Less than two months after San Francisco’s Market Street went mostly car-free, the central downtown artery is palpably calmer. While freight deliveries, fire trucks, buses and streetcars are still trundling along the vehicle lanes, navigating by bike, scooter or foot feels far less death-defying now that clots of private autos and ride-hailing vehicles are no longer allowed to vie for space among them.
And commuters are responding accordingly. For example, the average number of dockless scooter trips provided by one company, Spin, shot up by 30 percent after the car ban went into effect, according to an analysis by Populus, a mobility data startup that works with the company.
“Street design changes, big and small, can have a huge impact on what mode of transportation a person chooses and even what routes they decide to take,” Kay Cheng, director of infrastructure initiatives at Spin, said in a statement.
Some of that shift is likely attributable to seasonal effects, said Regina Clewlow, the CEO and co-founder of Populus; other cities saw a scooter ridership increase of just 10% between January and February.
These sorts of findings have been trickling in since the second day of the “Better Market Street” plan, which will eventually involve a years-long reconstruction of the corridor east of 10th Street, in order to improve traffic safety, increase transit speeds and reduce vehicle congestion and pollution. After just one day of the new vehicle access rules — a preamble to the $603.7 million overhaul, slated to begin in 2021 — the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency reported that bike ridership has jumped by 20%. By the end of February, that increase was up to 25%. Bus speeds were also running 6% faster on average, according to the SFMTA, with some Muni lines reducing travel time by as much as 12%.
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