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Governor signs bus-camera ticketing bill, Muni to target double parkers

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A MUNI bus on Geary Street manuvers around a double-parked vehicle on Monday, October 5, 2015. Some buses are equipped with forward-facing cameras to assist in ticketing double parkers in the transit-only lanes. (Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner)
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Drivers beware: If you double-park in a Muni-only lane, The City is coming for you.

Among a bevy of newly signed bills Sunday, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 1287, which makes permanent San Francisco’s pilot Transit-Only Lane Enforcement (TOLE) program.

Authored by Assemblymember David Chiu, D-San Francisco, TOLE is designed to speed up the multitudes of red painted transit-only lanes criss-crossing The City.

Under the program, Muni buses onboard video were enlisted to help enforce the law. Those cameras snap photos of license plates belonging to double-parkers who block transit-only lanes, which only buses and taxis may legally use. Those license plates are then checked in a database, and the drivers ticketed by mail.

But this doesn’t just target private auto drivers. In a 2011, approximately 23% of the TOLE citations were issued to commercial vehicles, according to the SFMTA.

“Muni has to go faster than eight miles an hour,” said Chiu, in a statement. “As we increase service on Muni and our economy continues to grow, we have to make sure that our transit system can operate efficiently and reliably.”

San Francisco has 26 miles of transit-only lanes, according to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. More than 22 miles more of these so-nicknamed “red carpet” lanes are planned for the next decade.

TOLE was introduced in 2007 as a pilot program by then-Assemblywoman Fiona Ma. Chiu’s bill makes the program permanent, but does not expand the scope of enforcement. Previously Chiu sought to allow SFMTA to ticket for autos that “block the box” at intersections, and illegally parking in bus zones that may not necessarily be in transit only lanes, but this met heavy opposition from the American Automobile Association.

These citations are parking tickets, not moving violations.

A previous version of the bill did include moving violations, intending to ticket those who drive in transit-only lanes. Chiu’s office confirmed moving violations were amended out of the bill in June, after also facing stiff opposition from AAA.

Ilyse Magy, a community organizer with the San Francisco Transit Riders group, said this was a hard compromise for those who depend on transit.

“Of course it’s exciting we have this at all,” Magy said of the bill, “but if the goal is to impress upon people the importance of respecting transit lanes, not including moving citations (in the bill) is a big loss.”

Despite the lack of moving citations, Magy pointed to the transit-only lane on Haight Street as one of the many successes in speeding up transit.

With red transit only lanes, she said, “the buses fly by,” which is aided by increased enforcement.
All Muni buses are equipped with TOLE cameras, according to the SFMTA.

TOLE

A sticker on a Muni bus shows its equipped with a camera to ticket cars double-parking in transit-only lanes. Image courtesy of SFMTA.

All Muni buses are equipped with TOLE cameras, according to the SFMTA.

In previous statements, the SFMTA said TOLE helped speed up transit only lanes across The City. Along Geary Boulevard, for instance, the 38-Geary Rapid saw a 3 percent daily reduction in delays, westbound, after TOLE was introduced. The 2-Clement and 3-Jackson saw a 15 percent reduction in delays, according to the SFMTA.

The SFMTA said that the ticketing helps teach drivers to stay out of transit-only lanes.

In 2012, nearly 4,000 TOLE citations were issued by The City, according to the SFMTA, and some of though some of those drivers were repeat offenders, by 2013 many of those repeat-offenders were no longer ticketed under TOLE.

This web version of the story contains a correction from the print edition. The bill did not expand to include enforcement of “block the box” maneuvers by autos. The Examiner apologizes for the error.

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