Street sweepers may ticket illegal parkers

Mike Koozmin/The S.F. ExaminerCoverage: The SFMTA hopes to attach cameras to street sweepers to free up some parking enforcement officials.

Mike Koozmin/The S.F. ExaminerCoverage: The SFMTA hopes to attach cameras to street sweepers to free up some parking enforcement officials.

The City’s transportation agency will decide in September whether to pursue an enforcement program that would allow cameras affixed on street sweeping vehicles to ticket motorists for illegally parking.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency already has a similar video program on its buses, where cameras snap photos of cars parked in transit-only lanes. The owners of those vehicles are sent a citation without ever being approached by a parking-control officer.

For the past year, the agency has outfitted two street sweeping machines with cameras in an effort to determine if clear video footage of license plates can be captured via the equipment. In September, agency officials will recommend whether to expand the program and begin issuing citations, spokesman Paul Rose said.

The street sweeping camera program could help the agency redeploy its parking control officers to cover The City more effectively. A recent city controller’s report highlighted the flaws of the SFMTA’s parking control program, which lacks the numbers for adequate citywide enforcement. The controller’s report recommended expanding the street cleaning camera program to ease the burden on the agency’s 221 active parking control officers.

However, the program faces many obstacles. Technical flaws in the cameras’ setup result in many license plate images being blurry, concealed or illegible, according to the report. There also is a chance that the cameras could snap up photos and send out citations to legally parked cars.

And there is growing public sentiment against the transportation agency leaning on motorists to balance its budget. An online petition is circulating asking the California Senate to step in and prevent the agency from implementing the street sweeping camera program. Several neighborhood groups also have been established to fight the installation of new parking meters on city streets.

SFMTA Transportation Director Ed Reiskin recently announced plans to raise $7 million in extra funds by redeploying the agency’s parking control officers to capture more citation revenue. The agency’s camera program currently operates on 30 Muni buses. In 2011, those 30 cameras netted an additional $314,385 for the agency, and there are plans to expand the program to cover the entire Muni fleet by next year.

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