"LightRail" Rendering

Illuminate the Arts, the group behind The Bay Lights which is currently illuminating the Bay Bridge, is working on another large-scale installation of LEDs in San Francisco.

The proposed “LightRail” installation would suspend LED tubes from the overhead MUNI lines along the 2.1 mile stretch of Market Street from One Market to Van Ness. The lights would modulate in conjunction with the MUNI lines below, “the world’s first subway-responsive light sculpture.”

From the sponsors of the project:

By beautifully visualizing the real-time movement of underground trains, LightRail will transform San Francisco’s preeminent thoroughfare—our Champs-Elysées– into a scene of wonder and awe for millions of people, re-establishing Market Street as a place of destination rather than a mere route of passage. The installation will visually connect Market Street’s long-fragmented communities and further fuel efforts aiming to revitalize Market Street–while reinforcing the corridor’s historic creative essence.

The artwork will be temporary–lasting only through 2018, the year Market Street is slated to be reconfigured to better serve and inspire our city’s residents and visitors for generations to come.

In a contemporary nod to Market Street’s history of purposeful and beautiful illumination, LightRail mirrors the historic intention of the Path of Gold lights which created vibrancy through illumination more than a century ago. The Path of Gold lights have always served a dual purpose–delivering an inspiring and attractive aesthetic experience while fulfilling the utilitarian task of supporting the overhead catenary system of the electrified Market Street trolley line.

Having already received “explicit support” from the Mayor’s Office, the SF Arts Commission, SFDPW, and SFMTA, this week San Francisco’s Historic Preservation Committee will weigh-in with respect to the execution of the installation which includes mounting 83 boxes measuring 11.5″ x 40″ x 8″ to power the LEDs onto the Path of Gold light standards that line Market Street.

LightRail Utility Box

The Path of Gold light standards which run from 1 Market Street to 2490 Market Street between Castro and Collingwood were designated City Landmark No. 200 in 1991.

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by Sierrajeff

    Would rather see the money spent keeping Bay Lights in place than turn Market Street into the Fremont Street Experience (Vegas reference).

    • Posted by yertle

      How about *actual* light rail installations?

      San Francisco is proving itself to be Disneyland for the rich more every day.

  2. Posted by BobN

    Or…. we could take the money and fix the lighting that runs under/along the Embarcadero sidewalks.

  3. Posted by Butzi

    Ah yes, the old “Market is our Champs-Élysées” reference. I remember slick Willie making that comment more than once; still don’t see it.

    Makes you wonder what those people were actually doing on their fact-gathering trip to Paris. I’m guessing their time was spent at the Crazy Horse, and not strolling along the Champs.

  4. Posted by Hitman

    Only light can combat darkness. Bravo!

  5. Posted by John

    Enough already. We’re not Las Vegas

  6. Posted by invented

    Let Market Street stand on its own. Is there not enough visual interest that we need to shove look-at-me art in the mix? Can’t we just let the urban environment dazzle on it’s own without contrived installations all over the place? Let the city be! There are great places to add art (let me think of one) — this isn’t it. But Yes on illuminating Saitowitz’s ribbon of light along Embarc.

  7. Posted by James

    This is great, whenever there’s a Muni meltdown in the tunnel it will be visible on the street too, so you’ll know you should walk instead!

  8. Posted by Jill

    Mood lighting for crack deals. Great idea

  9. Posted by Mark

    How about cleaning up Market St. west of 5th St. and doing something about streetscapes like replacing the listing sycamore trees with something a bit more wind and fog tolerant.

  10. Posted by michael

    how about changing 2 mile stretch long sidewalk? please its an eyesore!!

  11. Posted by Jackson

    At first I thought cheesy, but after re-reading the article and seeing the lights would only be up through 2018, why not give it a go?
    Some people were against the Bay Bridge lights and they are fantastic.
    As long as no City money is involved in installation, let try it.
    Many years ago, London and colored lasers down Oxford Street during the Christmas season and they looked cool.

  12. Posted by Alex

    AHH Do it! This is a great idea! I’m enjoying the upsurge in public artwork! Also, why is it that whenever the city plans something big people go straight to the conclusion that they’re trying to imitate another city. People support taller skyscrapers and then they’re told that they want the city to look more like New York, people support this magnificent piece of art and the people say we’re trying to imitate Las Vegas, people want to build building on the waterfront and then they say we’re trying to be more like Miami.

    • Posted by James

      And don’t forget the reverse, if people want small buildings with ample parking, we’re imitating Walnut Creek!

  13. Posted by Miguelito

    I hope the lights won’t literally move the same speed as the trains. Otherwise it’s going to be hilarious looking as they crawl along at “top speed.”

    What’s coming in 2018? I’m assuming since you can’t legally drive on most blocks of Market already, the big transformation is that Market will just be 7 green bike lanes (all side streets blocked off to auto traffic too since cyclists can’t figure out how to stop at traffic lights) plus the F line. Am I close?

  14. Posted by George

    Ugh! The Bay Bridge “lights” are lame enough! :(

  15. Posted by Sebra leaves

    I’m in Paris now and I can tell you that “World Class” cities are not created by urban planners. They earn the title after centuries of growing in a very dignified manner. SF will never come close in our lifetime. The more they try the dumber they look. Take the Brown Bridge that most people in Sacramento now admit, was the wrong design, $6 billion dollars and counting later…

    • Posted by san FronziScheme (formerly known as lol)

      Yet without the Baron Haussmann’s dusting off of Paris in the mid-1800s, Paris would be a pretty impractical and less monumental city. He “pierced” thoroughfares, and made sure every one of them would have a perspective and a monument to look at. One of the craziest moves was the making of the Boulevard de Sebastopol/Starsbourg. There was no real need for a new North-South way: Saint Denis and Saint Martin were doing the job just fine. But he wanted a straight line so that the posh carriages would have a nice airy ride with a nice view towards the Gare de l’Est.

      Rue de Rivoli was also urban planning, 2 decades before Haussmann. Paris wouldn’t be what it is today without urban planning.

  16. Posted by soccermom

    Really? You took down my haiku?

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