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San Francisco Municipal Buses to Become Mobile Ticket Cameras
California legislature adopts legislation authorizing San Francisco buses to become mobile ticketing machines.

Municipal buses in San Francisco are set to become rolling ticket machines under first-of-its-kind legislation approved today by the California legislature. If signed into law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), forward-facing digital video cameras would be installed on city buses. The city would use the automated system to mail $100 tickets to the owners of vehicles accused initially of "blocking" buses.

Mayor Gavin Newsom (D) introduced the proposal in April at the urging of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. He is following the lead of London Mayor Ken Livingstone who not only installed cameras on buses, but also set up a network of fixed closed-circuit TV cameras that allow citations to be mailed to the owner of any vehicle straying temporarily into a "bus only" lane. The system generates millions in citation revenue each year.

San Francisco prepared for adoption of the bus cameras by removing lanes used either for parking or general purpose traffic so that they could only be used by bus drivers, either all day or during certain specified hours. A July 2006 study by the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) found that the system confused motorists.

"A survey of San Francisco's bus-only lanes showed a lack of consistency in operating hours and uneven signage guidelines," the report stated. "Additionally, lack of consistent operating times and signage/street markings can lead to confusing conditions for drivers not familiar with the concept of bus-only lanes."

Today's proposed law gives San Francisco the freedom to define the scope of a "parking violation," ticketable by a camera to include blocking a bus lane. Already, transit lane violations (Article 3, Section 31) and parking tickets (Article 3, Section 32) are treated under adjacent sections of the municipal code. London tickets such violations to great effect. A single fixed camera in the Borough of Sutton generated an astonishing £85,000 (US $170,000) in just eleven weeks by ticketing motorists who strayed into a bus lane while making a turn into a hardware store parking lot.

Unlike the San Francisco's red light camera tickets, which are issued to the driver of the vehicle, citations issued by a city bus would be "civil" tickets where the owner of the vehicle is solely responsible for the financial penalty. The law also authorizes Municipal Transportation Agency employees to access sensitive personal data from the Department of Motor Vehicles database for the purpose of issuing tickets.

The California Assembly adopted the legislation by a 72-0 vote. The state Senate voted 21-15 in favor of the legislation earlier this week.

Source: PDF File Assembly Bill 101 (California State Assembly, 9/12/2007)

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