Earlier this week, Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 1287, introduced by San Francisco Assemblymember David Chiu, making permanent the Transit-Only Lane Enforcement (TOLE) program which helps keep parked cars out of Muni-only lanes. The program was set to expire at the end of the year.
“Muni has to go faster than eight miles an hour,” said Chiu in a statement to the press.
“As we increase service on Muni and our economy continues to grow, we have to make sure that our transit system can operate efficiently and reliably. Everyone who rides Muni in San Francisco appreciates the Governor’s support of this bill.”
TOLE uses cameras on Muni buses to enforce the prohibition against stopping or parking in transit-only lanes, many of which are designated with red paint. These TOLE-equipped buses discourage illegal parking and help improve transit service along San Francisco’s 26 miles of transit-only lanes on routes carrying more than 160,000 riders per day.
While the program is better than nothing, it's hardly perfect. In the words of Streetsblog SF reporter Michael Rhodes in 2009, "Violations in SF’s Transit-Only Lanes Rampant and Rarely Enforced." An earlier version of the legislation would have allowed Muni to ticket drivers driving in the transit-only lanes based on camera evidence.
That language was removed during the committee process.
Even so, TOLE has created better conditions than what existed when the program was first permitted in 2007. Statistics provided by Chiu's office show that TOLE has helped reduce Muni delays and improved running time reliability. Results on a key downtown corridor, Sutter Street, for example, show travel time consistency improvements of up to fifteen percent.
"With more than two dozen miles of transit-only lanes throughout San Francisco, we have made significant progress in how we move Muni in our most congested corridors," said Ed Reiskin, SFMTA Director of Transportation. "This legislation will allow us to ensure that these transit-only lanes are kept as clear as possible. It also furthers our work to keep our roads safe, reliable and as functional as possible for so many people traveling in San Francisco."
The governor's signature also gives a political victory for the Assemblyman. A.B. 1287 is the first transportation bill at the state level from Chiu, who was elected to the State Assembly in November after serving as District 3 Supervisor.