All Muni Buses Now Have Transit Lane Enforcement Cameras

Image: KRON 4‘s People Behaving Badly

Muni has installed front-facing cameras on every Muni bus to ticket drivers who double-park in transit-only lanes.

Muni is the first major American transit agency to have enforcement cameras on every bus. The first transit lane cameras were installed as part of a pilot program in 2008. Like system-wide all-door boarding, the idea could spread to other transit systems.

Muni didn’t publicize the milestone, but we checked up on the effort with SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose, who said it was completed last fall (a few months off the target date of spring 2014). Equipping the whole fleet marks a major milestone in the effort to make Muni service more effective, and it nicely complements the city’s growing number of red-painted transit lanes.

So be warned, drivers: If a Muni bus weaves around your parked car in a transit lane, you will get a ticket in the mail. The base fine is $110.

Unfortunately, state law prohibits the cameras from being used to cite moving violations, so drivers cruising down a Muni lane can still only be penalized by the SFPD.

  • Awesome! Finally, real enforcement teeth instead of just paint and plead.

  • Great news! Let’s reform the state law for moving violations ..which rep would get it done quickest?

  • lunartree

    This is so much better than expecting cops to actually enforce it.

  • runn3r85

    Do they share the actual numbers of tickets they give and which areas receive the most tickets? I hope SFMTA uses the data they collect to do some in person enforcement (with or without SFPD)

  • shamelessly

    Awesome! Now how about a pilot program that lets cyclists install cameras on our handlebars that will automatically ticket cars double-parked in bike lanes! =]

  • Boo

    more people seem to drive in the transit only lanes than double park in them… it would be nice if they could start citing those guys.

  • Bruce

    These are also used to catch drivers parking in bus zones (in front of stops), right?

  • the_greasybear

    “Unfortunately, state law prohibits the cameras from being used to cite moving violations, so drivers cruising down a Muni lane can still only be penalized by the SFPD.”

    Which is to say: drivers who choose to break the law and drive in transit-only lanes shall never, ever be cited since the SFPD is so incredibly biased in favor of motorists.

  • Unfortunately, state law prohibits the cameras from being used to cite moving violations…

    That’s insane. Anyone know what the reasoning behind this is/was?

  • Mesozoic Polk

    Now how about we all install cameras on our cars to gather footage of Muni buses that stop in the middle of the street (to pick up passengers, driver grabbing a taco, etc.) and impede our constitutional right to fast, freely-moving traffic lanes in a crowded urban environment.

  • Michael Smith

    I think this question is quite important. If they spent money putting in a camera and are not actually writing any tickets then it is a just a waste of resources.

  • Andy Chow

    Moving violation requires visual identification of the driver, so forward cameras are not sufficient. Red light cameras flashes so that the picture of the driver is taken for the ticket.

    I don’t think driving on transit lane is a “moving violation” since driving on HOV lanes on the freeway isn’t a moving violation, and driving on transit lane is a municipal law versus California Vehicle Code. However, I don’t think that any California jurisdiction is enforcing vehicle occupancy laws with cameras.

  • runn3r85

    Found this article, from 2012. It does seem they are writing a lot of tickets from them. Be curious to see how many now that all buses have them.

    http://www.sfexaminer.com/sanfrancisco/muni-adding-more-traffic-cams-in-effort-to-boost-revenue/Content?oid=2199061

    And curiously, at the time MUNI tried to write tickets for people in transit lanes, so who knows if those numbers are really accurate.

  • Sprague

    I share your concern. It’s great that Muni has this technology but it’s money down the drain if the cameras aren’t being used as intended. It is disturbing that, apparently to this day, the transit signal priority equipment along the Embarcadero (ie. south of Mission to 4th and King) was installed but never activated. This is incredibly wasteful and counter productive to good transit and good government.

  • A.Craft

    The bike lane is part of the road way and cars are allowed to pull out of the flow of traffic into those lanes for the safe embarking and disembarking of passengers and to make right hand turns. They are not EXCLUSIVE domain of cyclists. Cyclists are also required to obey all traffic laws. Take the log out of your own eye.

