Close 3rd Street, not Market

A story in today’s Chronicle says the mayor’s office is floating a proposal to close to traffic a major street, like the Embarcadero and all the way down the side of the city to Bayview, and open it up to artists. This follows a recent resurrection of the proposal to close Market St. to automobile traffic.

While the notion of dancers, martial artists and mimes cavorting up and down the Embarcadero is a pleasant fantasy, the neighborhood activist quoted in the first story is correct: the Embarcadero is already a recreation area packed with people ranging up and down broad sidewalks and bike lanes. What would be the point of closing the traffic lanes? Is yoga better on the asphalt? (Maybe those folks who practice yoga in an over-heated room would take to it.)

Instead, go ahead and close Third St. between Market and 23rd. You’d have a fantastic pedestrian boulevard all the way through SOMA, anchored by Yerba Buena Center on one end and the baseball stadium on the other. Then south of there, through Mission Bay and Dogpatch, you could bring pedestrians to the neighborhood for the first time. There are no shops whose businesses would be damaged by the lack of passing traffic.

And the idea of closing Market St. to automobiles is stupid. Chicago provides all the example we need. During the 1980s and early 90s, State St. was a transit mall, closed to cars, open only to buses. And without car traffic, the street died, becoming a dead zone. Since they reopened State St. in 1996, it has rebounded. If they close Market St. to cars, the buses and streetcars might run faster, but watch all the shops close.

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