It's one of those moments of media confluence: One the same day that the SF Chronicle announces via headline that "Parking scofflaws can’t escape Muni bus cameras," KRON 4's Stanley Roberts shows exactly how they can — all by employing a clever trick called "covering your license plate."
In 2016, reports the Chron, the 800 front-facing cameras attached to Muni buses generated 3,625 tickets sent to double parkers, transit lane violators, and others blocking the road, the Chron reports. Tested since 2008, when the SFMTA had to get special permission from then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to install the devices, the cameras were made a permanent program in 2015 and have been behind a total of 24,125 tickets sent to double parkers and other miscreants.
According to the Chron, the cameras are constantly running as two Muni staff members watch the footage and take down offenders' plates. But that system isn't as infallible as the Chron's headline suggests, KRON illustrates via video, as savvy rideshare drivers have taken to obscuring their plates while parked as the camera bearing buses pass. Take a look:
Stanley notes that "officials say commercial parking tickets are on the decline," which Muni spokesman Paul Rose interprets to the Chron as meaning that "the cameras have led to fewer cars double-parking in front of buses and fewer commercial vehicles stopping in bus paths to unload." But according to Roberts' sources inside parking enforcement circles, numerous professional drivers have taken to removing their plates and obscuring their VIN numbers to avoid tickets that range from $110 (parking in a crosswalk or a transit-only lane) to $288 (parking in a bus stop).
This, Roberts says, creates not just a traffic issue, but a security issue — after all, it's pretty hard to track down an offending vehicle if its sole identifying characteristics are removed. If Stanley is right and transit network and other drivers are doing this, they're not just scofflaws who are indeed escaping Muni bus cameras, they're potential criminals escaping the long arm of the law.