SFMTA Installs Red Light Camera at Fell and Masonic

Just before Christmas, the SFMTA installed a camera at the corner of Fell and Masonic on the Panhandle to help enforce the left-turn signal frequently violated by drivers.

A driver violates the left-turn signal in front of a bicyclist at Fell and Masonic. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Dale Danley at the Panhandle Park Stewards blog first reported the new automated enforcement mechanism, as well as a crosswalk upgrade at the nearby Oak Street intersection.

The red light camera was installed just days after a December 20 crash in which a driver injured a man on his bicycle at the busy crossing.

SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose told the SF Examiner the camera will be activated this month and that fines “will range from $480 to $522, depending on whether the offender takes traffic school.”

According to the SFMTA website, San Francisco was the first city in California to pilot photo enforcement in 1996, and the program resulted in a 40 percent decrease in violations at five intersections after six months. As of 2010 [PDF], 24 intersections in the city were photo-enforced.

The additional enforcement could provide a quick safety boost, but as Bike NoPa writer Michael Helquist pointed out in the Examiner, the number one priority for the neighborhood is the “Boulevard” redesign of Masonic. That project was approved by the SFMTA board of directors in the summer. However, advocates are concerned that Mayor Ed Lee’s commitment to the redesign has waned and that implementation could get bogged down in bureaucratic red tape.

See photos of the improvements after the break.

Photo: ##http://panhandlepark.blogspot.com/2011/12/santa-brought-us-masonic-traffic-safety.html##Panhandle Park Stewards##
The upgraded crosswalk at Oak and Masonic. Photo: ##http://panhandlepark.blogspot.com/2011/12/santa-brought-us-masonic-traffic-safety.html##Panhandle Park Stewards##
  • mikesonn

    Those cameras are nabbing 16-17 drivers per day?! Wow, drivers in this city are horrible!

  • sfmta sucks

    Actually I would argue that the signal placement in this intersection is horrible and that’s what’s causing so many people to run the red arrow. The left turn signal is placed too far to the left and is not in the direct line of sight of drivers approaching the intersection. The left turn signal should be hung off of the pole and placed directly inline with the left turn lane. SFMTA either half-assed it, or designed it this way intentionally as a means to generate revenue. Either way, it’s a disservice to cyclists, pedestrians, AND drivers.

  • mikesonn

    My point was that there is no way 17 people are ticketed per day. I’d wager that it isn’t even 17 per month. 99% of the driving public gets it so maybe you should just pay attention while driving.

  • sfmta sucks
  •  Next time, don’t run the red light.

  • sfmta sucks

    Where you at mikesonn?

  • mikesonn

    Oh ABC did a story?! Stop the presses, it’s a gov’t conspiracy.


  • sfmta sucks

    Hilarious. I’ll be happy when my citation is dismissed and/or when the SFMTA actually fixes the intersection. 

  • Hilarious. I’ll be happy when @4a4cbdd9e5913f6bf8dd7a0c85f79abb:disqus learns to be an observant driver and follow the law and/or when the DMV revokes his idiot license.

  • mikesonn

    I’d also be much happier when @4a4cbdd9e5913f6bf8dd7a0c85f79abb:disqus is off the road as well. Pay attention, drive in control. People’s lives depend on it.

  • Red light camaras = good. Insane fines for people who do get caught = not good. 

  • mikesonn

    Red light running, not good. Red light running across a major ped/bike path, really not good.

  • $500 for the privilege of ramming your 2 ton cage through a busy cycle/ped path seems pretty reasonable.
    Try to think about it from the perspective of who has the most to lose and not just your wallet for once.

  •  If we have a red light camera and the fine is $2, who cares about the camera?

  • sfmta sucks

    Here’s the thing, I ride a bike in City quite often, but I also drive on occasion. And when I do drive I am mindful of cyclists and pedestrians. If I told you that I hadn’t received so much as a parking ticket in 15 years it’s doubtful you would believe me anyway, but I digress.

    Honestly, due to the lack of signage and poor signal placement, I did not see the signal until it was too late and now this wonderful city has my $500.

