Column: Costly red-light fine; SF Transbay train station fury
- Published Monday, March 2, 2009, by the San Francisco Chronicle
MATIER & ROSS
Roll through a red, fork over the green
By Phillip Matier, Andrew Ross
Like a lot of California drivers, Dave Soss just got a $490 lesson
on how the state budget really works.
It all began when Soss, who lives in the East Bay, was ticketed
Feb. 1 for rolling through a red light while making a right turn
in Emeryville -- and was hit with what he called a "mind-blowing"
For starters, there was the $100 base fine. Most of that goes to
Emeryville, and the leftovers go to Alameda County.
Then comes the real hit:
* A $100 state penalty -- $70 of which is divvied up among a dozen
programs, including crime-victim restitution, witness protection,
a Department of Fish and Game preservation fund and even a fund
for victims of traumatic brain injuries. The other $30 goes to the
county's general fund.
* A $70 county penalty that goes for automated fingerprint
identification, court and jail construction and other programs.
* A $20 penalty for a state DNA crime evidence collection program.
* A $55 fee for more court construction.
* A $20 assessment for the county's emergency medical system.
* A $20 court security fee to pay for all those deputies and
screening devices at the county's courthouses.
* And a $20 surcharge that goes straight into the state's general
But wait -- there's more, including:
* A brand new, $35 assessment that the Legislature approved last fall
to help cover $5 billion in revenue bonds for even more courthouse
construction -- a program pushed by then-state Senate President Pro
Tem Don Perata.
* A $1 night court fee.
* And finally, a $49 fee for the privilege of signing up for traffic
school. (More than half that fee was just added -- again, to pay for
Perata's pet courthouse renovations.)
Add it all up, and our red-light runner -- whose infraction was
caught on camera -- is out $490.
Sticker-shocked Soss pondered community service to help pay it off.
But he was told that would make him ineligible for traffic school --
a course costing him another $15 online -- which he needs to keep
his record clean and his auto insurance from going up.
Of course, with ever-increasing numbers caught in the ticketing
squeeze, courts now have an option to collect from errant motorists
on the installment plan. Or allow them to defer payment.
With a $30 penalty fee, of course.
The nearly Daly show: San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly let
loose with another of his infamous, F-word-laced diatribes.
This one happened Wednesday, just moments after SamTrans and
Caltrain boss Michael Scanlon publicly urged Daly's Metropolitan
Transportation Commission colleagues to put the brakes on their
request for $400 million in federal stimulus money to partially
fund an underground train station at San Francisco's planned new
Scanlon has doubts about sinking all that money into bringing
Caltrain and high-speed trains downtown without knowing whether
the design will work. Daly was having none of it and, outside the
hearing, loudly cursed Scanlon for his public testimony -- and for
not giving him a heads-up it was coming.
Witnesses say the Peninsula train service general manager didn't
back down during the hallway exchange -- telling Daly as the
supervisor stormed off that if he wanted to settle the matter by
stepping outside, he was game.
Scanlon downplayed the run-in, telling us, "Chris is very passionate
about his position, and I think he wanted to make sure I heard his
"I guarantee I heard everything."
Daly did not return our call seeking comment.
Contact Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross at (415) 777-8815, or e-mail
[BATN: See also:
Transbay Terminal train station design too small, "fatally flawed"