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The spine of San Francisco is now car-free (citylab.com)
249 points by mooreds 29 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 318 comments

There is a lot of negativity in this thread ... let me try to show why this is a big deal.

Cars and car owners have had completely unchecked rights in American cities for decades. Cities are congested with traffic, sidewalks are small and crowded, and bikers are playing Frogger every day.

So a major US city finally makes one of its most important streets private-car free. I can't even imagine the political hurdles that were crossed to get to this point.

So today the difference is small. I biked down Market street this morning and I had an extra lane to work with when buses were not around. But other than that, not a huge difference.

But the change in a year or two will be huge. I imagine they'll re-time the lights for bikes/buses instead of private cars. Wider sidewalks and bike lanes. More pedestrian traffic for businesses. A quieter, cleaner, and safer street. More room to plant trees, have outdoor public seating, etc.

Let's give this one a chance. It could be the start of something big.

I'm cautiously optimistic but as someone who lives and walks down that street every day (particularly between 2nd and 6th) it seems like its the same amount traffic. It's mostly buses/taxis and the odd car making the wrong turn. Weren't cars always blocked from a subsection of it anyway?

Ultimately this just seems like another move against Uber/Lyft, who the city seems keen on milking for every last dime while they're still solvent. From cranking up taxes, giving them the terrible routes around SFO and Chase, etc., getting around the city is just getting harder/costlier whether its public or private transit.

Again I'm trying to be optimistic, but SF sells regulation/taxes/projects like a snake oil salesmen playing on peoples dreams and fears, then manages to find the worst possible outcome with massive cost overruns by the time the dust settles.

The new SFO arrangement is a huge improvement. At peak times it used to take 10-15 minutes for a ride share to make it from the entrance to Terminal 3. Now it takes 2-3.

Yep. And Lyft and Uber haven’t allowed pickups on Market street for a while, presumably also due to the city’s requirement, so I don’t see how this will change much.

Market was always a disaster to drive on, and so as someone who mostly drives in the city I'm for this change because the worst thing about driving in SF was that you might end up forced onto Market Street and the fundamental rule of Market Street was once you turned onto it, you were never allowed to turn off it until it dumped you into the bay.

But I think the idea that this will be the spearhead to big changes is fundamentally a farce. Market already had enormous sidewalks, pedestrian-first intersections, and all that crap. And it was already the only part of SF that was actually well-served by public transit.

> until it dumped you into the bay

I’m just imagining a whole pile of cars underwater at the end of market street after flying into the bay like that scene in The Game.

That’s where we’re building our next skyscrapers.

Cynical me just imagines a lot of homeless tents.

But, if you’ve been to any city in Europe it’s SO clear how much nicer a city it feels to be in when infrastructure becomes focused on human scale. You breathe easier, you’re less stressed. You can meander. More businesses are viable.

Human scale cities are nice to visit, but if you think you are breathing cleaner air in Europe, with their focus on diesel cars for decades, you are mistaken. The air is much dirtier than in US cities. The Volkswagen scandal might change that around in a decade or two.

Diesel pollution is worse than petrol pollution, but the average European car is smaller, and there are fewer of them.

Many of the diesel vehicles are public buses, and these can be replaced pretty quickly with electric or natural gas (or hybrid) buses. Others are large delivery vehicles, and with some "encouragement" (restrictions) the owners either replace them, or rearrange their fleet to use their newest vehicles in cities.

For example, London has done both, and is already seeing improvements [1]. I noticed when I visited over New Year that the air seemed fresher, so I'm glad I've found some statistics to show that -- it wasn't just a one-off.

[1] https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/ulez_six_month...

Have you been in a French city of late? I almost couldn't visit Tours-centre because of all the diesel smell a few years ago.

It has improved slightly in the last 2 years but it will take a full adoption of EVs (and increased public transit) to resolve. It's not like France is lacking for fuel taxes or road taxes and insurance costs. Demand is still too high.

When I visited Paris, around 7 years ago, it was by far 2-stroke exhaust that was the problem. My Parisian coworkers, who also rode motorbikes, explained it was because the licensing and vehicle taxes are tiered by displacement. So everyone gets a small displacement 2-stroke, since a 2-stroke makes power equal to a 4-stroke double the displacement.

I haven't checked to see if this has changed since then.

Do you have a source for this? Diesel pollution is and was never a clear known spike at least I have never heard from your statement.

I’ll take “air next to a tree” vs “air next to a car” any day, regardless of average ambient. And I like cars a lot.

Cynical me who moved to and from SF (lived there for a year) and walked Market street everyday worries about this as well. SF does not seem to have the political will to really deal with this issue. Measures such as increased street cleaning and feces remediation have done little to improve the experience of walking on certain parts of Market (at least in my time when I saw new efforts go into effect).

I think of it as resources rather than will.

At market rate, it costs a TON of money to place people in homes. They can’t be too nice or it will encourage people to be homeless. They can’t be too bad because then you end up with ghettos or with mobs of angry neighbors. It also costs a lot more money to provide services all spread out amongst the city.

European cities are denser, and they have services everywhere. They have housing. Their costs are lower. They don’t have to pay for healthcare a la carte.

You can throw people in jail, but that’s untenable to people with conscience, unless you convince people that every homeless person deserves their situation. Anyone struggling to make rent in a city can empathize with people who are homeless due to bad luck or not enough safety net.

The problem is there is no mechanism to split up the people who are going to be wards of society no matter what from those just passing through, because there’s nowhere to put them.

I think the solution is we go back to centralization. Build a large scale shelter. Also bring back psychiatric hospitals. If you can’t make it in the shelter, you belong either in the psychiatric hospital or jail.

I hear you, but a certain political will could make resources go further. For example, cheap affordable housing costs a ridiculous amount in California due to many government controllable mechanisms (zoning laws, certain overly onerous codes and regulations). There a numerous articles showing the absurd 6 figure per unit construction cost buildings that were meant to be affordable and ballooned to incredible amounts in CA.

A certain political will could fix this.

Reminder that the European downtowns you visit on a vacation are the nicest and most tourist friendly parts of that city, and often the entire country.

The places you probably don't go to are far grittier, dirtier and less welcoming.

Also you're on a vacation, and will enjoy most everything more than usual.

Nothing wrong with that, just keep this inevitable bias in mind.

Going and visiting train stations where people actually live is more revealing. Just as I understand the “tourist playground” areas in my city!

> But, if you’ve been to any city in Europe it’s SO clear how much nicer a city it feels to be in when infrastructure becomes focused on human scale. You breathe easier, you’re less stressed.

Clearly we didn't visit the same parts of Europe. My last visits had me choking on 2-stroke and diesel exhaust while dodging two-wheeled maniacs when crossing streets. Paris and Palermo were especially awful in this regard.

> Cars and car owners have had completely unchecked rights in American cities for decades.

That's like saying fish have unchecked rights in the fishtank. American cities have been built around the automobile, so of course the automobile will have an elevated level of importance. It would be absurd to think anything else. I appreciate people want alternatives, and more power to them, but until cities are organized so that an individual's living radius is miles rather than 10s of miles, the automobile will continue to be king. And rightly so.

"until cities are organized so that an individual's living radius is miles rather than 10s of miles", this is exactly what San Francisco is doing. You can't ask for that and then oppose yourself to the transformation of Market Street at the same time.

San Francisco seems like it is going the opposite way. As it gets more expensive people are forced into longer and longer commutes.

Cities more than 100 years old weee not built around cars. Streets were used quite differently back then and are again in cities with “no car” zones.

And the “10s of miles” issue can change back; the car was the forcing function for that, not the other way around.

The US population is 3x as large as it was in 1920. France is 1.5x. Most Americans don't live in places designed before cars.

Even the old megalopolis NYC was redesigned for cars over 50 years ago. (Robert Moses)

Well the inverse was true 100 years ago. It's not implausible that someone could make a similar statement a century from now:

"The US population is 3x as large as it was in 2020. France is 1.5x. Most Americans don't live in places designed for cars.

"Even the old megalopolis NYC was redesigned away from cars over 50 years ago. (Moses Roberts)"

>"American cities have been built around the automobile, so of course the automobile will have an elevated level of importance. It would be absurd to think anything else."

Car ownership only reached a critical mass in the 1920s with the arrival of the Henry Ford's Model T. Obviously well after American cities were laid out. American cities were laid out when the dominant form of transportation was the horse and the dominant commerce feature was likely a port. It would be more absurd to overlook these facts.

Most US cities were built or redesigned after 1920 and the personal car.

Yeah that's not true at all. By 1920 more American were living in cities than rural areas. Please read up on the Industrial boom that took place in the late 19th century in the US. Massive urbanization took place in the 50 year period from 1870 to 1920. This is historical fact.

So no, most US cities were not "built or redesigned after 1920."

I’ve lived in San Francisco for 9 years without a car. So it’s already possible, and there are likely many thousands of people doing it.

I’ve been car free in SF for 40 years. About 31% of households are car free.


You can't have that reorganization without this type of change.

As someone who is staying in the city for a few months near market, this is very welcomed because I bike on the lyft bikes or lime scooters a lot. It's quite nice now.

> Cities are congested with traffic, sidewalks are small and crowded, and bikers are playing Frogger every day.

It goes so much further than this. Highways are causing air/ocean pollution, learning issues in schools, etc.; noise pollution is multiplied by cars in cities, with horns, sirens etc. competing with the loudness of these vehicles; massive fractions of public space is allocated to free or heavily-subsidised parking space for them; even with all that parking, in my city of NYC and probably others, there is rampant illegal parking on sidewalks, in bike lanes, and more of the tiny fraction of space that is still reserved for non-car use.

In NYC, we recently banned private cars on 14th street and all the buses now run far quicker, providing a higher throughput of people on that street, and an overall more pleasant experience of walking/cycling on that street. This took immense effort to put in place, suffering a lot of pushback but now traffic in even nearby blocks has been massively reduced. Similarly with the pedestrianisation of the streets by Rockefeller Center, people are delighted once these plans are implemented, despite the massive outcry and calls for concern for drivers that precedes them.

Politicians need to realise that it's the end for private motor vehicles and just take the plunge. They so cowardly bend to the will of the driving population, even when they could gain massive popularity with all constituents by making these changes. More projects like Market Street cannot happen soon enough.

As someone who doesn't live in SF but has visited many times I'm not really sure what the issue with Market Street and cars is. It's always seemed fine to me. Compare this to say Oxford Street in London (where I lived at the time congestion pricing was first introduced), which was clearly an issue. But sure, I'm on board.

Although I'm not sure why taxis need an exemption. I guess it's another way to prop up a dying industry. Having caught cabs in SF before, I never will again, even if they can drive down Market Street.