    I ask you mikesonn, do you drive? Have you driven through this intersection? Do you think this intersection is as good as it can be FOR DRIVERS? Or do you think SFMTA half-assed it and is ultimately doing a disservice to cyclists, pedestrians and drivers by not making the intersection as safe as it could be? I do. When you have 500 people a month running the signal, something is wrong. I know, I know, drivers are horrible, they should all have their licenses revoked, blah, blah, blah. The fact of the matter is that until they fix the intersection, people are going to continue to inadvertently run the signal.

  • mikesonn

    I should of put money this:

    “Here’s the thing, I ride a bike in City quite often”

    Is that your official statement when you hit someone for running a red light?

  • Anonymous

    Dude – there is a RED ARROW.

    How did you miss it? Serious question? Did you see both the red arrow and the green bike,evaluate what you were presented with, and thus hit the gas? There are situations where confusion might call for acceleration but this is not one of them.

    Or were you just not really paying attention, saw something green from the corner of your eye, and started going?

    I roll through some stop signs on my bike. I consider that 100% of the time I do so it is safe, and I don’t think the SFPD should be focusing on it, but if I got a ticket I would not consider it an injustice.

    I am all for that intersection being safer. No left turn allowed – QED

  • sfmta sucks

    Seriously, I urge you all to DRIVE through this intersection. I did not see the red arrow until I already entered the intersection and it was too late. The left turn signal is not in the standard position where one would look for a turn signal. The signal closest to my direct line of sight as I approached the intersection was a green arrow pointing straight, which is fucking retarded. Obviously I scanned to see if there were peds/cyclists about to enter the crosswalk.There were none. I had never made a left off of Fell onto Masonic in my life prior to this event. There was no signage warning me of the signal. If you all want to peg me as evil murderous individual fine, that’s your prerogative, I could give a shit. The thing is, with this intersection the way it is, someone is going to get hurt. They need to fix it. You can continue to live in denial and think that you are right because you are cyclists and you don’t drive, but I am telling you, this intersection is fucked. End of story.

  • sfmta sucks

    mikesonn,come on man, are you seriously going to insinuate that I would drive through a red light intentionally. Given your animosity towards people that drive, you probably would. But anyway, like I’ve been saying, had I seen it in time, I would’ve stopped. The overwhelming majority of the 500 people who’ve been cited at this intersection every month would probably say the same. 

  • @4a4cbdd9e5913f6bf8dd7a0c85f79abb:disqus but you DID drive through it intentionally. Unless your foot is possessed by a demon, you drove through a red light. The fact that you are an inattentive driver doesn’t negate your actions.

  • sfmta sucks

    Yep, I drove through a red left turn signal, you are right. It was not a premeditated action however. There is a BIG difference between the two. We can sit here and split hairs all night long if you want, but the fact remains, the left turn signal is not immediately visible to drivers approaching the intersection.

  • Here is the disagreement. You seem to think people should be ticketed only for maliciousness. I believe that incompetence deserves it too. You saw a green straight arrow and interpreted it as “turn left”. Go directly to court, do not pass go.

  • the fact remains, the left turn signal is not immediately visible to drivers approaching the intersection

    That is not a fact. The vast majority get this right. You screwed up.

  • I hope this provides some clarity and helps close this argument rather than perpetuate it, but I took a photo on my way home today of the signal from the back of the left-turn lane. Take it for what it’s worth.


  • Also, @4a4cbdd9e5913f6bf8dd7a0c85f79abb:disqus, I believe the green arrow is there because there needs to be a signal for through traffic on the left side of the drivers’ view. Otherwise, it would only be the signals on the right. And if it were a solid green light, rather than a straight arrow, it would be even more confusing.

  • sfmta sucks

    You’re being kind of presumptuous, no? I don’t think people should only be ticketed for maliciousness whatsoever. I agree that people should be cited for incompetence, because as we all know, the Bay Area has some of the worst drivers on the planet, what with all of the out of state transplants and all. I am not one of them however. We can go to the DMV and I’ll show you my driving record if you want. 

