City leaders are pushing the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to add more red light cameras citywide.

Ricardo Olea, The City’s traffic engineer, told the Board of Supervisors in a meeting Tuesday with the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, that red light collisions have dropped by one-third over the last 20 years due to the cameras. He also said the number of red light collisions have stabilized in recent years to at or just below 300 annually, adding:

“That’s been of some concern that we have not been able to make more progress.”

Of the most common injury traffic collisions, those caused by red light violations ranked third between July 2015 and July 2020, Olea said. While 87 percent involved only vehicles, 14 percent of red light collisions involved vehicles and bicyclists and 7 percent of collisions involved vehicles and pedestrians.

The SFMTA recently completed technology upgrades, switching from film to digital imaging at all of its red light cameras. There are currently 19 cameras at 13 different intersections. Transit officials are proposing an additional eight cameras at problematic intersections. 

Supervisors say they want more intersections covered citywide.

Supervisor Catherine Stefani, who represents District 2, said she was glad to see intersections at Presidio and Masonic avenues, and at Franklin and Lombard streets up for camera consideration. However, she wants the agency to also consider installing a camera at Geary Boulevard and Gough Street, where a pedestrian was killed in a red light collision.

Fell and Masonic
Jim Herd/San Francisco Citizen The skinny guy in the middle is a red-light camera, ready to catch scofflaws in the act at Fell & Masonic in The City. (Jim Herd/SFCitizen)

Stefani said:

“We’ve had an outpouring of support for all sorts of different changes, but I think this one would make the most difference.”

Supervisor Norman Yee of District 7 asked the agency to address the 19th Avenue corridor, which acts as Highway 1. Sections of the corridor are part of The City’s high injury network where 75 percent of traffic collisions occur on 13 percent of city streets.

Supervisors also questioned the length of time it takes to install red light cameras in The City.

Treated as capital projects, the additional eight cameras proposed by the SFMTA could take more than a year to complete, according to Olea. The agency opens project bidding a six-month period before selecting a contractor.

Olea said:

“Then, there’s usually a construction period of about nine to 12 months depending on the construction.”

Olea stressed the project funding challenge at this time, adding:

“We are having a capital crunch at the SFMTA in terms of losing some revenue streams.”

Camera installation can cost anywhere between $200,000 to $250,000 — the $2 million for the eight new cameras has already been included the budget. 

Transit officials said they rely on alternative traffic solutions, including signal time adjustment, before moving to an enforcement approach. Despite that, supervisors made it clear they want more red light cameras installed.

Last year, supervisors passed a resolution asking the transit agency to double the number of red light cameras on city streets. District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney, the sponsor of the legislation, said Tuesday that there need to be enough cameras on streets to impact driver behavior.

Jerold Chinn
Jerold Chinn is the San Francisco Bureau Chief of SFBay. A San Francisco native, he has spent a decade covering transportation in San Francisco. Send tips to jerold@sfbay.ca or at Twitter @Jerold_Chinn.

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