The article also mentions 14th Street in NYC, which I live near and am very familiar with. This has been a contentious issue. Originally the L was planned to shutdown for 15-18 months and there was a plan to make 14th street sort of car free. I say sort of because cars were allowed to turn onto 14th Street but had to make the next right turn. This plan is now moot.

But a big concern was that it would just push car traffic to 13th and 15th streets, which are "residential".

I'm honestly not sure why 14th Street needs a dedicated busway as it does have the L. Compare this to say 23rd and 34th street that have no cross Subway (42nd does).

But the elephant in the room here is that you can still park on 14th street. If you're serious about increasing the traffic flow (of buses or otherwise) the obvious thing to do is free up 2 lanes by getting rid of the parking. But weirdly free street parking is sacrosanct in NYC politics. Why people who live in downtown Manhattan need this huge public subsidy is beyond me.

Maybe because people believe all this valuable public space can be better used than as a Thruway for ferrying individuals in massive steel cages from one part of town to another.

Re: the 14th street busway, The “fears” about 13th and 15th street turned out to be unfounded. In the meanwhile, thousands of people who used the bus are benefitting with much faster and more reliable service (to the point that buses on 14th street are now waiting at stops because they are arriving too fast).

Car traffic has basically been unaffected.

Pedestrians find it much better and safer.

People who live and work there have it much better with the massively reduced air and noise pollution.

And you’re right that this should be replicated throughout the city. If it works on 14th street, which as you rightly point out already has a train, it will be a much bigger success on other streets.

Similarly in SF besides the quality of life improvements you have reclaimed valuable space that was being given away for no good reason.

The noise pollution thing is huge. Private car owners love their god damned horns. Beep beep. Like children. Drives me fuckin crazy. I'm at the corner of 2nd and Howard. Easily 5% of my day is spent daydreaming about ways to get those cars to shut the fuck up. Paintballs, HERF gun, signs. I'll never do anything but I'll continue to daydream my way through the honking.

It's one traffic light! Just WAIT.

The worst thing is when drivers honk at the driver in front of them who is waiting for a pedestrian to cross the street before turning. :facepalm:

Holy shit, you've just pinpointed what irritated me most about SF! So much beeping.

In Sydney, for comparison, it's quite rare.

Oh man, if you think honking in SF is bad, in NYC it’s a damn 24 hour chorus. I mean even at 4 am I have heard honking (park ave is NOT congested then so I can’t even imagine the need to honk then)

I one time watched a disabled kids school bus stop and kneel and deploy its ramp for a kid in a wheelchair to get on, on a residential street in Brooklyn. Throughout the WHOLE process, a car behind the bus was slamming the horn. It was like 2 minutes of beeping lol.

NYC has signs up promoting the expensive fine for non-emergency honking, which is illegal, but there's no enforcement.

This is NYC in general. It has a police force rivaling the armies of some countries and the lowest crime in decades so I'm not sure what they're doing now but whatever it is, it isn't traffic enforcement.

Running red lights ("but it was amber 15 seconds ago!"), honking at cars in front who are waiting on pedestrians who have right of way, block intersections preventing cross traffic (every Saturday afternoon you see dumbasses do this and traffic going to the Holland Tunnel backed up to Midtown), turning at red lights (illegal in the five boroughs), deciding to enter an intersection to block an emergency vehicle that has its sirens going, not getting out of the way of emergency vehicles and so on.

In nine years living in NYC I think I've seen a driver pulled by the NYPD exactly twice.

And what does the state legislature do? It tries to pass laws to make it illegal to detain taxi drivers who kill pedestrians [1] (luckily vetoed by the Governor).

[1]: https://nyc.streetsblog.org/2015/06/23/senate-passes-bill-to...

Why "private car owners"? Cabbies are much more honky.

Well, to be fair, the busses and streetcars which will still be prevalent on Market are also massive steel cages used to ferry individuals from one part of town to another. But certainly much more efficient and effective massive steel cages with regard to their use of the space, which will result in a much more pleasant public space.

My vote is 34th Street next, but that's probably a fantasy. Getting crosstown at 34th would be so much better with a busway. It might even make the nightmare that is Herald Square/Penn Station slightly less bad.

Private auto traffic on Market St. has always been marginal; the vast majority of the steel cages to contend with as a bicyclist are buses. There is no big dramatic transformation here. There will be in later phases of the project when bikes finally get separation from buses.

> Although I'm not sure why taxis need an exemption

I agree. Taxis are usually one of the most dangerous and impatient drivers in the city.

I think this was just a transparently corrupt handout. I have trouble getting too worked up about it though: a car-free Market St is a dream come true incremental step.

I'm on 14th St most days. Have you never taken a M14A/D bus? It's much more convenient than taking the L or walking two or three avenues, especially if you already have an unlimited Metrocard. L trains on the weekend are usually too packed to fit more people on because of the 20-minute headways. Buses help to relieve some of this congestion.

That being said, 23rd and 34th could also certainly use busways. NYC (meaning CBD Manhattan) is far too dense to accommodate single-pax vehicles. Luckily, we seem to be making progress toward eliminating them.

Busses can move a LOT faster without cars in the way and can be much more timely. Also, higher usage means that they can run more frequently, which also improves the usage rate.

Completely agreed. The difference is certianly palpable.

> It's always seemed fine to me.

It depends where on Market. The section where cars have been completely banned had already been highly restricted for years. It was difficult to turn onto Market east of Van Ness as at most intersections you could only cross--turns were disallowed. Most cars on Market in the Financial District were either ride sharing, tourists who got lost, or people who disobeyed a turn restriction. The "ban", as it is now, is mostly a formalism, so all the praise and hand wringing is years late.

If and when the ban moves west of Van Ness, then it'll be notable. Although there are already turn restrictions at a few dangerous intersections.

> As someone who doesn't live in SF but has visited many times I'm not really sure what the issue with Market Street and cars is.

Funny you say that. I've been to SF about a half-dozen times for work and Market St stands out to me as a nightmare to cross on foot. Tons of fast-moving cross-traffic, cars turning across crosswalks, and tons of pedestrians fighting all that. I'm glad to hear there's less traffic there (though honestly, if I have the choice, I will also be glad if I never have to visit SF again).

I visit San Francisco multiple times a year and have likewise had cause to cross Market Street on foot.

It has never crossed my mind that Market Street was some kind of special hell for pedestrians. It's a busy street in the middle of a city and there are cross walks. I don't know what people would otherwise expect.

further, Market has some of the widest sidewalks i've ever seen.

One of the problems with Market is that you basically have two grids coming together at an angle so you have a lot of sort of weird complex intersections. Plus it’s just a very busy and congested area that has also had lots of construction going on for ages.

I used to look forward to visiting SF. I’m much more ambivalent these days.

Would love see this expanded to include most of the city. Manhattan too. I don't think people need to drive around cities in cars, perhaps with some exceptions (like people with disabilities). Roads are a huge waste of real estate, and more than half of the surface area could be replaced with greenspace to increase the amount of clean air and proximity to nature.

The political problem is that more than 50% of households in New York City own an automobile.

Edit: 45% of New York City households owned at least 1 automobile as late as 2015 [0]. Ownership per household was 22% in Manhattan.

[0] https://edc.nyc/article/new-yorkers-and-their-cars

NYC =/= Manhattan. People owning cars in the other boroughs is another ball game, but there's few reasons outside of disability for a Manhattanite to need a car.

While true, I wonder what fraction of those automobiles are used to get into the areas below Central Park on a regular basis. I've always had a romantic idea of making all the surface streets below 96th street between 2nd Ave and 10th Ave bus/taxi only, perhaps with special zones for residents to own cars, and repurposing large swaths as pedestrian/greenspace... But it's an unlikely dream.

Remember that it is impossible to enter or exit Long Island (including Brooklyn and Queens) by car without driving through either Manhattan or the Bronx, and most freight enters the city by semi truck.

No -- Staten Island (and the VZ Bridge) exists. The government is too incompetent to toll the Holland and Lincoln tunnels accordingly.

Mostly true, but there is also the option of coming via Staten Island on the Verrazzano-Narrows bridge.

NYC or Manhattan? It is very difficult to park in Manhattan

Ownership per household is 22% in Manhattan. The extreme density restricts the availability of parking spaces.

I believe the real political problem is that the city government all have cars and get unlimited free parking in the city, thanks to the placards they and other city workers give themselves (and their families/friends) and use completely unchecked[0].

If you are a cop/firefighter, or friends with one, you can drive around the city like a reckless asshole with almost complete immunity. If you are a cyclist that inconveniences a cop that has never traversed the city outside of a car (commutes from staten/long island to park on the sidewalk by the precinct and then hops in the squad car), you get a big fat ticket.

[0] https://twitter.com/placardabuse

People don't need to drive between destinations within the parts of the city served by rail. Many people do need to get from the their home to the freeway to go elsewhere, though.

You really need a road to every building for moving stuff to and from the building. Maybe one could put them all underground? Support the Boring company idea?

There are still taxis, busses, commercial/city vans, muni, and other vehicles on Market; just not personal vehicles. To say it’s car free is hardly accurate.

And not to mention that like everywhere else in San Francisco, there will likely be in no enforcement of these traffic rules whatsoever, so in practice private vehicles will still he allowed too.

Also, traffic on all cross streets is still open, and on most of them it’s common convention to trail red lights by ten seconds or more, well into the start of pedestrian signal as it’s changed for the perpendicular direction — an extremely dangerous practice blessed by the city’s authorities (again, by refusal to ever enforce infractions).

I’m glad we’re at least trying to make some forward progress here, but strongly suspect that Market St will still feel extremely dangerous for dangerous for pedestrians and bicyclists alike well into the foreseeable future. IMO, we should be more careful about letting city officials claim bold and innovative successes (as in the headline) while not really having changed much of consequence.

They did just approve a 600 million dollar construction package to rework market. A protected bikelane and new sidewalks will help a lot, but it takes time. Enforcement in general is for sure still a huge issue in the city.

Is that still active after the whole Public Works corruption thing?

What? Yes, it was voted upon and legislated lol. It's not going anywhere.

Every pickup truck registered in California is also considered a commercial vehicle. They're exempt from the "car ban" on Market. The car ban also extends to motorcycles.

Since electric kick scooters are allowed, would electric motorcycles be OK? Is there an electric motorcycle class on the books? Existing moto laws define based on engine displacement.

Edited for clarity.


Can I still ride a Vespa down this stretch of Market Street to the office?

> "Confirmed by SFTMA: Vespas not permitted. No private motorcycles either."


I meant that the "car ban" extended to motorcycles, not the truck loophole.

I've not seen any evidence of this pickup truck loophole either, first I've heard of it. Where'd you read that?

Simply not hearing of something doesn't change the facts.

Commercial vehicles are exempt from the ban. Pickup trucks are commercial vehicles in CA. It's that simple.


