Part of the Bay Area News Group

kiss ‘n’ violate

By enelson
Monday, June 12th, 2006 at 11:06 pm in AC Transit, BART, connectivity, Security, Transit vs. driving.

Reader Frank F. has no love for Alameda County Sheriff’s deputies after getting a picture of his car in front of the Lake Merritt BART Station in Oakland and a hefty ticket for violating bus stop parking rules.

Here’s his story:

I recently received a parking ticket for being dropped off in front of the Lake Merritt BART station on 8th Avenue. There is a very long bus stop with the bus sign behind several trees at the far end of the zone not in front of the BART entrance.

Cuffed BART and AC Transit.bmp
I very much understand the need to keep the buses moving and the problem with cars and buses at the bus zones. The Lake Merritt Bart station is not that busy with limited number of buses running at 20-minute headways. However it is an easy place to write tickets …

Two or three days a week, an AC Sheriff’s Dept vehicle parks in a red zone across the street and takes pictures of the cars stopping to let people off at the Bart station. The ticket is mailed to you and they make no personal contact with you.

There is no education program, no person with ticket book reminding people not to park here etc. the Sheriff department writes over 12,000 tickets per year at $250.00 per ticket. (the information is proudly mentioned on the Web page for the Traffic control program: http://www.alamedacountysheriff.org/mainpage.htm) I don’t see an education program reminding people not to even stop in bus zones.

Finally I think better identification of the bus zone around the BART stations is in order and identifying the fine amount would help. I would hope that this purpose here is to keep the buses moving the passengers safe and not the over $3,000,000 dollars in fines collected without an education program..

Frank goes on to say that he’s also complained to AC Transit, the Board of Supervisors and the Sheriff’s Department, and that the appeals process wasn’t much help. He also makes reference to donuts, but I don’t think impugning deputies’ alleged nutritional infractions is appropriate here.

But let’s not bicker and argue over who ate what or who ticketed whom. The important question here is: Is this sound transit policy?

I asked Metropolitan Transportation Spokesman Randy Rentschler, not just because he’s good for a quote, but because his office looks out over the very same illegal kiss ‘n’ ride spot where Frank got photographically violated.

From his perch, Randy said, it appears that Frank’s description of the bus stop is accurate.

And while we were on the phone, he said, “I see someone dropping someone off now, and there’s a cop watching.”

Could this be the parking sting operation, by deputies on contract to police AC Transit stops?

Mr. Rentschler, in his capacity as transportation guru, suggested that zapping commuters with gotcha-grams and hefty fines might not be the best way to encourage transit use.

But then, there are two sides to every story, and perhaps more. After you’ve had a chance to chew on this scenario a bit, we’ll see what the Bus `n’ Bust agencies have to say for themselves.

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40 Responses to “kiss ‘n’ violate”

  1. Mindy Says:

    I, too, recieved a parking ticket at a bus stop in Oakland. I was picking up a friend who had arrived on the last train of the evening in Oakland and was confused as to which direction he should head. I pulled over on a mostly empty street, where I would have had a very clear view of any approaching buses(although I imagine no buses run to the BART station after the last train of the evening). I was pulled over for about 15 seconds to let my friend jump in the car and promptly pulled over by Sheriff’s Dept for parking in a bus zone! I never left the car- clearly not attempting to park there, and the worst part was that the officer’s car was IN THE BUS ZONE while he gave me the ticket, which was several hundred dollars.

    Isn’t there something a bit more dangerous elsewhere in town that this officer should have been more concerned about?

  2. Steve Says:

    The AC Transit/Deputy Sheriff story should really get a lot more attention. This unit is all about raising revenue for AC Transit and the Sheriff. They have outrageously expensive tickets ($250+) and will cite you for being in a red zone for as little as 2 seconds! It doesn’t make a difference to them that if there are no buses in sight and you’re not blocking traffic–it’s all about raking in fines.

    What’s a commuter supposed to do? There are no white zones for drop off anywhere in downtown that I can ever find, so your only option is to double park, or better yet, stop in a regular red zone rather the ones for bus stops. Oakland PD doesn’t cite for this anywhere near as viciously as the Sheriffs will do, and unlike the AC Transit/Sheriff they have more important work to do than harassing commuters.

