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Plan to install cameras that automatically cite speeding San Francisco drivers heads to final vote

San Francisco drivers could see cameras that automatically send speeding tickets
San Francisco drivers could see cameras that automatically send speeding tickets 03:33

On Tuesday afternoon, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors approved a controversial plan to install cameras that would automatically send tickets to speeding drivers, and it's probably not surprising that not everyone agrees with it.

The idea is to put 33 automated cameras around San Francisco in places that are determined to be of either high risk, or chronic violation. The most speed-violated road in the City is Harrison between 4th and 5th streets. Data shows that 27.4% — nearly one out of every four cars — is traveling at least 10 miles per hour over the posted speed limit.

The limit on the five-lane, one-way street is 25 mph because of a school located in the middle of the block.  Piryanka Marwaha, who lives on the street, felt it is a prime location for a speed camera.

"I really feel that there is a need for people to be more aware of the fact that they need to keep their speed down," she said. "It's not a highway. I know it's next to a highway. Still, there are houses here, there are apartments here. People are moving all around."

The proposal would make San Francisco part of a state-wide pilot program, installing cameras that send automated citations to the owners of cars that violate the speed limit by 10 or more miles per hour.

"San Franciscans are generally pretty excited about these speed cameras," said Marta Lindsey, with Walk SF, a street safety advocacy group. "And it's because we're all feeling how much things have changed on our streets, how dangerous it's become because so many drivers are pushing beyond the limits."

But not everyone is feeling that way. SF resident Alexis Jimenez said she trusts the instincts of the average city driver and thinks the cameras would be more appropriate on the freeways.

"On streets like this I think it shouldn't be. It's just too much control. Too much unnecessary fining," said Jimenez. "I think everyone in the Bay Area generally, as a driver myself, knows what the limitations are, when to speed, when to not speed.  So, I think policing that is unnecessary."

Mitch Washington suspected it would be less about safety, and more about collecting the fines.

"Five or 10 miles above the speed limit happens all the time, whether it's on the freeway or off the freeway," he said.  "If it really helps, I'm all for it. But if it's just to make money on unsuspecting motorists, then no, I'm against it completely."

And, walking her dog Asta, Michele Anderson seemed skeptical about the whole idea.

I would probably end up in traffic court.  I think that's just too … No," she said, shaking her head.  "What is the magic number? 10 miles over?  I mean, what if they were going five miles over?"

Actually, the city of Chicago tried lowering the threshold of their cameras from 10 mph to six and the citations exploded.  At one intersection, tickets soared from just over 500 to 15,000. That's probably an indication of how differently people drive than the letter of the law dictates.

Still, with SFMTAs unanimous vote to approve, San Francisco seems headed to begin issuing robo-tickets as a way to change behavior on the city's streets. The program would be managed by the transportation authority, not the police department. The issue now heads to the Board of Supervisors for final approval.  

If enacted, officials expect to get the first cameras up and running sometime in 2025.

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