'A "commercial vehicle" is a vehicle which is used or maintained for the transportation of persons for hire, compensation, or profit or designed, used, or maintained primarily for the transportation of property (for example, trucks and pickups). Vehicle Code Section 260.'

Probably most ordinary people would consider a taxi to be a car, so you raise a valid point with that, but I don't know why you mentioned all those other things that obviously aren't cars.

What if I drive a pickup truck?

Pickup trucks are OK to drive down Market St. They're registered as commercial vehicles in CA. You can tell because they have only a single letter on their license plate.

That’s hilarious considering how common they are as personal vehicles in most of the country.

They're common as personal vehicles (in usage) in most of non-urban California as well, this is just the state grabbing for more cash per usual.

Does anywhere in the US have time-of-day restrictions?

The main pedestrian streets in Copenhagen have signs indicating delivery vehicles are only accepted between 4-11am. Hopefully this links correctly [1].

(Since the US doesn't use the international road sign standards...) The blue square with people means pedestrian area. The circular red cross with a blue background is a restriction on stopping (or parking) vehicles between 11:00-04:00.

Scrolling along the pedestrian street, I see Google used a bicycle to take these StreetView photos :-)

[1] https://www.google.com/maps/@55.6816155,12.5756814,3a,26.5y,...

in Dallas we have a couple roads where the road changes from two-way to one-way (both directions) based on time of day.

For the morning commute the whole road is one way into downtown, in the afternoon it goes back to a two way road. Evening commute it turns into one-way out of downtown and after that back to two-way.

When it came online I figured it would be a death trap as people try to figure out what the signs and lights mean but it seems to be pretty successful.

There are a lot of places where specific turns are prohibited, but I don't think I've ever seen a street that was entirely blocked to cars based on the time of day.

Also crossing private car traffic.

With the exception of taxis, most people wouldn't call any of those "cars".

That's still a huge step forward. Personal vehicles are one of mankind's worst creations.

And also one of mankind's best creations. A conundrum.

Clearly you didn’t grow up rural.

I frew up just outside a town of under 10000 people, and I still agree. We need them some places, but they've infested everywhere.

When people in places like that need to get to the city for a doctor do you recommend horse drawn wagon?

> We need them some places

Missed that. Regardless you are agreeing with the OP that they are the worst things humans invented while acknowledging we need them some places is a bit contradictory.

Yeah, it is to some extent. (Also, the OP actually said "personal vehicles", which is definitely way broader than I'm meaning to argue. Bicycles are personal vehicles.)

A better formulation: Cars in their current form and predominance are terrible. Done right, we would still have pickups for moving heavy loads, and some speedy form of transport for moving around individuals, but would it be two tons of steel?

Imagine a world with no cars where you make this proposal: each person gets a two-ton machine that can go up to 100 mph, its direction determined by a driver-controlled steering wheel. We're going to have people as young as 16, with maybe 30 hours of training drive it on a curvy 20-foot-wide road. Now the machine's only ~six feet wide, so we'll divide this road into two 10-foot lanes separated by a painted line down the middle. People will go 55 mph on one side while other people go 55 mph in the opposite direction just on the other side. It's safe, because people know to stay on their side of the line, except sometimes when they're expected to cross over briefly if they think someone else is going too slowly. As mentioned, the vehicle can go 100 mph. The only thing keeping it at 55 is that the driver is expected to press and hold a pedal at just the right pressure.

This proposal would be shot down so hard. Someone would probably object that this crazy idea is likely to end up being the leading(?) cause of death for people under the age of 30.

We're in a situation where it's the best we have in rural areas, but if we really thought about it, we could come up with something better. We need them in this world, because we built this world to need them.

Dirtbikes, ATVs are better at traversing the terrain and we wouldn't need roads. If you want to get anywhere you need to go fast. The problem is speed kills. Even with all of the gear it's significantly safer to be a two ton steel cage. Personal helicopters would be ideal but that seems cost prohibitive and amateur flight isn't legal. The allure of the car is independent transportation. I suppose self driving cars would help the safety issue if they work but they still need roads.

Correct, thanks for noticing!

City dwellers would change their tune on ban all cars if it really happened. Imagine no short term car rentals for trips to wilderness outside of the city. Are you going to ride your bike 200 miles or take your kid on a motorcycle?

The big thing people seem to miss here is that San Francisco's auto-infrastructure is completely saturated. Adding more cars just results in slowing down existing traffic, and it's been this way for years.

From the article: > Cheap gas, the tech boom, and the rise of ride-hailing have meant the amount of traffic entering San Francisco has grown by 27 percent since 2010. Not only is that making congestion increasingly miserable, with average travel speeds on corridors like Market Street dropping nearly 20 percent...

This isn't a case of getting rid of cars because of some environmental hippy policies. Big cities cannot grow streets enough to enable the amount of car traffic in congested areas. The city isn't going green, they are replacing extremely inefficient ways of getting around with more efficient ways because they want to encourage growth.

>San Francisco's auto-infrastructure is completely saturated.

So how is taking away infrastructure going to help?

>traffic entering San Francisco has grown by 27 percent since 2010 >This isn't a case of getting rid of cars

Right, we're just getting rid of a main traffic artery--same cars, fewer road. How does this improve traffic?

>they are replacing extremely inefficient ways of getting around with more efficient ways because they want to encourage growth.

What new efficient way is being added?

> Right, we're just getting rid of a main traffic artery--same cars, fewer road. How does this improve traffic?

It's all about what you are measuring. You see traffic as "Volume of cars going between two points" when traffic is in fact the number of people going between one place and another. There is no value in getting a car from one place to another, there is a lot of value in moving people.

> What new efficient way is being added?

It's been illustrated many times how much more efficient bikes, buses, and trolly's are at getting large numbers of people from one place to another when space is constrained.

This. I'll even supply an actual illustration: https://humantransit.org/2012/09/the-photo-that-explains-alm...

It is not taking away infrastructure, it is taking away inefficient users (cars) of the infrastructure.

Not the "same" cars. Less cars. Cars cause slow traffic, so removing cars will improve traffic flow.

Buses, bikes, and people are the efficient way.

It's only "taking away infrastructure" if you think a car is the only way to get around. For the rest of us, they're ^adding^ desperately needed infrastructure.

> What new efficient way is being added?

Cutting out private cars is only the start. https://sf.funcheap.com/city-guide/sfs-market-street-carfree...

cars get in the way and slow down the more efficient transportation forms (ie. buses, cyclists)

I'll tell you what -- they may say Market Street is car-free, but drive a car on it and no one will stop you. SFPD is so understaffed (and frankly uninterested) to properly police the streets of SF that you can pretty much do anything and unless you stab someone, you're not going to get a ticket for pretty much anything. We have tons of "bus-only" lanes, or bike lanes, and the rules are broken every other car with no penalties. Apparently, just like in tech, we think that some rules, paint stripes, and people's intentions won't require any significant human administrative monitoring or intervention.

Compare it to NYC where you commonly see beat cops walking the street and patrolling every other block. And more importantly, giving out tickets with an apparent belief that people should get penalized for committing minor offenses. SF Police is just not present or interested in doing this, or resourced to do so. They can't even stop people from breaking into cars, and you think they're going to be ticketing people for driving in a partial pedestrian zone?

I chalk it up to incompetent city government (which frankly right now, is actually hostile to proper policing -- with a DA who has openly said such, and a public who mistakenly thinks this is good to assuage their guilt), a lack of strong police culture, and the incredible cost of hiring people in California, that keep us from having the right amount of police. Honestly, this cost (driven by housing by the way) leads to our crime rate also.

We have the same problems everywhere in NYC. We have an unbelievable number of police on the force (corresponding to much higher crime levels of the past), yet there's very little traffic enforcement. People routinely drive recklessly, enter areas they're not supposed to, park illegally in travel lanes, bike lanes, or sidewalks, etc., and there's little risk of anything happening. Even worse, we have a huge placard abuse crisis where many tens of thousand of different government employees (cops, firefighters, teachers, city workers, etc.) get these ridiculous placards that essentially make them immune to parking enforcement, even when driving their personal vehicles in non-emergencies. The police (who largely live outside the city and drive to work) thus see this as one of their perks and they are loath to do anything to fix it.

So the only solutions that will work are those that don't require the police to do their job. We need red light cameras at every intersection and speed cameras on every road (they'd very quickly pay for themselves), and we need physical protection installed everywhere so that cars cannot even enter bike lanes or drive up onto sidewalks. It's sad that this is what it's come to, but absent getting a non-car-based police force who live in the city who are actually interested in protecting us against drivers, I don't see it changing.

I'm all for stronger traffic enforcement as much as the next concerned citizen, but honestly things like surveillance/speed/red light cameras don't actually make anyone safer. If you google "Red Light Cameras Safety" You'll see plenty of articles like this one that state plenty of reasons why these cameras don't help as much as initially thought.


Instead, it would probably be much more effective to fine people for these transgressions as a percentage of their income. A $500 speeding ticket or a $100 parking ticket isn't really going to bother a person driving a $140,000 Tesla as much as its going to bother someone who is driving a $1500 Toyota Camery. We can probably actually continue to have the police selectively enforcing like they do now, but if people actually fear the consequences of breaking boneheaded traffic laws because they'll have to pay $15000 for a speeding ticket, then they'll be a lot less likely to break those laws.

I'd love to see lights that somehow indicate they're about to go from green to yellow in 5-10 seconds or something like that. I hate the feeling when the light turns yellow when you're very close to the intersection -- a snappy decision to brake strongly could stop you in time before entering the intersection, but that might feel too sudden for comfort; but then continuing through probably means it'll be red when you're in the middle. It's even worse when you've seen that it's been green for a while, but don't know if it's going to be green long enough for you. There's going to be a temptation to accelerate, or at least maintain a high speed close to the intersection..

Likewise, I feel that more early indication for going green would make sitting in red lights less stressful.

Alternatively, they could just make the yellow stay yellow a bit longer.

This is an interesting argument, but I've heard it said that the 8th Amendment's prohibition on excessive fines could make such legislation difficult to implement.

United States v. Bajakajian[0] is in play here.

> Thus the Court declared that, within the context of judicial deference to the legislature's power to set punishments, a fine would not offend the Eighth Amendment unless it were "grossly disproportional to the gravity of a defendant's offense".

A $15,000 speeding ticket is absolutely disproportional to the gravity of the offense of speeding, unless you find a way to argue that the offense is greater because of the net worth of the person committing it.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eighth_Amendment_to_the_United...

I don't think anyone is arguing that the offense is greater - I think they'd argue they're putting the "proportion" back in proportional - making the fine proportional to the income, so that it has more equal impact.

I understand, I'm just saying that there is text in the Constitution that says you can't do that. "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted."

If speeding is an equal offense for all people, then fining someone more for it would be excessive.