  3. George Says:

    I am baffled by this. There is a difference between
    “parking” and “standing”. If bus stops are “no parking”
    zones, and there is someone always in the car, then
    why would someone get a ticket?

  4. Lois Says:

    Try to get this story on the local newscasts – The Sheriff’s department should be shamed into changing their policing tactics.

  5. Sky Says:

    I also got a ticket from an AC Transit Sheriff for $250 in front of the downtown Berkeley BART. I do understand the need for not blocking the lane, but I was only dropping someone off for 10 seconds, there weren’t any buses coming, and the ironic thing is that while the cop was giving me the ticket, he was not only blocking the bus stop, he was also blocking pedestrians trying to cross the road.

    Here’s my question: is there any way to get out of these tickets? The $250 is a lot of money, and really hurts my budget.

  6. Dave Says:

    This is indeed predatory enforcement. I got one of these $250 tickets from the Berkeley Parking Enforcement dropping my wife at the BART station, and my son got one, in my car, in Oakland at the notorious 8th St stop. I don’t understand why it’s a parking citation when the car is occupied and a driver is present. Why isn’t the driver – the one who does the deed – cited? As a parking citation, the registered owner is stuck with it, even though s/he had nothing to do with the infraction. I called the 800 number and asked if there was a way to legally transfer responsibility to the driver and get me off the hook, and the lady just laughed. I think the fine for standing, when there’s no bus present, should be about a tenth of $250. The big fine should be only for cases where the car is left unattended – parked, rather than standing. Brief stops that don’t affect bus operation aren’t worth $250, the whole thing is outrageous.

    Who do we complain to? I’d like to do it, don’t know where to send my gripe, though.

  7. Mike M Says:

    We got a $250 bus zone ticket at McArthur Bart back in May – but we were in the taxi zone just behind. Same deal – 15 second drop off, no bus in site. AC transit saw us pull out from across the street and followed for 2 blocks before pulling us over. We continue to fight it. The initial review process is useless (expect an immediate denial no matter how good your story). Then we requested a further review (live rather than written) – which was held before an independent “judge” at the San Leandro substation. We had to pay the full 250 up front. You get a date/time, and its over pretty fast. Our ticket was reduced from the $250/bus zone to a $32/taxi zone violation. It will probably take another hearing to “correct” the ticket fine. Bottom line – if there’s any excuse at all, appeal it.

  8. Jeenie Says:

    This totally makes my blood boil. I had the same issue. I pulled over on a rainy night at a bart station I had never been before to drop a friend off and I didn’t even realize I was in a bus zone. A second later red lights were flashing and aI drove off with a $250 ticket even though I explained I was new to the area and didn’t realize. The thing that makes me even crazier is seeing Alameda county officers *parked* in a bus zone in front of Starbucks on a daily basis getting their daily cup. Such a double standard! I think I am going to start taking pictures and posting them on the web everytime I see them setting a bad example!

  9. denise Says:

    I just got a 250.00 ticket dropping my son off in front of his high school. the sheriff pulled me over and I did not even know why. Just like all the other stories I stopped let my kid out and drove away I agree with the suggestion that this is simply a trap for AC Transit to make easy money. It infuriates me that a sherriff who should be making sure the kids are safe is just there to give out tickets for no good reason. I will appeal hopefully I will win.

  10. Michael Krueger Says:

    This page really ought to be accompanied by some synthesized violin music. I’m sorry, but there is no excuse for anyone other than a bus driver to stop, stand, or park in a bus zone. I agree that the police should set a good example and never park in bus zones themselves; however, just because a couple of cops set a bad example doesn’t mean it’s open season for citizens to break the law.

    As for those who complain, “I wasn’t parking, I was just stopping,” clearly you didn’t read your California Driver Handbook:

    Parking At Colored Curbs

    Painted colored curbs have the following special parking rules:

    White: Stop only long enough to pick up or drop off passengers or mail.

    Green: Park for a limited time. Look for a sign next to the green zone or for the time painted on the curb.

    Yellow: Stop no longer than the time posted to load or unload passengers or freight. Drivers of noncommercial vehicles are usually required to stay with the vehicle.

    Red: No stopping, standing, or parking. (Buses may stop at a red zone marked for buses.)

