Nearly six months after the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency announced that they'd be working toward installing "life-saving speed enforcement cameras," they've finally gotten around to crafting a proposal for the cameras' use — the first step in many toward making the use of such cameras legal.
It was early January when Streetsblog SF reported that the MTA would start slow, "seeking to authorize speed camera use only in areas around schools and senior centers, and that the legislation would also 'de-criminalize citations' and set a '$100 flat fine.'"
According to Muni's director of government affairs, Kate Breen, the agency was going to craft a proposal that “we can build a coalition around, that doesn’t necessarily engender out of the gate what we’ve seen, as practiced by the governor, his propensity to want to veto those things that really raise fines so significantly that the average motorist or person who is receiving one of these citations is unduly burdened.”
At present, California doesn't have any laws to regulate the installation and enforcement of speed enforcement cameras, hence the need for state-level support.
Moving with their typical speed, the SFMTA finally managed to get their proposal for the cameras done last week, CBS5 reports.
SFPD is supportive of the cameras, they report, quoting police spokesperson Officer Carlos Manifredi as saying that in addition to slowing traffic, “It will also help us as an investigative tool if someone is committing a crime somewhere nearby, and they happened to drive across a speed light camera."
"It will be able to capture a license plate, take a photo of this individual."
According to CBS5, as part of the proposal, which was presented to the San Francisco County Transportation Authority last week, the citations from the cameras would not be moving violations, as they are when a cop pulls you over. Therefore, though the cars' owners will be expected to pay a $100 fine every time, the tickets will not be reportable to the DMV. They'll be more like parking tickets, paid to and enforced by the MTA, not the SFPD.
It's details like that that cause some to suggest that the cameras are less about saving lives and more about making money. After all, last year in New York the same type of cameras generated 445,065 tickets, putting $16.9 million into NY coffers, Gothamist reported in March.
However, according to Streetsblog (which, admittedly, is an advocacy publication. No shade! But they are, just making that clear):
The benefits of speed cameras are clear. A 2010 meta-study of dozens of research papers on speed cameras found a uniformly positive effect on street safety, with a 30 to 40 percent reduction in crashes that cause serious injury or death following the rollout of most programs.
After Chicago implemented speed cameras last summer, the city reported a 43 percent drop in speeding near camera locations within the first week. At some locations, the number of speeders dropped as much as 99 percent.
SF Supervisor Eric Mar says he supports the cameras, but agrees they won't be popular with everyone.
“Whenever you change a culture of speeding and tickets," Mar tells CBS5, they "are always a thorny issue for many people."
But who even knows if the proposal will ever get past the CTA? As Streetsblog noted in January, "The bill would have to be authored by a state legislator such as SF’s recently-inaugurated Assemblymember David Chiu, a former supervisor." (A call from SFist to Chiu's office for comment was not returned at publication time.)
But according to a Chron piece from today, "none of the city’s legislative representatives has offered to author the change in state law that is needed to make the cameras a reality."
Not even Chiu, apparently! Given that the SFMTA and City Hall have had six months to butter Chiu up, that seems a little surprising, but maybe things have gotten too hectic in Sacramento for Chiu to worry about our little old cameras?
Whatever the case, even though the whole plan is moving like the N during Outside Lands, it remains a priority, SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose tells the Chron.
“It’s a proven way to reduce accidents and fatalities," Rose said, and “It remains in our legislative agenda.”