I saw a source that believes it's a solvable problem, but any conversation about this issue has to solve that problem.

I think we'd just have to have a chat about the definition of what's excessive? Fining me $1m for something would be excessive, fining AT&T $1m for the same thing would be trivial. "excessive" is relative.

The GPDR is an example of what I mean; where fines are written as €x or y% of revenue, whichever is higher - which is intended precisely to make fines proportional. There's little sense levying the same dollar fine against Google and my local corner shop - a figure that Google wouldn't notice would destroy the other.

> we need physical protection installed everywhere so that cars cannot even enter bike lanes

This is very effective at saving lives, and more enforcement is no substitute.

There is placard abuse, and also little risk of of penalty for parking illegally?

Yes. The placard abuse vehicles are essentially immune, while other vehicles rarely get tickets that are nowhere high enough in cost or frequency to prevent the behavior.

I recommend installing AI systems to autoticket infractions. It's the only way the humans will learn.

Also, consider the huge profits to be made from automating policing! People are already accustomed to redlight cameras, so it won't be weird to start ticketing them for other things. They did break the law, after all. If we just install cameras in all public thoroughfares, where people don't have privacy assumptions, we could easily use facial recognition to automatically punish aberrant behavior.

Big money -- and we make the city safer by catching criminals. Win win!

I rode a bicycle yesterday on market Street and there were cops everywhere.

I'll let you know today.

Typically there are a lot of police up and down Market street.

I will personally stop my bicycle in front of private cars and guide them off market as well. Other bicyclists I've talked to are saying the same. We often do this for no-right-on-red to guarantee that the bike lane's right of way is protected.

Market street will remain private car free.

As for your comments on chesea, they are cartoonishly bad faith. His platform is clear, he won't be ignoring crime, he will be focusing on evidence based solutions. He continues to explain his reasoning behinds his decisions with evidence and continues to get flack from the police union and their lackeys that boils down to "commie LIKES CRIMINALS IN YOUR BACKYARD!!!"

I don't think it's in bad faith to say Chesa wants less policing. He has repeatedly said so. His position is that more policing doesn't actually make us safer in the long term because it draws more people into the prison system, which can permanently derail someone's life.

Other people feel that not enforcing "quality of life" crimes a) makes life worse for residents (there's a reason we have those laws in the first place, and it's not solely racially based) b) could snowball into worse crimes.

His election is the people of SF trying something new, and that new thing is focusing the attention of the police force elsewhere.

I'm not really seeing anything on his platform about not persecuting quality of life crimes. An entire page is devoted to his plan for policing car break ins, for example. I do see a section about drawing the court's attention away from misdemeanors so they can focus on felonies.

I look forward to seeing whether the traffic behavior lasts and to what extent policing will enforce it.

On Boudin, you must be a bit innocent to think that a DA's priorities and stated goals of moving away from incarceration will not flow down to an understanding among police that they are being told to "look the other way" and that their efforts to arrest lawbreakers (their primary tool) are being made hollow and pointless by lack of follow through on the prosecution end.

"...Boudin said he will end cash bail and “tough-on-crime” sentencing enhancements, launch a unit to consider the immigration consequences of prosecutions and stop filing cases stemming from “illegal searches” after a minor traffic violation." -- https://www.sfexaminer.com/news/citys-new-progressive-da-che...

Immigration consequences of prosecutions -- just what do you think this means? People not getting prosecuted.

I don't understand why uber-liberal thinking desires not to have our laws enforced.

See my reply to your nearly identical comment above https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22195382

> I don't understand why uber-liberal thinking desires not to have our laws enforced.

I don't understand where you're getting this strawman from. Which party is at this very moment attempting to enforce rule of law for the executive branch?

I am not understanding something.

How does a bicyclist guide a car driver?

point and speak?

That can be for anybody to anybody.

Is there something special or specific about bicyclists an/or drivers in San Francisco? Is one or the other especially aggressive or poorly skilled?

Yes to both, drivers flaunting the car-free restriction are generally poorly skilled and cyclists on Market are generally quite aggressive.

I do it by riding slowly in front of them and pointing. Their options are to try to swerve left around me and get hit by a bus, jump the curb, or run me over.

I've not tried it in SF, this is me speaking of my experience in Houston.

In SF I'll block cars from making an illegal right by simply standing in front of them.

You're kidding right? There's SFPD/SFMTA workers everywhere diverting traffic. There's even a long thread on reddit of everyone thanking everyone out there doing all this work.

I rode in this morning and they were all there again so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Yesterday was also the first day. The real question is, will there be enforcement 6 months, 20 months, 90 months from now when it's no longer in the headlines.

Oh wow, 2 data points, case closed.

Surely you can't believe that level of enforcement will last. Anyone who's ever been on market street knows that "bus lane" never meant anything.

Making this change will force the removal of the Market Street routing from all digital mapping apps:

Waze, Google Maps, Apple Maps, Uber driver app, Lyft driver app, etc.

Whether or not some tiny fraction of a percent violate the ban, the vast majority of drivers will no longer route through this section of the street on their way to somewhere else.

yes, and also i believe the idea is to gradually start enforcing.

there are bound to be many people who aren’t aware of it yet.

ANPR (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automatic_number-plate_recogni...) is generally the answer to this, along with an automated civil penalty mechanism.

I don't know US law, but in the UK this would be entirely a civil matter for the local authority - the police aren't involved in regulating things like bus lanes.

Can't it be policed using traffic cameras? That's a mature off-the-shelf solution that works well in a lot of other cities.

I'd rather live in a city with either this or just the current status quo in SF rather than one where beat cops are constantly handing out citations.

We have the same problem in Boston. There is no one traffic enforcement division for the BPD, and it instead done on a district-by-district basis, often being tasked to just one or two officers [1]. We, too, have plenty of bus-only lanes where the red paint has completely faded, and they are back to general purpose lanes. One of my favorite examples you can clearly see the faded red paint, "bus only" signs, yet plenty of regular cars on Google Streetview [2].

As someone who lives and walks to work in downtown Boston, it is also a cultural issue. During rush hour, there is effectively no such thing as a moving violation. I walk through some of the busiest intersections on a daily basis, and just about every single time, some traffic law is broken.

No right on red is a complete joke. People will actually honk at you if you are stopped at a red light with a "no right on red" sign. Don't block the box? If you don't block the box, traffic coming from the other way will, and you won't make it through the _next_ light cycle. Red lights are just a suggestion at many intersections, with 2, even 3 cars running through _after_ the light has turned.

The joke I always say is that if BPD enforced all moving violations for just one day downtown, they'd raise enough revenue to fund another Big Dig. Not true, of course, because even the cops themselves don't follow the traffic laws. Why should they?

[1] https://www.wgbh.org/news/local-news/2019/03/13/boston-city-...

[2] https://www.google.com/maps/@42.3524301,-71.0622098,3a,75y,5...

Just get cameras. I don't know why this isn't done anywhere else, but in DC, cops won't pull you over for a moving violation (and I'm glad they don't) but the cameras will get you if you're running red lights or not yielding on right on red.

I suspect we don't have those because it's politically unpopular. The disregard for traffic laws is so deeply ingrained and I also believe single occupancy vehicle is still the main mode of commute here. Also, the comments "what about the jaywalkers", "what about those pesky cyclists always blowing red lights", etc. come up ad nauseam.

> We have tons of "bus-only" lanes...and the rules are broken every other car with no penalties

They're somewhat ill-conceived because need to enter them to turn right, so there's judgement calls on what's acceptable. And they are enforced. I think Muni has forward-facing cameras in buses to catch people in these lanes.

> They can't even stop people from breaking into cars, and you think they're going to be ticketing people for…

One is a cost, the other a revenue source. Yes, my experience is that there’s a city employee to tend the meter within five minutes, but good luck getting a response to a crime within four hours. The priorities are clear.

Those "beat cops" are most certainly not doing traffic enforcement. At best you'll see a handful of parking citations.

I have a pet theory that they don't bother controlling bad drivers, simply because there's nowhere to pull them over; stop anyone in the middle of the street and you've created an instant traffic jam. But really our mayor and DA set the agenda and they think traffic is just dandy.

[edit] A prominent NYC cycling blogger made a similar point just a minute ago. In the wake of news that NYC issues more traffic violations to cyclists (responsible for two deaths last year) than truck drivers (400+), he said, "I suspect NYPD ticketing stats are a meaningful measure of only one thing: how easy it is to stop the vehicle."

You don't need cops. You need more aggressive cyclists.

People will turn onto Market Street for two reasons: 1. Somehow they missed that it's a car-free zone. They don't need a ticket; they need to discover their mistake and not repeat it. 2. They think it'll save time and fuck bikes anyway. Any cyclist can block them. What are they going to do, run you over?

Last driver I came face-to-face with in the separated bike lane on my commute ended up hopping the curb to get around me. Next time he'll probably take a car lane.

in my experience, banning cyclists would go a long ways to making the pedestrian experience better too.

Serious question -- and hopefully it doesn't get bound up in useless left/right rhetoric -- but what is San Francisco doing wrong?

They're clearly flush with cash: The budget has grown by leaps and bounds despite a static population.

I do realize that San Francisco imports the homeless problem from much of the rest of the country (nice weather, good people...if you're homeless it certainly seems better than NYC), and that has to have costs, but it seems like a city that should have gold-plated services.

I don't think that SF is better than NYC for the homeless.

A big difference between SF and NYC is that NYC provides shelter for people that can't afford housing and SF does not. Only 5% of homeless people in NYC are unsheltered compared with 67% in the Bay Area.

Legally, NYC is required to provide shelters for anyone who needs it, while SF shelters have waitlists of over a month.




I have no idea, but a lot of non-profits around the Tenderloin provide services to the homeless that might be harder to capture. There's also less urgency to shelter because it doesn't freeze.

The homeless import is a myth, no studies back that claim.

Most homeless are from the area and due to mental, housing, and drug issues.

I was careless with wording, but I don't mean that a bus-load of homeless people are ferried out to San Francisco. Instead that the weather, people, and connections has a drawn a lot of people with a very laissez-faire attitude towards life, and that invariably conflicts with raw capitalism in a way that can have negative outcomes.

This loose attitude on life pretty much defined San Francisco for a couple of decades.

> I chalk it up to incompetent city government (which frankly right now, is actually hostile to proper policing -- with a DA who has openly said such ...

What did the DA say? Not familiar.

The DA has said no such thing. The new DA did run of a platform of not convicting when it doesn't do any good to - an evidence based legal philosophy that was made very clear on his website, sources included.

But he is pretty easy to pin a Communist red letter on and is the favorite punching bag of conservatives. He's a sort of "mascot of all that is wrong with Bad Communist San Francisco." "First they're a sanctuary for illegal immigrants, then they're a sanctuary for BURGLARS and BAD GUYS!!!"