    Sounds like an open-and-shut case to me. Now that you know the rules, you know that every time you stop, stand, or park in a red zone, you are taking a risk. If you get a ticket, don’t complain that it’s a scam to raise money or say it was unfair . . . just admit you took a chance and you lost. Grit your teeth and cough up the money.

    For those who wonder why AC Transit is doing this, remember, it’s to ensure the safe and timely operation of the buses. Just because a bus isn’t there when you pull up in your car doesn’t mean one won’t arrive while you’re there, even if it is one that only runs every half hour. As a regular AC Transit rider, I’m glad AC Transit and the Sheriff enforce the rules here in the East Bay. It’s far superior to San Francisco, where they don’t enforce the parking rules at bus stops or in bus lanes, and transit service suffers mightily as a result.

  11. Capricious Commuter Says:

    Why not just give $250 tickets to everyone who drives their kids to school, and use the money to buy school buses?

    But seriously, I think the issue is not that it’s unreasonable to enforce no stopping rules at bus stops, but that the fine is so high.

    The other issue, as noted above, is that people who are trying to access BART, as they do at Lake Merritt, are being punished for their good deed. Perhaps there’s a way to accommodate both buses and cars at such locations.

  12. david vartanoff Says:

    Actually AC has been known to ‘troll’ for citations on days/times when NO BUSES operate on the given street. And just why was the AC inspector whose primary task os monitoring buses on that street rather than one where buses were operating?

  13. Bruce De Benedictis Says:

    If you want to avoid the fine for parking in a bus stop, or at a “handicapped crosswalk” which is $275, double-park instead. If you are just stopping to pick someone up or drop something off, it is local option whether it is illegal or not, and if it is, the fine is lower.

    Of course, double-parking inconveniences peers, rather than disabled people and others who have lesser status in society.

    Also, if you do not want the money to go to the local transit district, insist that your police start enforcing these laws. Then the fines would go to your city.

  14. janice Says:

    This just happened with me and my friend 2 days ago. She was picking me up from the Lake Merritt Bart station and didn’t realize that she pulled into a bus stop area. This was her and my first time at this station and there were no clear signs that indicated any violation. Anyway, I hopped into the car and we took off.

    A cop promptly pulled us over and we got a ticket for $250. He was definitely waiting to catch us.

    My question is… if we appeal, will it work? Or should we just give up and pay the money? Anyone have any luck with the appeal process?

  15. radha Says:

    I just received a $250 ticket in the mail for pulling over in downtown Berkeley to drop off my husband at work. There is no sign posted at the bus stop indicating such a steep fine! Nor did anyone stop me at the time – I just received a ticket in the mail.

    I, too, want to appeal.

  16. Brian Says:

    A friend received a $250 ticket for stopping in an unmarked bus stop (no painted curb; bus stop sign was half a block away). The ticketing deputy was unable to explain how a motorist should know whether they are or aren’t at a bus stop. The ticket was appealed and upheld, then taken to court. When the Sheriff’s department failed to show up in court, the ticket was thrown out.

    So if you want your $250 back, take them to court! I’ll bet that an officer taking photos of hapless cars at Lake Merit generates more revenue than one that’s testifying in court, so you have a good chance of winning by default.

  17. William E Walker Says:

    I received a $250.00 ticket for stoping in a bus zone on Snell St. at the coliseum bart station. I did not pull stop in the Red Curb Zone. I stopped in the middle of the street. When the Deputy pulled me over, I asked him “since when does the red curb zone extend to the middle of the street.” His response was “I am just doing my job”. When he gave came back to the car asked same question again. This time his response was “there is a number on back of citation to request a review” When he came back to give me the citation, I asked hime once again, “so what you are telling is that the red curb zone extends to the center of the street.” He told me “maybe you should fight this one.” I call it a re curb zone, becuase I cannot find the definition for bus zone
    I looked on line and in two different dictionarys. I called DMV, They couldn’t find definiton, I talked to OPD officer. He looked for for a least an hour and couldn’t it. Intinital review was upheld. live review was upheld, t, Hearing Officer at live review said Bus Zone could not be defined because of buses are different lenghts. When I was leaving he said “you could ask 25,000 officers around the world to define bus zone and would get 25,000 different answers.” I told him. “That why this is a grey law. Next step is Small Claims Court.
    By the way if you go by the letter of the Law describing the definition Red Curb Zone it is against law for any “vechile” to stop, stand, or park in red curb zone except a bus to load or unload passengers. Even a Bus should not be parked in red zone, only stop to load or unload passengers. please excuse my mistakes

