Street, creating a clear path for public transit.

The agency is now looking at expanding that concept to other streets. "If congestion is the problem that is slowing these busses down, not a lack of drivers, not a lack of coaches, it's just there are too many cars in the way, we are dis-incentivizing people to take that bus,” said Heinicke.

Opinion on the street is mixed. Some of those who walk, cycle or scoot around San Francisco say barring vehicles from some streets will make it safer for them.

"Taking some of the traffic off Market Street would be better, I don't know how congested it would make other areas of the city, but as far as Market Street I think well worth a try," said one scooter rider.

But, some drivers say banning traffic off some roads will force those cars onto other roads leading to more congestion. "It's just going to get more congested. You're not going to be able to move in the city. I drive into the city to work, so that's going to make it so much harder for us," said one driver.
At this point there's no word on which streets might be up for transit only consideration and there's no timeline on when it could become a reality.