The police union and conservative media often oversimplify his platform, I don't know why. The union could only stand to benefit from increased officer safety from policies that evidently reduce crime, but I think they want to believe the only solution to crime is throwing people in jail. As for conservative media I have no idea why we're the chosen target but whatever.

I'd say it has everything to do with the current state of affairs in SF. I don't think it's the post-apocalyptic hellhole that many make it out to be but property crime here is really out of hand.

Police don't take anything less than a stabbing serious (I had my motorcycle stolen and the police came by 6 hours after I called them and then jetted off to stabbing within 2 minutes of arriving). I called the police 6 times in the first few years I was here, every time they arrived at least an hour later and provided absolutely no help. Last time my motorcycle was stolen and I found the guy parting it out on Craigslist, they were of zero help. I just don't bother anymore.

One of my friends that lives on Capp street witnessed burglars in an obviously stolen car with stolen goods, divvying up those goods in the middle of the night, and then went into a neighboring house. My friend was on the phone with the police as it was happening and they recorded the whole ordeal on video. Police slowly cruised by an hour later and that was that.

I understand that jailing people won't magically fix all of our issues, but the approach we have been taking is obviously not working. We need to try something new. I personally like the idea of hiring more police and getting them to constantly patrol their beat so that they are in-tune with their community and the community feels the police presence. Because at the moment, parts of SF, especially the Mission, feel lawless as fuck.

24th & Capp? Has been gang territory back to the 70’s, so unless you get the feds involved or gentrify them it’s not going to change.

Isn't that area part of the gang injunction no-go zone? That was federal involvement IIRC.

Never heard of that, short of ankle monitoring, how would it work.

The DA was elected a few months ago, I don't know what you expect him to do about the history of property crime in the city.

I wasn't speaking about this DA in particular, but more about the conservative portrayal of the city and its failure to effectively deal with crime through liberal policies.

I've seen a great deal of conservative shrieking about "liberal policy" in san francisco, I've yet to see anybody effectively draw a line between policy and property crime in SF.

Property crime happens in every city I've lived in. Houston felt a better target for "liberal policy" being a liberal haven in a conservative state, and yet nobody jumped on them for their car breakins.

Basically, I'm skeptical of the political motivations of criticism of SF. If someone can provide an evidence based argument of bad policy I'm all ears. In the meantime I'm going to continue to vote for candidates, such as Chesea, with actual plans for tackling property crime.

You must be a bit innocent to think that a DA's priorities and stated goals of moving away from incarceration will not flow down to an understanding among police that they are being told to "look the other way" and that their efforts to arrest lawbreakers (their primary tool) are being made hollow and pointless by lack of follow through on the prosecution end.

"...Boudin said he will end cash bail and “tough-on-crime” sentencing enhancements, launch a unit to consider the immigration consequences of prosecutions and stop filing cases stemming from “illegal searches” after a minor traffic violation." -- https://www.sfexaminer.com/news/citys-new-progressive-da-che...

Immigration consequences of prosecutions -- just what do you think this means? People not getting prosecuted.

> just what do you think this means? People not getting prosecuted.

Seems a pretty big leap to me.

> cases stemming from “illegal searches” after a minor traffic violation."

Sounds constitutional to me.

> Boudin said he will end cash bail

Sounds fair to me.

> “tough-on-crime” sentencing enhancements

Sounds like evidence-based legal strategy to me.

I've yet to see any indication that effective prosecution will go down. In fact, part of Chesea's platform was increasing prosecution for felonies such as DWI.

SF hasn't had a "tough on crime" DA in the last 60 years. To think that Boudin would be a huge change from the previous do-nothing predecessors is laughable. He simply played up the compassion angle to court the socialist and progressive vote to defeat Loftus, who had the backing of the mainstream democratic party machine.

Nothing will change.

To what end? You're throwing around words like "socialist" and "progressive" as if these aren't all SF citizens that are facing the same crime issues as the ten conservatives in the city lol.

> Nothing will change.


I was using the terms socialist, progressive, and democratic machine to describe the various parts of the SF "left" voter population.

Ok, but what's the point of getting elected to simply not do anything? You seem to be implying the goal was to act socialist enough to get elected and then I guess sit in the DA's office with his feet on the desk? Which is a strange accusation to make as a Chesea detractor, given that typically people like to point to his very socialist history and background.

He's certainly not pretending, lol.

Getting elected to office in SF is huge for one's political ambitions, even if they don't do anything meaningful to help the city.

> Apparently, just like in tech, we think that some rules, paint stripes, and people's intentions won't require any significant human administrative monitoring or intervention.

This certainly is one problem that could be solved with tech and very little human interaction; no reason at all not to install cameras on Market that text you about your violation immediately and mail you a bill for the ticket.

The part of Market Street where there are now no private cars typically doesn’t have that many private cars on it. However, this is the right move for the city.

The more difficult it becomes to commute from cheaper outlying areas, the higher rents will rise within the city proper.

BART and Caltrain are always going to be cheaper than driving into the city. People who drive into San Francisco aren't the ones who don't live in the city because they can't afford it.

If your time is worth $0, yes. Depending on where you're coming from, it can easily turn a 45 minute commute into 2+ hours.

Probably the biggest lever here is to dramatically increase housing supply near the suburban train stations (e.g. SB 50). It's not the train ride itself that kills you, but the trek across suburbia.

I did this for 5 years, 2 of them into the area around the Transbay Terminal. I'm an engineer, so showing up at 10:30 is workable, and the roads are at least moving by then. I also do the peninsula commute; any commute using a bridge is significantly worse.

I can definitely afford to live in SF (one of the lots I parked in was $500/month), but never pulled the trigger on moving. I mostly drove because it was somehow lower stress than taking the train. I'd be standing half the time on Caltrain, and it only got me within a 25 min. walk to the office. Transferring to Bart made the walk OK, but added too much time to the commute. Oh, and Caltrain has an hour-plus delay at least monthly. I never had a driving delay that bad.

Nobody was commuting on this section of market street. It's a a parking lot.

Or the more people who will simply find alternatives to commuting into the city. Not a choice for everyone obviously but people do take commuting into account when choosing employers.

Who commutes on market Street?

Some people bicycling from the mission use it, others use Folsom.

I bike or scooter on Market almost daily, so I’ve been excited about this change.

I think it was to some degree over-hyped, because this stretch of market was already fairly restrictive to cars, and even after the change they’re still letting all city vehicles and taxis use the street, so I didn’t expect a big change.

Nevertheless, commuting yesterday was noticeably calmer and quieter, with a lot more bikes and scooters out. I was hoping to find the numbers from the bike traffic counters they have on the street, but I didn’t see them. My unscientific guess, then, is 30-50% more bikes.

It’s a nice change. I just wish they’d extend it deeper into the city, and specifically create a firm connection to Golden Gate Park. As-is, “the wiggle” gets you there, but the stretch from Haight to the Panhandle feels dangerous to me.

I’d love to see Page St. pedestrianized, caveat somehow allowing residents car access to their block only. It’s a perfect connector except for a couple really steep blocks. Perhaps a rope tow to help the less athletic (me) get up the hill? :)

I've crossed or gotten around Market to/from my work for the last 3 years. These articles are more hype than anything. Thoughts:

1. This has been slowly under way for years, and finally closing it cars really isn't a big deal. I would never have willing taken Market east of 10th for years, there's better and faster routes. (Mission, Folsom, etc)

2. You can still cross Market on car. You have too, going between the Financial district, SoMA, and then highways, 80, 280. So there's plenty of cars around.

3. Market is already clogged full of buses, trams, etc. It's not like it's turned into this walking boulevard heaven.

4. The article calling "one of the cities busiest...thoroughfares" seems pretty disingenuous. I admit I don't have the stats, but in the closed section it's slow, essentially 1 lane, ton of lights, etc. Yes there's a ton of buses, trams, etc but for cars...I can't see it. Is it really busier than Mission, Howard, Folsom, Harrison, Pine, Geary, Oak, Fell, Gough, Van Ness, etc? Ex: Franklin is 4 lanes of traffic going 1 way, with a timed green wave of lights.

5. West of 10th up to the Castro then Twin peaks, and when Market turns into Portola, now that's a busy road, and I use it a good bit.

I dont quite understand how bad “private” cars really were on market.

I bike commuted throughout the city for a decade, and my biggest problem on market were muni buses and the cheese grater.

As a driver, there is a little black hole to get to via private car easily and thats the marriott marquee and target.

It takes an extra while to loop past markrt back around to get to marriott in certain circumstances.

Also, i once tested taking muni down from mission and duboce to embarcaderro vs how long it would take on bicycle; muni bus took 40 minutes. Bike to 7.

Although muni was plagued by little swarms of ticket cops causing massive delays to check tickets and hassle people. (They spent many minutes engaging in not productive discussion with people and arguing with them over tickets, which only delayed the rest of the bus longer)

I lived in San Francisco 15 years ago, and last visited about six years ago. I know a lot can change in that time frame, but when I was there, there wasn't much car traffic on that section of Market. I don't object to the car ban, but I don't think it will change much. Looks like another victory of PR over practical impact. This is a cheap and easy way to gain good press without addressing any of San Francisco's core transit problems.

private cars are bad anywhere in a city

This article closes with a really interesting quote:

“For most of the 20th century, there was a belief that the primary function of our transportation infrastructure was reducing congestion. Most people would agree that those efforts failed,” said Tumlin. “If we want cities to exist, we have to to use our abilities to cut emissions through transportation.”

"... pedestrianizing their downtown cores ..."

Lots of cities already did this in the previous millennium. Nice to see that 40 years later word is finally starting to get around to the likes of NYC and SF.

Checked it out at lunch yesterday and the roadway seemed noticeably emptier to me. Yes, still buses and street cars but felt much less hectic. As a bikeshare user I’ll be more excited to use Market to get around downtown.

It's nice to see private cars not being able to drive down Market, but calling it "car free" is a dishonest title. Taxis, buses, commercial vehicles and muni will make it far from a pedestrians paradise.

Here in madison we have a personal car-free street in our "spine" and it's great, the businesses there are some of the most sought after spaces

Here's an attempt at mapping the pedestrian areas of cities.

It's designed for France but seems to work for San Francisco : http://villes.plus/San%20Francisco

Oops. I actually drove on Market yesterday.

Not all of market is closed to cars.

The article is also incorrect on one detail. Market south of 10th to Van Ness is closed. Only the northbound lane is open from Van Ness to 10th. This is so the SFMTA employees can still drive to work and park in their garages every day.

An interesting thing I learned a while back that surprised me was that in the days before cars, death rates from accidents involving horses and horse drawn vehicles where similar to the death rates in our time from car accidents [1] [2] [3]. Horses were also quite polluting.