  • theqin

    I am not sure what you mean, the transit signal priority system is installed and working. You can tell the difference when riding the light rail, wait times at certain intersections are significantly shorter. The main problem is that it seems the order of signal changes (i.e. left lane turns first, then straight traffic) seems to be fixed, and the pedestrian count down timers prevent some lights from changing faster.

  • Sprague

    I’m glad to hear that they are working. It’s been awhile since I rode either of the lines along that stretch and the transit signal priority always seemed to not be working (and, at least from other commenters, I’ve read here that it was never made operational after its installment as part of the T-Third project). It’s great to hear that one single left turning vehicle (often with one occupant) apparently can no longer regularly delay two Muni LRV cars filled with passengers.

  • Sprague

    Having written the above, I still find it very discouraging that it apparently took over seven years for these transit priority signals to be activated. It’s great it’s been done – but seven + years to activate them?!

  • jamiewhitaker

    Should be set at 5% of a month’s income – $110 is peanuts to some

  • theqin

    Maybe I wasn’t clear, a single left turning can still delay muni, but it seems as if lights are extended if a muni train is approaching. At lights that don’t automatically change to pedestrian crossing mode, those lights appear to be shortened in many situations. So it still seems that there are places where they could have done more to prefer muni, but at least the extremely long wait on king to cross 4th is a thing of the past. The muni does seem to wait at a lot less lights now, the only real wait that seems too long is at 3rd.

  • @A.Craft – I guess your mote buildup is interfering with reading for comprehension right around the words “double-parked.” Your “safe embarking and disembarking of passengers” verbiage has nothing to do with the law, BTW.

  • CVC § 21655.7 is what authorizes San Francisco to create exclusive public mass transit guideways, though the fines are specified in the municipal Traffic Code. (BTW the state law wording doesn’t include Google buses or ride-shearing businesses.)

  • Paul Knight

    I got a citation from SFPD for being in the transit only lane, when it was still marked with diamonds. Out of 5 cars, he picked me, and I was on my motorcycle. I had to explain to him that motorcycles are exempt from HOV restrictions, he gave me a ticket anyways, saying — “tell that to the judge”. Which I did and the ticket has been dismissed. Now I ride next to painted red transit-only lanes every day, and see dozens of drivers cruising in those lanes, never ever saw a single cop again. We wasted millions to get those red lanes painted, all of the efforts go down the drain if there is no enforcement. The irony is that the city could reclaim all of the money spent with tickets.

  • Richard Mlynarik

    the transit signal priority system is installed and working.

    By Muni’s own Special Ed Needs gold-star-for-effort (gold star and a few hundred million of utterly wasted pork, that is) standards.

    Visit Göteborg or Zürich or some random city in some remotely advanced first world industrial democracy and and observe your tram (or even, god forbid, bus!) not stop between stops. The city name doesn’t even have to be mëtål!

    It’s not that hard. In fact, it is close to trivial here in the 21st century what with new-fangled “microprocessors” and “networks” and all that. Unless of course your entire “public” transportation system is based around contractor welfare and employee welfare with no concern for service delivery or cost effectiveness.

    The system is indeed “working” … working as intended.

  • coolbabybookworm

    I don’t think the red lanes cost millions, maybe a million. More importantly they have resulted in improved transit times. Obviously drivers illegally using them is annoying and causes delays, but we don’t need 100% compliance to have the improvements to speed and reliability that justify the transit only lanes and the red paint.

  • Paul Knight

    With all the outreach, legislation, design, impact studies, approvals, street closures, and installation costs — we are talking millions. Are you one of the those drivers that “using them is annoying and causes some delay”?

  • Ada Niemand

    This is an excellent idea and it’s good that they’ve managed to outfit all the buses with them. Now, how soon will they stop working and how long will it take to repair them?

  • coolbabybookworm

    I would like to see documentation before assuming that it was “millions” which to me sounds like it cost 30 million or something huge when it cost maybe 1-2. It was also spread out in different projects so individually each project was under a million I would wager. I don’t recall that the SFMTA had to hold outreach meetings since the lanes were already in place, they just had to paint them. Same for impact studies and there was no legislation needed. The one exception is maybe the Haight Street one because that involved some construction and engineering of the curb, I believe.

