To understand how people move through, use, and perceive the character and invitations of Market Street, Gehl conducted a Public Space Public Life survey (PSPL). The team gathered input from local communities through public hearings, workshops and lectures, and used the results to re-frame the conversation, focused on the creation of a 21st-Century main street, not just a transportation solution.
In 2015, Gehl called upon designers, artists and makers to develop and test ideas to enliven the sidewalk along Market Street and attract public life. Over three days, 50 prototypes were installed along Market Street and over three days approximately 300,000 people were engaged. The results revealed how drastically Market Street’s character changed during the event and made it clear that invitations for public life could invigorate the street, specifically targeting times when it otherwise begins to feel empty.
These pilot projects allowed people to experience new uses of the street in real-time, and their responses contributed to the ultimate design concept. In 2019, a new streetscape design complete with the integration of street life zones, grade separated bicycle lanes, private vehicle access prohibition, improved transit services for buses and streetcars and overall improvements to public space safety and accessibility, was approved by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors. Through engagement, effective transit options and relevant programming, Gehl’s efforts as lead urban designer repositioned Market Street as a civic, cultural, and economic center radically repositioning biking, bringing vibrant public life to the street and offering renewed opportunities for retail in San Francisco. As of January 2020, San Francisco’s Market Street finally became car-free — a much anticipated moment that removed private vehicle access from 2.2 miles of Market Street.