I wonder, then, if there were efforts back then to close major streets to horses?

[1] https://legallysociable.com/2012/09/07/figures-more-deaths-p...

[2] https://www.bmj.com/rapid-response/2011/10/31/cars-and-horse...

[3] https://www.seacoastonline.com/article/20110107/NEWS/1010703...

Why are taxis still allowed?

I don't know how it's in the US, but where I've been or lived in Europe taxis are considered a part of public transit.

People will look back on the late-20th century in the future and be amazed that a common citizen had their own car, their own house with a yard, ate meat daily, etc

I would much rather live in a drivable SF before overpopulation than cope with compromises that overpopulation demands. Changes like this are necessary, but they feel more like the decline of civilization as we know it than progress

In Seattle they've moved the SR-99 underground and have removed the eye-sore of the viaduct [1]. It's been a huge improvement to the waterfront. This year they'll be adding green space, a two-way protected bike lane, etc [2]. I'm looking forward to seeing it completed :)

1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mk3ji2-kZf8

2. https://waterfrontseattle.org/waterfront-projects/park-prome...

I really liked walking under the viaduct. It was shelter from the weather. It just seemed really nice under there. I even thought it was sort of attractive.

Seattle needs to add a great big awning that has as much character as the viaduct had. It might as well do double-duty of course, with cars on top.

Seattleites need no shelter from the weather :D

I don’t understand. Why are traditional taxis still allowed?


Does Uber and lyft still get to run cars there? Because that would just make it seem like the law got influenced by corporations.

No, only licensed taxis.

Too bad it's not homeless free.

San Francisco politics is all about addressing issues that aren't problems and ignoring issues that are problems. I moved 3 months ago and would never go back. I imagine this will just lead to massive traffic issues and more homeless camps and needles in the downtown area.

When will it be poop-free?

SF needs to build diagonal crossing bridges (or tunnels). The traffic jams come from all the pedestrians crossing the streets.

Nah ban the cars.

SF needs to build diagonal crossing bridges (or tunnels). The traffic jams come from all the vehicles i pedestrian spaces.

Fixed that for you.

Regardless of how you frame it not forcing different classes of traffic to cross each other at the same grade is almost always (i.e. always but I'm sure there's exception or two out there) improvement for both but projects like that rarely happen in this day and age.

Slightly OT but glad to see Citylab is still publishing - how is it doing?

Love that they think banning most vehicles from a main traffic artery is going to reduce congestion. Classic SF urban planning move.

"Please don't post shallow dismissals, especially of other people's work. A good critical comment teaches us something."


If you know more than others about this topic, a good way to comment is to share some of what you know, so we can all learn something. Snarky dismissiveness doesn't help anyone.

I didn't realize that they allow taxis but not Uber/Lyft. How delightfully corrupt!

I don't know about corrupt. Uber and Lyft sidelined the regulations around taxis when they launched because "disruption".

There is no limit to the number of cars Uber and Lyft put on the road. And just about anyone can be a driver. So an Uber driver should be allowed to drive down these streets when carrying a passenger. But what about when they don't have one? How do you tell the difference between that and them just driving for their own purposes?

In short, what's to stop me signing up to be an Uber driver, putting my little decal on my car then driving through downtown SF, parking up and going to the office job I've always had? Street closures would be totally compromised by giant loopholes like that.

Uber and Lyft created this grey area, willingly. Unfortunately they now have to live in it.

> How do you tell the difference between that and them just driving for their own purposes?

The non corrupt version is of course that Taxis are not exempt from the car ban.

Why? Taxis are part of public transport regulated by the city itself. There's no contradiction with them granting taxis special status within the city infrastructure. There is a contradiction with allowing regular drivers to use a road closed for cars just so those drivers can earn some money.

If something is corrupt it's to do with the way permits are granted, not that those permits permit certain things.

And I'd personally be in favour of that. But is the argument really "taxis shouldn't be allowed to do X because the unregulated startup that ignored city regulations has worked itself into a position where it can't do X, and anything else is corrupt"?

If you see the old Taxi system and its regulations as deeply corrupt, you see Uber/Lyft as civil disobedience heroes for crushing an oppressive system.

You probably don't agree, but at least be aware of how we think.

I do see the old taxi system as deeply corrupt. I just see Uber/Lyft is utterly corrupt in a different way.

It's a rare day when I meet a bigger cynic than myself.

It warms my heart in several ways :)

No, I think the reasons for banning them both are the same. They both represent low-density car traffic in the same way that individual vehicles do. I don't see any reason that a taxi/uber/lyft should automatically get better treatment than any other random driver.

The muni drivers have a term for uturn accidents on Market - Uber Lefts, not taxi lefts.

Taxi drivers used to be natives and typically older. You get ridesharing drivers from Orinda downtown and they do crazy stuff.

My point was that taxis should have been banned too.

It sounds like you think regulations should be used to punish businesses that wronged the government itself (as opposed to people).

It sounds like you're projecting a straw man onto me.

> Uber and Lyft sidelined the regulations around taxis when they launched because "disruption".

This isn’t a reason to prevent them from being on Market Street as compared to taxis. Both serve the same function. Maybe I misinterpreted, but this sentence makes it sound like you think banning them from a street while not banning taxis is a reasonable way to apply regulations BECAUSE Uber and Lyft ignored regulations in the past.

I agree in principle with what you follow up with, that there isn’t a limit to the number of rideshare vehicles in SF at any given time (at least not with current technology, although it wouldn’t be difficult to do).

Uber is a ridesharing app. From the perspective of the government it's pure coincidence that the driver and the rider are going the same way and when the rider is paying he is merely splitting the gas bill and that means its a private car.

There are two things the government could have done: 1. Exempt anyone with the ridesharing app 2. Fully regulate ridesharing so that they are no longer classified as private cars.

1. means abolishing the car ban and Uber will fiercely fight 2.

This is a situation the ridesharing companies brought upon themselves so I don't see how you can describe the government as corrupt.

> From the perspective of the government it's pure coincidence that the driver and the rider are going the same way and when the rider is paying he is merely splitting the gas bill and that means its a private car.

I feel like this assumption is no longer true. Many local governments do regulate ride-sharing companies.

3. Not allow any cars on Market, including taxis

This seems like the obvious solution to me.

Imagine not rewarding regulatory arbitrage! Let's ban personal vehicles except for if the personal vehicle is owned by someone who claims to be a taxi cab driver despite minimal training and questionable familiarity with the city, being pressured by their passenger to drive quickly and drop them off promptly or risk getting a 4* or lower rating that pushes them towards getting kicked off the service.

Taxis aren't exactly perfect but I've had some truly horrible experiences with unqualified Lyft drivers so anything that gets drivers of questionable skill away from pedestrians is fine with me. I use Lyft frequently and something like 80% of drivers make an illegal turn to get to my apartment because Google Maps tells you to do it, despite the fact that there's a super visible sign telling you it's illegal and unsafe. If I don't wave them away they love to pull into an exit only driveway, too.

I'd be in favor of banning taxis from the street too - maybe you should contact local representatives and push for that.

Uber is also corrupt so there's that.

If you want to talk corruption, just look at the areas that changed. Notice that one block of Market north of Van Ness still allows cars in one direction? Know why? It's because that's where the SFMTA HQ is, and they all drive to work from the burbs/Richmond/Sunset. They have 1 floor in the neighboring building and have an outsized amount of parking for 1 floor.

tldr the SFMTA couldn't be bothered so carved out an area so they can still drive to work.

If that's true it sounds like some civil disobedience is in order. If some citizens helped police that section of road the SFMTA workers would get frustrated and just stop using it.

SFMTA is on the south intersection of Van Ness and Market. They turn right off of Van Ness then right on 11th to pull into the garages (in the SFMTA building and 1455 Market). Check out the overhead map of Van Ness/Market and it becomes glaring.

Ban private cars from all inner cities, at least in Europe where there's acceptable public transport and alternatives.

We need to reclaim our cities and revert the damage done by big auto. GM and others have screwed American city inhabitants for decades by actively destroying public transport projects through lobbyism and blackmail.

> Ban private cars from all inner cities, at least in Europe where there's acceptable public transport and alternatives.

A more constructive/less destructive model would be for SF to actually built decent public transport and get cars off the street by offering better alternatives.

Of course, SF long ago lost its ability to build things. So only banning remains in the toolbox.

Fast buses are difficult if they are stuck in car traffic. Remove the cars and the bus can move much faster. If the bus moves faster and can more accurately predict a schedule, more people may use it, which allows more frequent runs, and so on.

It took SF over 20 years to get started on one fast bus line on Geary. It's still not done.


Functioning major cities build subways, a much bigger undertaking.

I think buses is all we can handle in SF considering the Chinatown subway station debacle.

Our roads are fairly wide for a city, I think busses are ok. They're way cheaper too.

I guess we'll see by 2040 :)

Buses also need to be safe in SF. If its just me riding, I sometimes will grab one rather than driving. If I am going somewhere with my son, I typically just use the car.

We can restrict cars and build public transit. Cars are the #1 killer of Americans under the age of 25. It only falls to #2 at the next age range because of overdose deaths.

Cars are deadly and inefficient. Electric cars are still cars.

Except that most vehicular deaths don't occur in cities [1]. Banning cars in metro areas would do basically nothing to change the things you mention. Banning cars where deaths actually happen is a complete non-starter.

[1] https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2015/10/the-geography...

New York City sees ~200 traffic deaths every year, the good majority of them pedestrians, and it's traumatic every time it happens. Sure, as a percentage of our population, we have fewer people dying from car crashes than Montana, but so what? Does that mean the 200 deaths per year is acceptable, especially when we can do a lot more to bring down the number of deaths than Montana can because we're dense enough for people to use alternatives?

It would make a real difference in NYC, so why wouldn't we do it. I'm always a little bit on edge when crossing intersections on foot, and especially when biking, because so many drivers are so erratic and dangerous. We don't need to put up with it.

What does "traffic deaths" mean and what are the detailed stats on that? I'd love to see a source because I strongly suspect a large portion of those are not private passenger vehicle collisions.

Also, every transportation method includes accidents. From [1] describing NYC subway safety, "There were nearly 900 incidents last year [2017] in which someone was on the tracks or was hit by a train after getting too close while on the platform." Should we also ban subways because people die as a result of them?

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/17/nyregion/nyc-subway-track...

The majority of those are people on foot or on bike who get run over by cars and trucks. The rest are people in cars and trucks who die either in single vehicle crashes or in crashes with other vehicles. This doesn't include subway deaths; that's a separate stat. I'm not playing semantic games here.


As for the subway, that's a separate topic. I'm not sure what you're trying to accomplish with your whataboutism. Yes, of course it can and should be made safer. One obvious way to do so would be to add platform gates as many other subway systems worldwide have. But the subway is already a lot safer than on-street vehicle traffic, and no, of course we shouldn't ban it.

