Plan Would Track SFPD Officers on Muni Using Translink Cards

3377616604_897e497704.jpgFlickr photo: AgentAkit

Everyone knows spotting an SFPD officer on Muni is rare, but now the department thinks it has a way to provide some accountability and track the number of officers who are actually riding the transit system: Translink cards.

Tony Parra, the SFPD Deputy Chief and director of Security Enforcement for the MTA, announced at yesterday’s MTA Board meeting that he’d like to see officers at three stations — Bayview, Mission and Ingelside — get Translink cards. That would amount to 600 officers, considering about 200 are assigned to each station. 

He said a Translink card would be given to each officer individually, and explained how tracking them would work: "An officer would board the revenue vehicle, tag the reader on board that vehicle, ride the system for whatever amount of time they’re available to, and as they exit the vehicle they will tag a secondary reader and now we will have a start date and time and a finish date and time for each officer participating in this program."

The SFPD’s Bus Inspection Program requires each sergeant in a patrol
division and each officer "assigned to a radio car" to make two transit
inspections per shift. Officers on foot patrol are required to make at
least four inspections per shift.

Parra made mention of the Translink proposal before the Board approved a memorandum of understanding with the SFPD, a document that is supposed to give MTA Chief Nat Ford more control over SFPD officers patrolling Muni, including the Traffic Company and the Muni Response Team.

Outside the meeting, Streetsblog asked Parra if there has been stepped up efforts to put more officers on Muni in light of the criticism.

"Yes, we are trying to improve our capabilities and our performance riding the system. We think it’s very important and provides a peaceful environment and we want to ensure that for the riders."

And does giving the MTA more control over the officers mean better enforcement of double parkers in bike lanes, and ticketing drivers in bus-only lanes?

Parra: "Right now police officers can issue that parking violation for someone that is in the bus stops. They continue to do that. Beat officers, especially, that have bus stops along their beats are asked to issue those citations now. That’s part of regular policing."

Streetsblog: "It just seems, though, and I have no evidence to really support this, that it doesn’t happen very often. I saw it happen a few weeks ago after Sunday Streets. There were two motorcycle officers pulling people over and telling them to get out of the bike lane. But they weren’t issuing citations, though. So I’m curious: Will we see a new effort to do that?"

Parra: "I think we are. And remember, every time a police officer pulls over someone the objective is to change that inappropriate behavior one way or another. One can be issuing a citation. Another can merely be a discussion, a quick discussion, a warning, or to enlighten. I see this quite a bit, where adults on bicycles don’t know there’s a law against riding a bicycle on the sidewalk, and so, spreading this information through an encounter or stop is a perfect opportunity to educate the public."

  • The card is a good idea. Not unlike the system used for night watchmen in a building who key into various stations and the time is recorded so there is a record the the entire building was surveyed and at what intervals. It allows analysis and strategic plans as well, once you have stat about who was where, when and how frequently.

  • I like how Parra just totally flipped it and put the emphasis on bike riders breaking the law. Wasn’t the discussion about double parked CARS?

  • tracking the officers by the cards seems like a good idea. good thinking on the part of the MTA. As far as bike lanes go I agree just talking is sometimes good. you want to change behavior. otherwise i think if the police are asked to patrol specific streets for bike lane violations and that they do it it will make a difference.

  • Now that’s smart!

  • How about also giving Mayor Newsom a Translink card so that we could see if he actually ever does ride Muni?

  • @Michael Smith

    Well played. I agree. But I bet he’d just send an intern to jump on and off around town.

  • johnk

    Last night I saw an officer board the T line during my commute home after work. He waved not one but 3 cards in front of the Translink reader. Was he “covering” for a couple of friends who were too busy to make their required inspections? During his trip, he did not move from his location nor did he check riders to see if they’ve paid their fare (my guess is that not more than 50% of riders on the T line pay anything).
    In light of what I witnessed, it appears that this is just one more great bureaucratic idea that will be circumvented by those it’s intended to monitor. If MUNI collected fares from everyone who used the system there would be plenty of money to go around for fixing the system!

  • bm

    How much will TransLink charge the city for mining and providing this data?

    I guess the idealist in me wishes for a police force that actually realizes the value in Muni inspections and does them voluntarily, instead of us having to create a system to monitor them.

  • marcos

    @johnk, perhaps if we raised the fare more then more people could easier afford Muni and would pay more often?

    -marc