Video from Muni bus cameras to be used for ticket violations

San Francisco Muni buses outfitted with video cameras have become moving traffic officers, capturing video to ticket any drivers who illegally block bus zones, bus only lanes, intersections, or crosswalks.

The Muni bus cameras are aimed straight ahead to record the license plate of any vehicles that might be illegally blocking a Muni bus and preventing it from keeping on schedule.

It's a program called TOLE which stands for Transit Oriented Lane Enforcement. Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation Sunday allowing the program to transition from a pilot program to a permanent one.

"Now all 800 of our vehicles are TOLE equipped with a TOLE camera so any vehicle on any lane at any time is capable of capturing a violation," said San Francisco Muni Director of Transit John Haley.

Muni officials say the bus video is sent back to a command center through wireless technology. Traffic officers can watch it in real time or at a later time and then mail out the tickets.

"It gets confusing, especially if you're not from here. Like, I see people doing it wrong all the time," said Tristen Sanger, an Oakland driver who says she does support the idea to avoiding blocked lanes.

"The purpose of it is not to generate revenue. It's really to speed up transit service," said Haley.

KTVU put a camera on a Muni bus downtown during rush hour and after just one minute, there was a car that had double parked, blocking the bus only lane.

Violations can come at a hefty price.

Tickets are $103 for blocking an intersection or crosswalk, $110 for blocking a transit-only lane, and $279 for blocking a bus zone. SF Muni officials say they have issued about 200 tickets per month.

SF Muni staff say annual revenue from the program has ranged from a high in 2012 of  $750,000  to $300,000 in 2014. That's just below the $330,000 Muni says is needed to operate the program.

Muni says the goal is to convince drivers to stay out of bus lanes. Some people say they hope it will make for better traffic flow and faster bus rides.

"I definitely think it helps. It keeps double parked vehicles out of the way, illegally parked vehicles out of the way so buses can continue as scheduled," said San Francisco resident Stephen Duncan,  who rides Muni.

The Muni transit director says they plan to expand the number of bus-only lanes from about 25 miles right now to about 35 miles next year.