MTA To Get Greater Management Role Over SFPD’s Traffic Company

12246301_e88f38ad0d.jpgFlickr photo: Thomas Hawk

According to a "fact sheet" (PDF) released by the Mayor’s office Friday, "new operational improvements and efficiencies" have been identified that will amount to $3.5 million in cost savings for the MTA, including giving MTA Executive Director Nat Ford more power over the SFPD’s Traffic Company.

The plan, first reported in the Chronicle this morning, was formed in discussions between the Mayor’s office, Supervisor Bevan Dufty and the MTA, which is facing a $129 million budget deficit, and considering fare hikes and service cuts: 

The SFMTA will share a greater role in management of the SF Police Department’s Traffic Division. The Traffic Division will now be under SFPD Deputy Chief Tony Parra, who already works closely with the SFMTA. This will ensure the Police Department’s traffic enforcement functions are coordinated with the SFMTA’s goals for safe streets and accident reduction. 

The SPFD has been under a lot of scrutiny lately over of its work orders to the MTA. Dufty held a Budget and Finance commitee hearing recently in which he blasted the SFPD for billing Muni a whopping $19 million, mostly to fund its traffic functions.

The plan also calls for the implementation of "a new, more highly
structured management program for its Muni Response Team and Bus
Inspection Program (BIP)" on the T-Third line which the document claims
will save $1.2 million. Muni has been getting hit with bills for
overtime for officers who are supposed to patrol the T-Third line but
rarely do.

Ford is no stranger to managing a police force. In Atlanta, he oversaw a staff of 300 police officers at the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, and said in a recent interview that he often heard the same concerns voiced in San Francisco that police are rarely seen on buses. "That was the number one complaint," he said.

So far, we haven’t heard of any opposition to this plan from supervisors who were very critical of the SFPD and the MTA at that hearing. "It’s a good first step," said Dufty’s legislative aide, Boe Hayward.

The changes would allow the Department of Parking and Traffic officers to conduct late-night parking enforcement, a function currently held by the SFPD. And it addresses 311 inefficiencies, by "changing the methodology that "311 uses to allocate costs to the SFMTA, which will result in a savings to the SFMTA of about $800,000."  311 bills MTA on average $1.96 for every bus schedule call it receives, and total MTA-related calls account for 63 percent of all 311 call volume.

  • rzu

    This doesn’t sound like a great idea. Chief Parra already makes a good salary, paid for by the MTA. No doubt with greater responsability he will get a hefty pay raise. Why don’t we let the police do the policing and the MTA work on running the buses?
    I’m also not such a fan of taking parking citation increases off the table. Why don’t we increase the penalty for late payment of citations? You’d immediately see an increase in revenue through on-time payment of citations without the sticker shock that usually accompanies parking citation increases.

  • SfResident

    It doesn’t bother me that police are rarely seen on buses. What bothers me is 1) That the SFPD appears to be charging MTA for services NOT rendered and 2) That the SFPD does not quickly respond to incidents on buses. Neither of these issues will be solved by these actions.

    I agree with the poster above. Additionally, this seems to me like slight of hand to make the problem disappear on paper but not in substance. It seems to me that the fundamental issue is that money allocated to MUNI by the voters and the supervisors should go to MUNI operations, not basic SFPD operations, even if those SFPD operations are under the vague direction of Mr. Ford.

    And don’t even get me started on the money-pit that is 311.

  • “The changes would allow the Department of Parking and Traffic officers to conduct late-night parking enforcement, a function currently held by the SFPD.”

    Well one good thing will come of this. I can’t tell you how many times – after being on hold for 10 minutes – I’m asked by the SFPD what the make and model of the car parked on the sidewalk is. The answer: it doesn’t matter, it’s the one parked on the sidewalk! If there’s another one, go ahead and ticket that one as well.

    The idea that we’re now agreeing upon a way for 311 to charge for Muni-related calls is bad bad bad. I’m sorry, but you don’t create a service like MoviePhone, then start charging movie theaters for the cost of providing that service.

  • Banjo K

    The more city government gets swallowed by MTA, the more I despair.

  • It really is time to recall Gavin Newsom.


  • Marc,

    He’s not around enough to be recalled.

  • Junior

    Shifting traffic management functions from the SFPD over to MTA (and its predecessors) has been a long battle over the past several decades. It sounds like we are almost there, with the Safe Path of Travel and late night enforcement duties now rightfully under MTA’s jurisdiction. MTA can perform these functions with enthusiasm, and more efficiently (i.e. cheaper overtime). I believe the last holdout is construction parking permits, which will be the most difficult to pry from SFPD’s paws because those permit$ are a real racket!

    Agreed, just because the traffic division is now under MTA’s “control” does not mean we will see cops on buses or actual enforcement of transit lanes…but it might!

  • Since the DPT IS currently under the MTA’s control, and the DPT does not keep the streets clear for transit, how do you figure that insulating the Traffic Company from the City’s most responsive policy makers, the Board of Supervisors, will get a recalcitrant SFPD and a disinterested MTA to do the job.

    It seems like we’re rewarding failure several times over with this one, “hoping for the thing we wish to want.”


  • I wonder why in a time of budget shortage, the SFPD, the MTA and whoever the hell else can do it, refuse to write tickets to people double parked in bike lanes!!!! It is easy money that would go a long way toward improving transit times for bikes, cars, buses…. and yet, they all act like this is impossible.


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