    You misread me, I was saying that when drivers use them it’s annoying and causes some delay [to muni], but it’s still better than nothing or just the tiny diamonds and confusing signs. Even on the heavily abused lanes like on third street there has been improvement in compliance with the red paint. We don’t need 100% compliance for something to be effective, although that doesn’t mean we should give up on that goal and SFPD does need to step it up. Lastly, I do not own a car and rarely drive in the city, but when I do I stay out of transit only lanes and I refuse to double park as well.

  • murphstahoe

    2 wheels bad in the eye of the SFPD.

    Turn on your video camera and say “Would you like to tell Stanley Roberts that you told me to “tell that to the judge””?

  • hailfromsf

    All punitive fines should be a percentage of income/wealth.

  • hailfromsf

    Yes, bike lanes are also turn lanes for cars, which are obligated to make a lane change into them before turning, but if you read closely, he said “double-parked.”

  • joechoj

    I think you should double-check the constitution.

  • jj

    He said “double-parked”, ass. Try reading next time. That’s still illegal.

  • This is unconstitutional bullshit. Any asshole bus driver (which is, spoiler alert: 90% of them) can CLAIM that any car was in a transit lane if he is feeling especially vindictive. Bus drivers are not police officers. The fact that a sworn officer is not personally handing out these tickets is a direct violation of due process.

  • No. Fuck your entitled cyclist ass.

  • RoseFlorida

    I just got a notification of a ticket in the mail through my rental car company. Apparently I was “parked in a bus zone”. By the time I got the ticket (and had to pay a late fine and a rental car company charge) it was too late to contest the violation. On top of that the description of the location is abbreviated and using what is there it appears that I never was in the area.

    It appears that bogus tickets are not infrequent, and they even supply advice on how to contest one – come up with a receipt of some sort that shows you were not in the area at the time of the violation and could not have been guilty.

    I was in Tiburon and was headed to the San Francisco airport. I paid a toll on the GGB and am trying to track down the time of the toll, hoping that gives me evidence that I could not have been parked in a bus zone in some obscure part of SF.

    A weird, unpleasant and expensive experience. Somebody has to pay to fix the terrible potholes in the city, and tourists are an easy target.

  • Mark

    You have no idea what you are talking about, cbbw. The cost to paint a transit lane red is $16 psf, per the SFMTA’s own published data. If you have a wide lane like O’Farrell, you are looking at over $1.300,000 per mile accordingly. Narrower lanes are less. How many miles does SF have already? How many do they plan to paint? And please tell me what type of compliance you “need” and what types of speed improvement and reliability do you need? Because the report is in, the SFMTA does not include speed data because the Chronicle published the data late last year. There was no improvement in bus travel times due to red paint. No information on double parking, because they did not collect the data. The SFMTA is wasting your money. Period.

  • Mark

    The reason they do not enforce it is because a motorist can travel legally in a red transit lane while looking to make a turn a right turn, or to find parking, or to turn into a private driveway. So, it is difficult to ticket someone. There is no rule on how far you can travel in a transit lane to make a right turn, or to look for parking. 100 feet? 200 feet? 300 feet? What if someone is waiting to get into a parking spot, and the bus is arriving? They do not enforce the red lane because they have thought it through. This applies to right hand lanes. Median lanes, they will ticket more because there are no excuses or reasons to be in that lane. Like I said below, if you want to find out what the cost of the red coloring is, and if you want to know what the benefits of the red lane are, and what the safety issues are with red lanes, you can do some homework and find out. No travel time benefit for buses. No compliance improvement, because they never compared the data like they were supposed to, and safety is now an issue. $16 psf, per the
    SFMTA, to put down red lane coloring. Wide lanes, over $1,300,000 per mile. Narrower lanes, 2/3ds of that (15.5 foot vs. 10-11 foot wide lanes). Waste of money. Government agencies like the SFMTA, who hire and hire and hire, and promise huge retirement packages that are not affordable, don’t care about wasting money. After all, it is the taxpayer’s money. Who cares?

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