Your NYT article does not provide any actual detailed statistics on type of vehicle involved, let alone whether the drivers were always at fault.

And I'm pointing out the issues with transportation safety in general because people such as yourself demonize cars specifically when it's not at all clear that cars are the real problem, let alone the biggest one. Look at Tokyo for example. Cars are all over the city, but pedestrian fatalities are extremely low because affordances are given to pedestrian traffic (ex. elevated crosswalks). If you want to sell people on banning personal vehicles in cities, the burden of proof is on you that 1) cars are the best problem to focus on, 2) the only way to solve the problem is to ban cars, and 3) the available alternatives are actually better than cars

> let alone whether the drivers were always at fault

Why is this relevant? If the city has a 60mph highway running through a dense neighborhood, and a toddler walks into the street, and is killed by a driver (not the driver's fault), that hardly absolves the city of addressing this problem.

I suspect this kind of thinking is what adds to a lot of the friction. Nobody is demonizing drivers. What many of us are upset with is our cities' planning, giving far too much leeway to vehicles and too little to human beings living there.

> Look at Tokyo for example. Cars are all over the city, but pedestrian fatalities are extremely low because affordances are given to pedestrian traffic (ex. elevated crosswalks). If you want to sell people on banning personal vehicles in cities, the burden of proof is on you that 1) cars are the best problem to focus on, 2) the only way to solve the problem is to ban cars, and 3) the available alternatives are actually better than cars

Tokyo has a lower car ownership rate than every city in the U.S. So... although cars may be "all over the city", they're still relatively uncommon.

And what problems do you think we're focused on here? It's not just about safety from car accidents. It's also:

- Is cheaper to not build / maintain roads/streets/bridges/parking lots that would otherwise be unnecessary.

- More pleasant for city residents (fewer honking horns, less sitting in traffic, more space for parks and greenery, more walking -> healthier residents, etc.)

- More environmentally friendly from both a localized air pollution standpoint and a global climate one.

Besides the other commenter pointing out that Tokyo has low car ownership rates, so if that's your ideal model then you too are essentially on the same side as getting rid of most of the cars, there's a telling fact in your suggestion to remove people from the urban streetscape entirely by removing them to elevated walkways. Cities are for people. Why are cars so important that they should take over everything? Why ban people from the streets instead of banning the cars? I don't want to have to take stairways and bridges everywhere, and then have huge numbers of vehicles whizzing by constantly at ground level emitting lots of pollution (yes, even EVs emit brake and tire dust). That sounds like a dystopian nightmare city, not a pleasant city.

And I don't know what to tell you, but I've been to Tokyo, and it's nothing like what you're describing. You sure you went to the right place? The most busy pedestrian crossing in the world, the Shibuya scramble, is in Tokyo, and it's an at-grade intersection. You know why it's safe? Because pedestrians are prioritized over vehicles, and the longest part of the light cycle stops all the car traffic entirely and lets people walk everywhere. And also, the Japanese are simply more communally-minded than Americans. Simply put, their drivers are better-behaved. They generally won't park in marked bike lanes (same as in Amsterdam) because of the social stigma of doing so. Meanwhile, in the US, drivers don't give a shit, and so we need a solution that isn't social stigma -- building more physical protection and removing cars entirely from many spaces, since people can't and won't operate them safely.

And the discussion of "fault" is entirely missing the point. It doesn't matter who's at fault in any given fatal crash. What matters is that we have 40k deaths per year in the United States caused by vehicles, more than almost any other cause, and we need to fix it. The fault if anything is a systems problem; we have way too many cars, not enough alternatives to them, and the built city environment prioritizes cars too much and doesn't do enough to separate vulnerable people who aren't in cars from them entirely.

Does "vehicular deaths" include deaths caused by air pollution? I think I've read that cars cause more deaths through air pollution than through collisions.

I happen to know that 100% of vehicular deaths in San Francisco happen in the city, so your numbers are pretty suspect.

Great, how many vehicular deaths is that exactly, and how many are cars instead of other vehicles not banned? For comparison, let's also make sure to check the number of CalTrain and BART deaths each year (at least 20 last year)[1].

[1] https://www.mercurynews.com/2019/09/28/as-deaths-rise-on-bay...

You can't mix and match stats like that.

I think it's the "We" that Senior BurningFrog is talking about. The central subway debacle ought to give one pause about the clowns in San Francisco government building anything, ever. 2 billion dollars for 2 miles of subway and counting over the last decade or two; I can't remember how long this has been in the works. Meanwhile Russian barbarians able to add subway stops at will, even during collapse of the Soviet Union.


Build better alternative works only when combined with a prohibition on cars. Otherwise as soon as the traffic situation improves (as in more people taking bus), car becomes even more faster and convenient. There has to some artificial constraint on the other side - whether it is outright ban or fee/tax or permits is to be seen

There's two part pressure needed for every change: good alternatives and disincentives for the old option.

Empirically, I don't see that at all.

Usually a better alternative will make the old thing obsolete without any disincentives.

This only works if better alternatives don’t impact the existing means.

For instance if you want a good cable car system or dedicated bus lanes, bike paths, it will go through reducing or removing private car lanes.

In general it’s both effects in one go: transform/reduce the existing infra into the new one, automatically making the new one better when it lands (and inconveniencing everyone until it lands)

IMHO, facts don't sell anything. Defining an option as better isn't sufficient. Disincentives for the status quo are not necessarily taxes or legislation. A powerful disincentive is "missing out" on a "movement" or "being left behind". Adding busses doesn't feel like a "movement", but car-less cities has a nice Green Dream ring to it that might garner support from the right demographics by allowing a moral high ground. There will be increasing disincentive pressure against neighborhoods that allow cars, by a migration of commercial business to car-less areas, perhaps, or a loss of property values in those car-packed areas. But for those disincentives to be effective, they should be given time in the spotlight.


Murder requires intent. Involuntary manslaughter is more accurate, if not as emotionally charged.

They know. They deliberately drive As close as they can to cyclists because they feel they own the lane, and if we die it’s our own fault.

Honestly you should probably talk to someone about these thoughts.

That's ridiculous, I'm from Europe, I like moving around city in a car and I don't mind other cars, but a) there should be only underground parking lots; b) there should be bike lanes everywhere where there are roads; c) parking in illegal spots should be severly punished and d) diesel cars (and petrol when electric cars become mainstream) should be banned from entering city center. I don't understand the mentality that "I don't want cars in MY city so we should ban all cars!" - I don't like some things in my city as well but I understand that it's hard to please all so we should simply aim for moderation.

> Ban private cars from all inner cities > We need to reclaim our cities

Cities have a responsibility that extends beyond their own defined borders. Cities act as the cultural, legal, and commercial nexus for the surrounding rural and suburban area – sometimes that can include the entire state.

That responsibility includes the ability for outsiders to be able to access it.

Bike, bus, or train. The ability for outsiders can exist without cars.

Dedicated lanes and car restrictions make buses acceptable public transit pretty cheaply. They can at least serve as a bridge in cities that are borderline ready for restrictions to get the ball moving faster.

I get what you're going for, American cities are very car centric. But do you have any sources for those strong claims like GM blackmailing people?

It's a reference to the GM streetcar conspiracy (most notably retold in Who Framed Roger Rabbit).

While it's a decently well-known anecdote, most experts nowadays believe that the very real attempt to monopolize the selling of buses to city transit did not contribute in any significant way to the dismantling of the streetcars--the streetcars were already in rude health and dying, and their rapid dismantling happened even in cities where the bus transit companies were not involved.

> the streetcars were already in rude health and dying

You can't be both in rude health and dying at the same time! They mean the opposite thing!

Rude health isn’t really a common term. I interpreted it as poor health which seems rather obvious from the context. It does appear to actually mean good health but it’s pretty obscure.

GM is already laying the groundwork for the next bailout with their plans to stop building cars, they just don't realize it yet. As for the plan to ban cars from city centers, I am all for that. I want to see mass amounts of money invested in public transit.

Rude health means good health, not poor.

I think, more importantly, is why does it matter? We have the infrastructure we have now. Maybe GM should be held accountable for what they did, but what does that have to do with access to cities for people with cars today?

I see a lot of vitriol towards drivers in this thread, and any other time this topic comes up. We didn't make the world the way it is. It ultimately feels like classism. I'm glad these folks are able to take advantage of the privilege of living in a dynamic, multicultural city. But not everyone can afford that.

I think it matters because people often think we "naturally" progressed to today's city arrangements because they're better than the alternatives. And this GM example highlights that it's not necessarily the case.

> I see a lot of vitriol towards drivers in this thread, and any other time this topic comes up.

Understand that it is a frustrating topic. Cars are one of the top killers in the U.S. both directly and indirectly. They make our places of living less safe and less pleasant. It's especially frustrating when people who live in the suburbs commute in to where we live, then complain about how unpleasant city living is—in large part because they're making it unpleasant.

> It ultimately feels like classism. I'm glad these folks are able to take advantage of the privilege of living in a dynamic, multicultural city. But not everyone can afford that.

And this is another piece of frustration. Yes, given current government incentives, it can be more affordable to live in the suburbs than in cities. But this is artificial. Urban dwellers ultimately subsidize those living in suburban/rural areas, thanks to government policy carried over from the cold war era. It's so bizarre that we live in a time/place where driving a personal automobile to work is seen as "lower class" than riding bicycles or taking the bus/train to work. Something's broken.

Because there's an argument that the way the world is currently arranged is the best, most ideal way because people are perfectly rational, etc. If it's obvious that someone made suboptimal choices in the past because of a profit motive, shouldn't we examine that and attempt to correct for it, rather than assuming that the status quo is as good as we can get? We may need to save ourselves out of a local maxima and that's not a painless process.

I am very aware of driving's safety statistics. And I'm not saying people shouldn't be able to design their spaces the way they see fit. It's on San Fransiscans to decide what is best for the city, and everyone outside can just deal. Buy neither is "GM blackmailed people" and excuse to treat drivers like murderers in these conversations.

I am OP and quite the driver myself. However, I never drive in the inner city (~ 5km radius from city hall) in my town because:

a) it's annoying due to overloaded traffic

b) it's annoying due to parking

c) my job provides me with year-long public transport ticket and taking a car and paying for all certain and possible costs is economically disadvantageous

d) public transport is amazing, taxis work and ride sharing and car sharing exist on top of it for cases when public transport shuts down (during major incidents usually, e.g. finding yet another WW2 bomb at some construction site)

Just cut it down to business/public traffic and reinvigorate inner city life with more sensible things. It actually already happens from now and then for festivities and other events and people start using ALL of the space that cars uselessly take up.