    I in fact did not interpret the green arrow as a left turn arrow as you so state. Simply put, when one is driving on a one way street, one does not expect a left turn signal, especially not one that is a good 15 to 20 feet to the left of the driver’s direct line of sight. The left turn signal, at the very least, should be placed where the “straight arrow” signal is placed. For example, how do they handle the right turn lanes at Oak and Octavia. They put a fucking turn signal directly inline with the lanes that turn right! What a novel idea! They didn’t half-ass it and say, “Well gee whiz, we already have this pole here that’s 20 feet away from the left turn lane, let’s just put the signal here and call it a day.” No, they fucking did it how it’s supposed to be done—and did what drivers expect to see. You know, consistency.Maybe the majority do get it right, who’s to say? BUT, that’s not say that there’s not a statistically significant amount of people who don’t get it right, you dig? Maybe they don’t live in the area and are not aware of the particulars of the intersection. Maybe they don’t belong to the SF Bike Coalition, who knows? Think about the conditions that must exist for someone to get it wrong. Most likely, the person approaching the intersection would not have someone ahead of them in the lane. On such a heavily trafficked street that probably doesn’t happen as often as you might think. In my case, I passed through it on a Wednesday night at about 11:45 pm with no one in front of me.And you’re right, I did screw up, I should’ve known that this city would have such a fucked up intersection. An intersection most likely designed by people who don’t drive. What was I thinking? I mean what next, are they going to start burying turn signals in the ground? 

  • sfmta sucks

    @ aaron, I agree with you to a point. But wouldn’t a better solution be to put the appropriate signal for each lane directly inline with each lane. Sure, that’s more costly, but if we’re talking about safety here, isn’t it worth it? This city has a $6 billion annual budget. There is no excuse for this. There should be absolutely no question as to what a driver should do as they approach the intersection. That is not the case as it stands now.

  • opts

    I received a ticket at this intersection end of January and it was dismissed in court. Almost everyone in court that day was there to fight a ticket at this intersection (at least 10 people on one day), and those were just the people who chose to fight it. Usually, less than 5% of people fight traffic tickets. Sure, we don’t know what percentage of people run this red light, but you can’t say things like “the vast majority get this right” because we don’t have the statistics. 

    Fact is, the judge agreed the intersection was confusing and since then the city has taken steps to make it less confusing but the city could do more. The city installed a sign saying “no turn on red arrow” and they altered the bicycle light because it used to look like a green arrow when viewed from the road.Despite the changes, the intersection is still confusing for multiple reasons that have been listed in comments on this page many times. However, everyone on this page has an opinion that is not going to change. People who received tickets are outraged at how confusing this intersection is. It is completely understandable to be outraged at receiving a $500 ticket at an intersection that is very confusing. Others just seem to hate people who drive cars and ignore all the comments, images and facts that prove this is a confusing intersection and instead focus on calling people “bad drivers” without any proof of it other than being at the wrong intersection at the wrong time (and don’t even try to say something like “running a red light is proof you are a bad driver blah, blah, blah). This intersection IS confusing, especially if there are no other cars in the left turn lane. You cannot just tell someone they deserve a ticket when it is obvious that the intersection signals can and should be improved. You tell people that running the light is their fault alone, and they could run over bicyclists or pedestrians, however if improving the signals would make the intersection less confusing (and therefore safer) then why isn’t the city to blame as well? As far as I can tell, people who blame the drivers alone are not putting safety as a top priority because of a maliciousness towards drivers. There is no sense trying to reason with prejudiced individuals.

  • mikesonn

    Aaron’s picture clearly shows that a driver can see TWO red left turn lights from the left turn lane.

    You weren’t paying attention. Pay your fine and pay more attention.

  • Anonymous

    SFMTA_sucks – when you started forward, which signal did you see that indicated to you that you could proceed? A green straight arrow could not be interpreted as “turn left”. What did you consciously see that prompted you to move forward, given there was no actual signal telling you to move forward? I agree the intersection isn’t typical but this episode underscores how lazy we are as drivers. If you went through the red arrow you not only missed an explicit signal telling you not to proceed, but more damning is that you proceeded despite not seeing any signal telling you that you could proceed. The only plausible explanation is that you were not actively looking for explicit permission to proceed – which is a requirement for a light controlled intersection.

