Red Light Camera and Other Automated Enforcement
The SFMTA’s Automated Enforcement Program uses a network of automated cameras to enforce illegal red-light running and illegal right turns. The SFMTA also uses forward-facing cameras on buses to enforce Transit Only lanes under the Transit Only Lane Enforcement (TOLE) Program.
Automated Enforcement Program
The Automated Enforcement Program is a combined effort of the SFMTA, which manages the program’s administration and equipment maintenance, with support from the San Francisco Police Department, the Superior Court of San Francisco, and the San Francisco City Attorney's Office. The SFMTA's combined automated enforcement, engineering, and education efforts have resulted in a 66% citywide drop in injury collisions resulting from red-light running between 1997 and 2022.
Decisions for the placement of red light cameras are based on public safety with priority going to the intersections in the City with the highest collision totals. The SFMTA tries to implement all other traffic safety measures first before considering an automated enforcement installation at an intersection.
In 2019 the SFMTA upgraded the program’s Automated Enforcement System with state-of-the-art equipment. Cameras currently enforce 19 approaches at the 13 intersections listed below, all of which enforce red light violations, except for the intersection at Market Street and Octavia Boulevard, which enforces a posted NO RIGHT TURN regulation facing eastbound Market Street. The direction of traffic enforced at each intersection is indicated in parentheses.
19 Approaches at 13 Intersections with Automated Enforcement Cameras
- 6th St at Bryant St (eastbound, southbound)
- 19th Ave at Sloat Blvd (northbound, southbound)
- Fell St at Masonic Ave (westbound)
- Hayes St at Polk St (southbound, westbound)
- Market St at Octavia Blvd (eastbound illegal right turns)
- Oak St at Octavia Blvd (eastbound, northbound, eastbound right-turn lanes)
- Park Presidio Blvd at Lake St (southbound)
- So. Van Ness Ave at 14th St (northbound)
- 4th St at Harrison St (southbound, westbound)
- 6th St at Folsom St (southbound)
- 8th St at Folsom St (southbound)
- Divisadero St at Bush St (northbound)
- Van Ness Ave at Broadway (southbound left turn lanes)
Automated Enforcement Citations
Citations are issued to the vehicle’s registered owner on file with the Department of Motor Vehicles within 15 days of the violation date. The court sends the registered owner a separate courtesy warning within 30 days of the violation. For questions about a citation you have received, contact the Superior Court of California, County of San Francisco at 415.551.8550.
How It Works, In Detail
Equipment and Photographs
The camera control unit manages each component of the Automated Enforcement System. The system utilizes two or more high-speed digital cameras paired with illuminating strobes and an HD video camera to capture clear photos and video in all weather conditions. The camera control unit monitors a 3D traffic radar aimed at the roadway and tracks the position, speed, and direction of each vehicle passing through its field of view. Additionally, the camera control unit attaches to the traffic controller to monitor the color of each signal light phase as they change. To protect the system from tampering, a locked metal housing secures the complete system.
The system only enters enforcement mode when the traffic signal light phase cycles in sequence from yellow to red. Drivers who enter the intersection when the light phase is green or yellow and are in the intersection as the light turns yellow or red are not photographed. The system is designed to catch only those violators who enter the intersection after the traffic signal has turned red.
When the traffic signal phase has turned red and the 3D traffic radar detects a vehicle entering the intersection, the system captures three digital photographs and a short video clip of the event. The system takes two photos of the rear and one photo of the front of the violating vehicle using two separate cameras. Placing one digital camera and HD video camera behind the violation point clearly shows the position of the vehicle relative to the violation point and the color of the traffic signal phase both before and after the vehicle enters the intersection. Placing an additional digital camera across the intersection photographs the front of the vehicle and captures a clear image of the driver.
To enforce illegal right turns made from Eastbound Market Street at Octavia Boulevard, the SFMTA installed an Automated Enforcement System that operates similar to the red light system described above, although instead of using radar for detection, the system utilizes a video stream to detect and capture evidence of vehicles making a right-hand turn. Vehicles going straight through the intersection will not activate the system. When the system detects a vehicle entering the intersection and making an illegal right turn, the system captures three digital photographs and a short video clip of the event.
By State law, these photographs are confidential. If you were involved in a collision at an intersection with an Automated Enforcement camera, the photographs can only be provided to the driver of the vehicle receiving the citation.
Once events are loaded into a Violation Processing System (VPS), trained technicians review and categorize each event based on the SFMTA’s business requirements. For events meeting the requirements of a potential violation, the VPS obtains the name, address, and identifying information of the registered owner from the California Department of Motor Vehicles or the analogous agency of another state or country, based upon the license plate of the photographed vehicle.
Once this information is obtained, a San Francisco Police Officer reviews, signs and issues the citation containing four images of the violation. The four images show: two full rear views of the violating vehicle, a close-up of the license plate, and a close-up of the driver. The system then sends the signed citation (i.e., Notice to Appear) to the alleged violator by mail. If the registered owner responds to the SFMTA or the court to identify another driver of the vehicle at the time of the violation, the Notice to Appear may or may not be issued to the identified driver.
Trained technicians perform daily remote monitoring of the Automated Enforcement System. Once a week, technicians remotely inspect and test all system equipment and the functionality of the system as a whole and produce a Field Technical Service and Inspection Log. Once a month, technicians physically inspect system equipment in person at each approach and complete a Field Technical Service and Inspection Log documenting completion of the inspection and any defects found.
For questions about a Notice to Appear or delinquent notice you have received, please contact the Superior Court of California, County of San Francisco at 415.551.8550. For more information, or to pay your citation online, visit www.sf.courts.ca.gov.
If after reading the detailed instructions included with the Notice to Appear, you still have questions regarding the transfer of liability or secondary review processes, please contact the SFMTA Automated Enforcement Program at (415) 581-5135 or RLC@sfmta.com.
For other program inquiries, please call 311 (for calls outside San Francisco, call 415.701.2311) or visit sf311.org.
Transit Only Lane Enforcement Program
San Francisco’s “Transit-First” policy encourages residents and visitors to utilize public transportation, bicycles, and walking to travel the city. We have designated “Transit Only Lanes” and “Transit Only Stops” to only be used by authorized vehicles. Because of their restricted use, transit lanes and stops must remain clear to provide timely service to riders and to allow for the safe entry and exit of transit riders. Please read road signs to understand where and when restrictions apply.
To enforce Transit Only lanes, San Francisco uses forward facing cameras on buses. If your vehicle is stopped or parked within a transit only lane, the bus camera will take a photograph of the vehicle's license plate and a citation will be issued to the vehicle’s owner.