City Leaders Voice Support for Market Street Bikeway and Concern Over Delays in Project

City and community leaders are adding their voices of concern about the continued delay of the Better Market Street project and a new proposal to move bikes from Market Street to Mission Street.

Below are statements from San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos, Chair of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority Board; San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener, Chair of the Land Use Committee; and Randy Shaw, Executive Director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic. Both Supervisors have called for hearings on the status of the Better Market Street Project.

Read more about the delays to the Better Market Street project and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition’s work and position on this issue.

A Public Letter From Supervisor John Avalos
February 12, 2013:

As the newly elected chair of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, I am concerned about the recent announcements around the Better Market Street project.

For several years now, I have been excited about the prospect of impending major improvements to Market Street. So I was taken aback when I heard of plans to delay the completion of Better Market Street project 2019, and of a new proposal to move bikes off of Market Street onto Mission Street.

Market Street is the most bicycled street West of the Mississippi, and I believe it deserves dedicated cycle tracks along its full length. The current state of Market Street with the “now you see it, now you don’t” zig-zagging bike lane is unbecoming for the premiere thoroughfare of one of America’s premier bicycling cities.

As a regular bike-commuter, I’m excited every time I bike down Market to see the dramatic increase in bicycle traffic year after year. The Eastbound right-turn requirements on 10th and 6th Streets have made walking and cycling safer and sped up Muni without significant impacts to the surrounding streets. But the handful of private cars on Market Street continues to gum up the works for the other uses.

We, as City officials, can’t squander this once in a lifetime opportunity to transform San Francisco’s main thoroughfare into a vibrant corridor, filled with active and reliable transit, sidewalks full of pedestrians, robust local businesses and safe, separated bikeways.

That’s why I am calling for an update on the Better Market Street project at the February 26th meeting of the Transportation Authority to see what we can do to expedite the project. I believe we can work with our partners at BART to minimize the “pinch points” that constrain Market Street at the BART stops. I am also hopeful that working with the Department of Public Works and the Public Utilities Commission, we can minimize the costs and delays associated with relocating infrastructure to help deliver a Better Market Street on time and on budget.

I look forward to working together to renew plans for a better Market Street.

John Avalos

A Press Release from Supervisor Scott Wiener
February 12, 2013:

At today’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Supervisor Scott Wiener will call for a hearing on the status of the Better Market Street project, including the plan to establish permanent bicycle lanes on Mission Street and reroute all bus traffic from Mission Street to Market Street. This recently floated idea, which could result in reduced bike improvements on Market Street, has caused considerable debate and controversy. At this hearing City agencies will provide an update on the project, as well as the schedule and progress being made to improve inter-agency coordination.

“The Better Market Street project should be the best example of improving our streets through creating safer pedestrian and bike access and making thoughtful transit decisions,” said Supervisor Wiener. “The plan should encourage people to make better use of public space and to advance our city’s Transit-First policy. We need to carefully scrutinize any changes to the plan that could impact that goal.”

Recent reports have revealed that one of the three proposals being studied for the project would create a protected bike lane on Mission Street while re-routing the Mission 14 buses onto Market Street. This would make Mission Street – not Market Street – the primary route for bicyclists in the area and could result in loss of street parking on Mission Street.

“Our city’s main street should be inviting for people walking, taking transit, and, of course, bicycling,” said Leah Shahum, Executive Director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. “The recent proposal to move bikes off of Market Street is counter to a vision that so many community and business leaders share for a great Market Street that we can all be proud of.  The City’s small improvements of separated bikeways on mid-Market Street have already welcomed record numbers of people to bicycling and supported a rejuvenated mid-Market Street. Now is the time to expand on what’s working, not to give up before trying. We urge the City to step up to the opportunity for a truly great Market Street.”

Construction on the Better Market Street plan has been delayed to 2017 – four years passed the original intended construction date – due to underestimation of the complexity of the process and lack of coordinated project management. The Better Market Street project is the combined effort ember, Board of Supervisors   City and County of San Francisco District 8 of multiple agencies including DPW, the Municipal Transportation Agency, the Planning Department, and the San Francisco County Transportation Authority.  The hearing will take place in early March at the Land Use and Economic Development Committee.

An Article from Randy Shaw, Executive Director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic
February 11, 2013

Mayor Lee initiated a planning process for the revival of Central Market in January 2011, and, amazingly, it actually came up with a community-backed plan (the Central Market Economic Strategy) only ten months later. After decades of meetings about Market Street that brought no results, a new process had set the city on the right path in less than one year.

While the Mid-Market-Tenderloin tax credit galvanized the area’s renewed investment, the city’s efficient adoption of a coherent strategy for Mid-Market also sent a powerful message: it said that this time the mayor and city officials were serious about action.

The Mayor’s creation of the Better Market Street project encouraged this sense of progress. The bold, highlighted text at the top of the “About” page on it website said it all:

“Market Street needs to be more than a transportation route, it needs to be the city’s most vibrant public space and many San Franciscans feel it falls far short of this ideal.”

Unlike the Geary BRT, which faced business opposition from the start, everyone was on the same page about Market Street. Even longtime skeptics believed that, after fifty years of decline, San Francisco’s onetime great boulevard was finally on the road back.

That’s why talk of shifting buses from Mission to Market and sending bicyclists in the reverse direction is so troubling. While I understand that “all options must be explored,” and believe in “keeping an open mind,” that Market Street is seriously being considered as a transportation hub for above-ground buses rather than bicycles is entirely inconsistent with the vision for the street that emerged from the community planning process.

This process concluded that a “Better Market Street” is all about it becoming a “vibrant public space” and “more than a transportation route.” Why then is this new bus option even on the table?

Or, as many who participated in creating a consensus vision for Market Street may be asking themselves, why be further involved if ideas contrary to what has been agreed upon can suddenly become viable? The plan for turning Market into a more intense bus route replaces consensus with confusion, creating the mistaken impression that the city’s vision for Market is entirely up for grabs.

Keep Market Street on Track! Market Street has come too far in the past two years for its progress to be slowed by radical and backward visions that lack community or public support. The implementation of Better Market Street has already been pushed back to 2017. While this is later than some would like, it also enables projects like ACT’s new theater, the Market Street Plaza shopping center, and planned new housing on Market to come on line prior to the street renovations.

Nobody cares more about revitalizing Market Street than Mayor Lee. If even this most hands-on of all mayors can’t prevent San Francisco’s seemingly endless public planning processes from delaying Market’s improvement, then Kieran Farr’s lack of trust in the city’s ability to implement transit improvements will be widely shared.

And our historic opportunity to return Market Street to its former greatness as the city’s most visually exhilarating thoroughfare will have been lost.

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