Starting January 1, 2022, California AB 917 becomes law, enabling public transit operators state-wide to install automated forward-facing cameras on transit vehicles to enforce parking violations in bus lanes, and at designated transit stops.

Co-sponsored by the California Transit Association (CTA), Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), and Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District (AC Transit), California’s new AB 917 legislation lends support to helping improve transit services and passenger safety by increasing average bus speeds, improving on-time transit performance and system reliability, and creating safer bus boarding/de-boarding access for elderly and disabled transit riders.

Many cities across California already have established designated transit-only lanes to make public transit more convenient and reliable for commuters and travelers alike. According to recent public transit research from UCLA, transit-only lanes have improved peak congestion travel times by 20-28%. Prior research from the Victoria Transport Policy Institute found that reducing the time it takes a transit rider to go door-to-door by 5-15% can increase urban peak ridership by 2-9%.

In co-sponsoring AB 917, California Transit Association officials explained, “Illegal parking in zones [transit-only lanes and transit stops] compromises transit operators’ ability to provide safe, reliable, and accessible public transit service. Until the vehicle relocates, transit-only lanes and transit stops are effectively rendered out of service. This reduces transit system reliability by slowing down transit vehicle speeds and negatively impacts transit riders. In addition to the service impacts, a partially blocked transit stop creates significant safety concerns. When a transit operator is not able to reach the curb, riders are forced to negotiate the street and the gap that is created between the transit vehicle and the curb. This is a potentially dangerous maneuver for riders to make, and an impossible one for those with a disability or mobility limitations, including seniors.”

Representatives from co-sponsor, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) observed “one violation every four minutes in bus only lanes on congested Wilshire Boulevard…AB 917 will deter drivers from violating bus only lane designations, ensure the reliability of public transit, and help transit remain competitive in our efforts to reduce congestion.”

How AB 917 works

The new legislation authorizes transit agencies to install automated, forward-facing parking control devices on city-owned or district-owned public transit vehicles, to record parking violations occurring in bus transit-only lanes and at bus stops.

AB 917 authorizes transit agencies to share relevant data, video, and images of parking violations collected with the local parking enforcement entity and local agency in the jurisdiction where the violation occurred. Prior to starting an automated bus lane enforcement program public transit agencies are required to issue warning notices for the first 60 days of the program prior to proceeding with full program enforcement. The enforcement program implementation must also include making a public announcement of the program, providing information about the enforcement program and existing parking regulations, and educating the public on payment options available for low-income individuals.

Transit agencies must also create a fair process to review video evidence and contest parking violations to ensure an independent, objective, and impartial review of contested parking violations. Transit agencies must designate authorized employees, as defined by AB 917, to review video image recordings to determine whether a parking violation occurred. The legislation also requires that video evidence be destroyed within preset timelines established by AB 917 unless there is no evidence of a violation, in which case video shall be destroyed in 15 days.

AB 917 is subject to a legislative authorization process and will be in effect for five years, until January 1, 2027. Transit agencies implementing enforcement programs under AB 917 shall submit to the legislature an evaluation report of the enforcement system’s effectiveness, including the impact on privacy, traffic outcomes, costs to implement, changes in citations issued, and revenue generated, no later than January 1, 2025.

Transit Agency Benefits

            Key transit agency benefits include:

  • Achieve performance goals  As cities designate transit-only lanes to make public transit more efficient and convenient, AB 917 will deter drivers from violating bus-only lane designations to help ensure on-time bus performance and reliability.
  • Improve passenger safety  Automated enforcement improves passenger safety by discouraging vehicles from parking at bus stops, providing a safe boarding area for passengers as they embark and disembark from buses. This is especially important for the elderly, disabled, and passengers traveling with young children, who otherwise must step into traffic to board buses.
  • Mitigate traffic congestion  One of the best ways to reduce congestion is to entice people out of their cars. Research has shown that a 5% reduction in the number of vehicles traveling on L.A. highways each hour can create a 10-30% increase in average vehicle speeds.
  • Automate enforcement  Camera-based enforcement is cost-effective and ideal for busy city streets where traditional parking enforcement may not always be realistic. In Washington D.C., for example the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments found that bus lane enforcement with on-bus cameras delivered the most cost-effective enforcement solution.