  18. Ricky Courtney Says:

    I actually live in Southern California, but I have been to the bay and rode the BART many times…. but down here at our commuter rail, light rail and subway stations they put up directional signs everywhere… with arrows leading you to the “kiss and ride” areas, both on the roads for drivers and on the sidewalks for pedestrians and with two big “DO NOT ENTER (Transit Exempt)” signs at the entrances to the bus pickup/dropoff lanes. So it sounds like AC Transit and BART need to get together and spend some of this ticket money on a signage plan.

    By the way even if a station has only a bus dropoff/pickup curb… mark out a place for pickups maybe another curb, or parking spaces and put up big noticeable signs saying Bus Lane, and then maybe spray on a crosshatched area that says that in front of the sign. It takes a lot of money to keep officers on the road… and then when they give a ticket… they block these areas for 30 minutes… AC Transit would be better served to make sure people know not to park there… it wouldn’t cost a lot…. and it would keep the bus zone open.

  19. Alex Says:

    I just got hit with this same B.S. dropping a friend off at the MacArthur station in the middle of Oakland last night. I’d never been there before, was trying to find the station, saw the station, and stopped for a second to let him out. This was 9:30 at night, with no traffic around, let alone buses. I didn’t see any sign, and frankly the entire area wasn’t lit very well. The $250 violation is a load of crap, and frankly AC needs to be called to task on this.

  20. Al Says:

    C’mon folks…be fair, with the low crime rates in Oakland and Berkeley the law enforcement community is clearly serving and protecting the community by enforcing laws against you maniacs. You should thank them for keeping things safe.

    *cough*
    ;-)

  21. Mac Says:

    This is definitly a good case of Entrapment. I also was taking a friend to the county building in Hayward, at Winton and Amador. I pulled over to let her
    out, there is a red zone but it’s not marked bus zone anywhere, i was there no more than 10 seconds, i drove off and two days i received a ticket in the mail for $250.00. the origial ticket says ” male driver dropped off passenger ” and right above that there is a violation code 10040 red bus zone, so about a week goes by and i get this other offical notice that has another code description and that stated 22500 ivcv/parking in a bus zone, i want to know if i got two tickets or did they just put me in the same barrel because the cop didn’t know the right number to cite me for. and if not paided by the due date they add another 100.00 bucks to it. i requested a administrative review and of corse it was upheld. Next i am going to requesting a administrative hearing, we’ll see what happens. I know i cant afford a $250.00 lump sum all at once, what gets me is they don’t offer a payment plan and if you go for the hearing they say the hearing shall provide an independent objective, fair,and impartial reveiw of contested violation ” HA HA”
    thats only if the examiner and the governing board of the issuing agency permit it it. also the performance of community service in lieu of payment of parking penalty. IT’S THE LAW SECTION 40215 CONTESTING A PARKING VIOLATION. that’s at DMV-VC. We should all unite and boycott AC TRANSIT AND BART FOR THEIR LACK OF SIGNS POSTED. at evey red light they have a sign that tells you it’s a 270.00 dollar fine for red light violation, sooooooooooo why cant they put up a couple of NO PASSENGER DROP OR DROP OFF VIOLATION $250.00.

  22. Phoenix Says:

    Similar thing just happened to me last Friday, Dec. 22, just before Christmas. I’m contacting ABC News’ ’7 On Your Side’ and i suggest anyone else with a similar experience do the same. I’m sure if they posted a story on this there would be many others that come forward to complain about this nonsense.

  23. Phoenix Says:

    BTW – My citation was issued by Officer Baker, Badge #1099. It would be interesting to see if the majority of the other citations were also written by Officer Baker.

  24. Kriti Says:

    I got a hefty $250 ticket too for dropping off my husband this morning at the MacArthur Bart station. I was hardly stopped for 10 seconds!! I see an officer behind my car, so pull over and he hands me this ticket and says I that I had stopped in a bus zone! Has anyone contested this type of ticket? This is just outrageous!!