    Given the number of drivers who apparently screw this up, yes let’s make it easier for them to meet their burden, but you did screw up.

    I was hit a few months back by someone. Could have killed me. I told him quite clearly that I did not think he was a bad person, just a lousy driver. He said “I was a good driver until today”. I said “don’t confuse luck with skill”. A checkered driving record probably means you are a bad driver, but a clean record does not mean you are an excellent one. I personally drive less because despite a lack of citations I know I am easily distracted while driving (I find it a tedious task) and as a personal and public service I limit my driving.

  • sfmta sucks

    So you’re saying that while I drive in SF I should look around for turn signals in totally bizarre non-standard positions? Ok, but I might have to take my eyes off the road for a second–watch out fellow drivers/peds/cyclists!

  • mikesonn

    If this thread has brought anything to light, it is that you shouldn’t be driving.

    It’s a shame you are hiding behind a fake name because I’d recommend you to the DMV for retesting at the least.

  •  500 tickets a month is nothing compared to the number of cars that make a left turn here. If you are seriously implying that stopping, checking for a green light, and then continuing left is that difficult of a proposition then maybe driving in a dense city just isn’t for you. 

    To echo  @murphstahoe:disqus : I am fine with making the signal more obvious if the intersection is made safer for it. However, if your excuse is that you couldn’t see 2 red arrows and a sign reading NO TURN ON RED ARROW then I have to assume you just need to pay more attention to your surroundings.

  • sfmta sucks

    Is that all you got? You people are like a cross between the Taliban and the Tea Party. As user: “opts” said below, arguing with zealots is a fruitless endeavor. I wonder what it’s like going through life with such a rigid worldview and the total inability to put yourself in others’ shoes. 

    I’m out of here, you “win”, but I’m still going to get my $500 back. See you on the streets, bro.

  • mikesonn

    I once got a speeding ticket because the highway went from 65 mph to 55 mph and I missed the signs. I missed the signs because they were at a junction and I was looking at the directional signs above the road and not the side where the speed limit was posted. I didn’t bitch and moan, I paid the ticket.

    So shut up and pay attention. And yes, I am worried that I will see you on the streets, bro.

  • sfmta sucks

    sean rea– so you don’t think 500 tickets/month is an indication that something is wrong with the intersection? Really? I would bet there isn’t another intersection in the City that produces as many citations. I bet it’s not even close.
    I seriously urge you to drive through this intersection. A photograph doesn’t tell the whole story, because as you may know, when you are driving, you are moving.

    The sign and turn signal on the near pole need to be moved down about 10 feet to be seen. But wait, if they did that then drivers may have trouble seeing the already obscured turn signal on the far pole.

    Whatever, I’m done with this shit.


  •  sfmta – forget looking for turn signals in bizarre positions. Did you see anything in the normal position that indicated you could go forward? The only thing in the normal position was a straight arrow. What then prompted you to go forward?

  • I would bet there isn’t another intersection in the City that produces as many citations. I bet it’s not even close.

    False comparison. Put a stop sign running camera on any intersection in Noe Valley and you’d have several thousand. This intersection has a lot of citations because there is actual enforcement.

    “When you are driving, you are moving”.

    The red left turn arrow follows an all red phase. During an all red phase, you are not moving.

  • @4a4cbdd9e5913f6bf8dd7a0c85f79abb:disqus I have driven through it. As @murphstahoe:disqus said, the red left arrow follows an all red phase. Whatever phantom green light you thought was there, wasn’t. Perhaps you need to get your vision checked.

    And no, 500 tickets a month is not an indication that something is wrong with the intersection. I see enough cars run enough red lights on a daily basis to know better than to accept that excuse.

  • If you have a red lens on your car, for example, it will filter out all light colors except red. If white colored LED is used on a red lens, it will filter out most of the light that is emitted by the LED light.

  • I heard the SFMTA is hiring convicted criminals! 


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