It feels like the ground is shifting in America.
From the success of the War on Cars podcast, to a steady stream of national media stories that put cars in their place, ideas that have romanced transportation activists for years are beginning to seduce policymakers too.
Earlier this month we shared how New York City’s transportation department banned drivers from a major street in Manhattan in order to give bus operators and other non-driving people more room to breathe and move. The results of that project have been overwhelmingly positive.
And on Tuesday we learned that the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency voted unanimously to prohibit private cars on a 2.2-mile stretch of Market Street. The vote culminated a 10-year campaign to improve the health of what locals call their “civic backbone”. Market is a major east-west thoroughfare that bisects the city and connects thousands of people and destinations to the San Francisco Bay.
Among the notable aspects of this news is the project’s broad support. In a letter to the SFMTA, San Francisco’s Mayor London Breed expressed her “strong support” and urged them to begin the first phase of the project immediately. (It’s worth noting that while Market is an important artery in San Francisco’s road network, it’s far from a major driving route. It already has protected bike lanes, rail transit, and bus-only lanes. It’s much more akin to Portland’s transit mall streets of SW 5th and 6th than West Burnside.)
Check out how private vehicles (which SFMTA defines as “ersonal cars, trucks, vans, scooters and motorcycles, including those operated by Uber, Lyft and similar companies”) will be circulated in the new plan:
This great news has many people wondering which street in their city should be carfree. In Portland, we’re long overdue in following New York City and San Francisco’s lead. Despite tremendous momentum for carfree streets (did you know Portland held a Carfree Day in 2006 and hosted the World Carfree Conference in 2008?), we’ve taken only baby steps.
As many of you might recall from previous posts on this topic, my money is on NW 13th. Last week I heard folks are meeting about a NW 13th “promenade” proposal that would create multi-block carfree sections. I’ll have an update on that very soon. In terms of comparisons to Market Street, I think the “transit mall” on 5th and 6th is similar and should be a no-driving no-brainer.
What do you think will be our first major street to go carfree? If the decision was up to you, which street would you choose? Now is the time to make something happen. Perhaps PBOT’s Streets 2035 plan is one place to start the conversation?
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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