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Column: Costly red-light fine; SF Transbay train station fury

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  • 3/2 SF Chronicle
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 2, 2009
      Published Monday, March 2, 2009, by the San Francisco Chronicle


      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
      Transbay Terminal.

      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"
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/40636 ]
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