So, this is an extremely well-known claim for which you can find numerous reasonable-looking citations if you actually cared to spend the couple seconds to ask Google, but FWIW there is a lot of argument as to whether it is really true in such simple terms, despite so many sources and citations.


> So, this is an extremely well-known claim for which you can find numerous reasonable-looking citations

I didn't see any mention of blackmail in that article? Which bit were you referring to?

> We need to reclaim our cities and revert the damage done by big auto. GM and others have screwed American city inhabitants for decades by actively destroying public transport projects through lobbyism and blackmail.

What lobbying are you talking about? The most common story, regarding GM and street cars, has largely been debunked: https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2013/06/be-careful-ho...

> Eventually, argues Slater, the operating costs could not be ignored. Just before World War II the operating costs for buses were 20 percent less per seat than for streetcars. After the war even a trolley-friendly city like San Francisco found buses cost 37 percent less to operate per hour. This wasn't just the case in the land where General Motors was king; in England, too, passenger costs had leveled out or started to favor buses by the 1930s.

> A case study can be made of Los Angeles, where Snell focused a good deal of his attack. But contemporary accounts suggest that a transformation from streetcars to buses was underway long before GM and its affiliates entered the scene circa 1940. As early as 1923, the Pacific Electric rail line was buying buses to replace some of its routes. The city's board of public utilities encouraged this trend — calling the use of motor buses "a foregone conclusion" — and by 1930 the city's big bus conglomerate carried 29 million riders a year.

More generally, you're overlooking the utter failure of public transport systems in the U.S. What lobbying was responsible for DC's and New York's subway systems literally falling apart, despite ample funding? Is GM lobbying responsible for it costing 5-7x as much to build a mile of subway in New York as compared to London or Paris? https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/28/nyregion/new-york-subway-...

What killed transit in the U.S. is a combination of cheap gas prices and ample land making car-dependent sprawl economical, and government incompetence making transit uneconomical. Here in Maryland, the State is building a 26 km light rail line through the suburbs for $7 billion. The Swedish city of Uppsala is building 17 km of light rail through their downtown for 340 million Euro. That cost differential is utterly fatal. For transit to be useful it needs to go where people are. If it costs 10 times as much to build a kilometer of rail, you simply can't build enough transit to make it a viable competitor to driving.

The cost disease likewise makes it impossible to quickly fix problems that make people not want to ride transit. DC's Metro ridership is declining due to low quality of service. We need a new rail station at Roslyn because that is causing a bottleneck. The estimated cost in 2012 was $1 billion for a new underground station on an existing line. By contrast, Stockholm is planning to extend its underground system by 11 km, including 11 new stations for $3.3 billion. A similar new underground line in DC (which is desperately needed to relieve congestion on the Orange/Blue/Silver tunnel) would be a $20 billion project.

At the end of the day, Americans are voting totally rationally, and "lobbying" has nothing to do with it. They see $10 billion projects that provide transit to a handful of people, and quite rationally say "fuck it, let's build more highways." I can guarantee you that if the Uppsala light rail project was going to cost $3.4 billion Euro and take 15+ years to build, like it would here in the U.S., the Swedes wouldn't vote for it either.

Ugh... Building the M4 in Budapest was plagued by scandals, delays, and cost overruns, and ridiculed for having cost a whopping €1.6 billion for the entire line. Salaries over here are perhaps a fourth or a fifth of what they are in the US, but it still boggles the mind that building one metro station would cost $1 billion.

How do prices get that high in the US? Are private contractors too intent on pocketing fat profits? Or is it related to health, tort, or other insurances, or a privately funded pension system?

Nobody knows. "Fat profits" doesn't seem to be it. The contractor for the Maryland light rail, Fluor Corporation, has a 2.6% profit margin according to audited public disclosures. One big thing is environmental laws. Government projects in the U.S. must follow something called NEPA, and create an environmental assessment of the project. In practice, every sentence of that report is subject to litigation. The average environmental report for a transit project therefore takes more than six years to prepare.

The Purple Line in Maryland was tied up in years of litigation:

> n August 2016, U.S. District Court Judge Richard J. Leon found that the Maryland Transit Administration and the Federal Transit Administration did not study whether Metro's maintenance issues and ridership decline would affect the Purple Line.[53] Judge Leon decided to vacate the Purple Line's federal approval.[53] A federal funding agreement cannot be signed without the reinstatement of the environmental approval, and Maryland has said it cannot afford to build the Purple Line without sufficient federal funding.[53][54] On August 21, 2017, despite the ongoing court case over the environmental analysis, $900 million of federal funding was granted for the light rail project.[55] On December 19, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled in favor of the Purple Line, specifically stating that declining ridership on the Washington Metro system does not require Maryland to complete a new environmental study for the Purple Line.[13] This federal appeals court ruling allowed for construction to continue and effectively ended the three-year legal battle surrounding the 16-mile light-rail line project.[12]

This not only adds to the cost--contractors must build in tons of padding because projects can be litigated even after construction starts. But it makes it impossible to build sustained public support for transit projects. People get worked up about a project, vote for funding, and then literally nothing visible happens for half a decade or more while paperwork gets done. It kills momentum completely.

I love my cars. I have 6. And I hate cities.

Since you don't live in a city why did you feel the need to reply? It has nothing to do with you and your six cars.

I love cars as well, it doesn't mean they should dominate areas where other alternatives make more sense in all aspects but subjective preference.

great, dont come to them!


What do you hope to gain by posting such obviously false posts?


Plenty of people go to SF by choice. Very obviously that's the case. Why try to assert otherwise? Just mindless trolling?

“No one goes there anymore.

It’s too crowded.”

People are only there for work. Most will leave in 3-5 years.

Could you please stop posting unsubstantive and/or flamebait comments to HN? You've been doing it repeatedly lately.

If you'd please read https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and stick to the rules when posting here, we'd appreciate it.


Please don't respond to a bad comment with a worse one. The HN guidelines explicitly ask you not to do that.

Especially please don't go into personal attack.


Please explain why I should subsidize your unsustainable rural/suburban lifestyle.

Cities are not self-sustaining. Virtually none of the resources needed to build, maintain or feed one actually come from the city itself.

Due to agricultural monocultures and climate limitations, most rural areas are not self-sustaining either. A given rural locale may contribute certain products to cities, but it is also a net recipient of other products from elsewhere – and the logistics of getting all those products to the given rural locale may well have been managed within cities.

So? That doesn't make them any less necessary. If anything, it just reinforces how necessary they are, since different rural areas need to specialize in different raw materials and foodstuffs.

My comment wasn't a reply to why we should do away with cities, it was a reply to why rural areas should "be subsidized" (I'm assuming road construction here, and maybe social welfare for impoverished).

People in Urban and suburban areas are perfectly aware their food come from mostly rural areas.

Almost everything else in your home; your car; the technology they depend on; the road, telecom, hospital, etc infrastructure and the technology they depend on come almost entirely from cities and suburbs.

HN? The device you use to access it? Almost all the tech news on it? The network infrastructure you use to lower its comment quality? The language its written? The computers it runs on? Not from rural areas.

That is half true; all the raw materials for all if those things come from outside the cities.

Again, I'm not saying cities aren't important, only replying to a comment asking for justification for rural living.

You don’t have to subsidize me, bud. I paid my own money to get a well, get electricity service, no paved roads for miles. I actually can’t think of a government service I didn’t pay for!

Of course you don't. That doesn't mean they don't exist but it is certainly believable that they are conveniently--so conveniently--outside your mental orbit.

Who subsidized your electrical company's build-out of the long-haul transmission lines to get electricity out to you? Do the payers of those subsidies see an ROI from long-haul transmission lines to economically minimal areas?

Ditto telco?

Where do you buy groceries? Who disproportionately paid for all of the utilities and transportation necessary to make that work?

How about delivery? Mail is hugely subsidized, particularly for rural routes, and commercial carriers use all those roads-'n-stuff to get to you. Your last mile, or even last miles, might be dirt--y'all certainly aren't paying proportionally for the highways to get even close enough.

I grew up in rural areas. Lots of people sneered a lot about The Gubmint. And even in that weird epistemic closure not a one paid out what they took. Which is fine; that's how it's supposed to work, and there's an argument for some subsidy of rural living for a number of both moral and practical reasons. But leaving the disingenuity in the closet where it belongs and showing some basic respect for the process that allows it is at least polite.

isn't oil subsidized?

Please include delivery vehicles into your wish, if you are earnest. Or restrict your wish to through-traffic. Otherwise, you are just calling for a ban of other people traffic.

Edit: would the downvoters care to explain why their prime delivery or their coffee beans are necessary traffic while, e.g., a mother driving their kids is not?

The point is to give incentives to people to use public transport, and discurage owning a vehicle that takes up space and resources.

Why should the city build public transport, if mothers with children won't use it?

Maybe cities should try to build public transport that mothers with children prefer to their private cars?

If cities cannot offer something better, they will never convince. So they must restrict. Then at least they should forbid the better for everyone not just for people their voters do not care about. It is quite revealing that the myriad of small, cheap, and flexible transporters that provide all these services inside cities are nearly always exempt from traffic policies.

Mothers with children already have an alternative: Use public transport, or use an uber, or a taxi. There's no reason to own a car.

It's all about utilization: An uber cab will probably see 10%-90% utilization (passenger count / time in transport), while a privately owned car is utilized only a few minutes of the day, by only 1/5th of the passanger capacity. Most of the time it collects rust on a parking spot that could be utilized for a better purpose. Parks, street food stands, benches.

Same for delivery: If the alternative is that everyone oes out and pollutes supermarkets, streets and public transport to get their freshly ground coffee, don't you think that having a vehicle that delivers on the last mile to the customer is much more efficient?

In cities that invest into bike lanes, obviously cargo bikes are becoming a real alternative for delivery services.

Yes, public transport has to be improved, too, nobody argued otherwise.

Now why is utilization suddenly a concern for cars but not for cargo bikes or exotic consumer goods like coffee? Let me guess, you don't own a car, but a bike and you like to drink coffee? How about your bed, could that not be utilized much more efficiently? I bet 16 hours or so it just stands there collecting dust.

In a city, everything that needs space is scarce. You can ask for a "fair" price for a parking space, but then don't complain about a "fair" rent and a "fair" premium on every service that also utilizes space. The thing is that "fair" can look very different to different people.

Yeah great, i also suggest, as a French, that you come and enjoy our great public transport and the kind of people in it, especially at night. Oh and also try walking under 35°C dressed as an executive

I don’t follow the latter

I think the idea is that walking around the city dressed in a heavy suit when it's very hot outside is uncomfortable and sweaty.

I'd argue that requiring your employees to play an archaic game of dress-up is the real problem, but if I'm being honest, it can be pretty uncomfortable to walk around a sweltering city even in street clothes. (That being said I don't think the tradeoff is worth destroying your city with car-centric design)

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