A tour bus crashed into a construction site in the area of Stockton and Post streets near Union Square on Nov. 13, 2015. (Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner)

In wake of Union Square bus crash, state lawmakers may tighten tour bus regs

State lawmakers from the Bay Area have announced new legislation to boost funding for bus inspections and tighten requirements around bus inspections.

Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, and state Senator Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo County, made the announcement today, and said they plan to introduce legislation Jan. 4. Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, is coauthoring the bill.

“Our tour bus inspection system is fatally flawed,” Ting said, in a statement. “Preventable tragedies loom under the current system. Innocent people are paying the price for failure and it’s time for big changes.”

The announcement comes on the heels of a high profile tour bus crash in San Francisco’s Union Square. The out-of-control double decker bus struck several vehicles and knocked down scaffolding, leaving 20 people injured.

Soon after the crash, the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates tour buses, revealed the runaway bus was not registered with the commission and therefore did not undergo a safety inspection by the California Highway Patrol.

Chiu and Hill’s legislation would raise the California Highway Patrol’s inspection fee to cover costs of inspection, implement a “performance-based” bus inspection program requiring more frequent inspections, and help the CPUC further identify “ghost” buses which aren’t properly registered.

The legislation also seeks to increase penalties against bus operators who violate those new rules, with permit suspension or revocation, and fines of up to $2,000 per violation, the lawmakers said in a statement.

“Tour buses in San Francisco and California must be safer,” Chiu wrote, in the statement. “Ensuring full inspections and eliminating ghost buses are important steps we need to take so that tourists and residents do not become victims of regulatory loopholes.”

As the Examiner previously reported, CPUC spokeswoman Constance Gordon said shortly after the crash that neither the license plates nor the bus were registered with the CPUC, and therefore it was operating in the company’s fleet without being inspected by the state.

“That vehicle was not among the vehicles listed for City Sightseeing,” Gordon said, explaining that the company is required to inform the CPUC prior to placing a vehicle into operation.

The CHP last inspected City Sightseeing vehicles in September, according to the CPUC. The bus involved in the crash was not inspected because it was not registered with the CPUC.

The CPUC suspended and reinstated City Sightseeing’s permit multiple times beginning in late 2007 and early 2008 for various infractions.

The CPUC audited City Sightseeing in 2012, but the company was uncooperative, Gordon said. The CPUC issued a $1,000 citation for failure to produce records during the audit and the company failed to pay that citation.

In November 2013, the CPUC revoked City Sightseeing’s permit, but a new, separate permit had already been given when the company came under new operation that July.

Bay City News contributed to this story.

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