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Camera-Monitored Traffic-Efficiency Pilot Will Go Permanent

A San Francisco pilot aimed at unclogging public transportation routes became a permanent fixture for the city with the signing of a new state law.

The pilot program that targets transit-only lane encroachment in San Francisco got new wind in its sails last week when California Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation to make it a permanent installation for the city’s transportation agency.

For the last six years, the Transit-Only Lane Enforcement (TOLE) test program has been a valuable tool in the fight against double parking and stopping in protected routes in the heavily public transit-reliant city. 

The program relies on a network of cameras and staff members that allows the agency to cite rule breakers, much like the citation sent to drivers who fail to pay roadway-use tolls throughout the state.

Paul Rose, spokesperson for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), said the citation program is directly responsible for as much as a 20 percent reduction in travel time for the more than half-a-million daily riders. By the agency’s count, roughly 700,000 riders use the public transportation system each day. 

“Depending on the line, [effectiveness] ranges from 5 percent reduction in travel time to about 15 or 20 percent,” Rose said.

The SFMTA network of cameras, which were fitted to the entire bus fleet five years ago, looks for drivers parked or stopped in the busy transit lanes used by buses. Rose said a team of parking control officers monitors the system and issues citations for violations. 

“[The system] records the image and then we have parking control officers that go through that video to identify anyone who is blocking the lane, double parking or parked in the bus zone,” he said.

According to the spokesperson, SFMTA is only responsible for issuing non-moving violation tickets, while the San Francisco Police Department remains in charge of moving violations. Rose said the citations range from $110 for parking in the transit-only lanes to $279 for stopping in a bus zone.

The signing of Assembly Bill 1287, authored by Assembly Member David Chiu, D-San Francisco, made the successful TOLE program a mainstay for the city’s transportation network, but does not expand the agency’s scope of enforcement.

Chiu said in a statement that the system was an important part of transportation efficiency in the city.

“Muni has to go faster than eight miles an hour,” said Chiu. “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."

Eyragon Eidam is the web editor for Government Technology magazine, after previously serving as assistant news editor and covering such topics as legislation, social media and public safety. He can be reached at