  25. AC Transit parking traps at East Bay BART stations Says:

    [...] did a little googling and found that AC Transit has a nice little racket going here. This post on the Capricious Commuter blog has a series of comments spanning 18 months from people who have gotten these tickets when dropping [...]

  26. Kenn Wilson Says:

    I just got one of these $250 tickets yesterday for dropping someone off at MacArthur BART about two weeks ago.

    I went back and took some pictures and I think a pretty clear case could be made that the passenger zone is nearly invisible from the station entrance and so no one unfamiliar with the station could possibly know about it, but you’d be fighting a big Alameda County revenue generator in an Alameda County court which, needless to say, would probably not end in any reasonable way.

  27. Trishafisha Says:

    Okay, I got one in February when my friend came to pick me up in my car at 12th St (Oakland) BART station. It was 11:45pm, night, and the bus from there to my house didn’t run after commute hours (it does now, but it didn’t then). THERE IS NO WHITE CURB PASSENGER LOADING ZONE on Broadway for the 2 blocks of the BART station. If there is one on a side street, I haven’t found it yet. (I dropped off a friend at the same BART station by driving 2/3rds of the way down a side street and double parking, because I couldn’t find a legal place to stop.) Initial review denied; I’m going to request a Hearing. I will have to sell my car to afford the fine (starving student with junker car). I called the Irvine number on the citation; they said I can send a letter requesting a payment plan, or telling them I can’t afford the ticket and I want a hearing.

  28. Christopher Says:

    I too received the mysterious $250 ticket after dropping someone off at MacArthur. At first I wondered how I got it, since I saw/met no officer, then I heard about the camera.

    Well… I DID stop in a bus zone. Even though it was very brief and blocked no bus or any other vehicle, I DID break the law. What’s not right about this situation is:

    1) The officer who ticketed me was not getting people to “move on” or not park at all. If the goal is indeed to keep bus traffic flowing, this would surely be more effective than paying him/her to sit in a car all day and write tickets. Even at airports they say something before ticketing you.

    2) The fine is just silly. $250 would be a well-deserved punishment for leaving a car there. $25 is more appropriate for what I, and apparently so many others have done. That would be ample for getting me to make sure I never even looked at a bus zone again.

    I will surely contest this citation as far as I can. I am heartened to read here that someone got the fine reduced to $32. I also plan to take as many pictures as I can of AC Transit vehicles blocking the bus lane and present them at my hearing.

    Does anyone know the political route for changing this ridiculous practice of our local government?

  29. Capricious Commuter Says:

    AC Transit is run by an elected board of directors, so you could certainly petition them to change it. I don’t know if they have anything to do with creating the zone, but they certainly can tell the deputies, who are under contract with their agency, not to enforce it in that manner. You can find them and contact information at
    http://www.actransit.org/aboutac/bod/index.wu?PHPSESSID=a2b6ad2672e58fab0884e0206d61d079

  30. Reedman Says:

    I have never been able to determine how far away from a red curb the red zone extends. My thinking is that (as far as fines are concerned), it may be cheaper to stop in the middle of the traffic lane and let someone out than pull over and do it.

  31. trishafisha Says:

    UPDATE from my commment dated April 23, 2008. I went to my “hearing” (a conversation in an office) and the guy more or less argued that ignorance of the law is no excuse, stopping for 5 seconds is stopping and therefore breaking the law, etc. Then he said he would “take it under advisement” and send me his decision in the mail. I left soooo angry that he couldn’t just tell me to my face that he was going to keep my money. Surprise, surprise, I got my money back about a month later!

    My brother tells me he got one of these tickets (on piedmont avenue) and decided to ignore it. This was 3 or 4 years ago, and he has had no trouble registering his car or anything–His belief is that they don’t have jurisdiction, and can’t really follow through if you don’t pay. Take this advice at your own risk!

  32. Reedman Says:

    The California state-allowed maximum for parking fines is $250, which is why AC Transit and San Francisco charge that amount for “parking in a bus zone”. San Francisco used to charge $500 for “misuse of a handicapped parking placard”, but the city attorney decided that was illegal (no refunds for people who paid $500). So, SF now fines $100 for the placard misuse. If you know someone with a handicap placard, borrow it, and use it at the blue curb, it might be a way to incur lower fines during a drop-off. Parking at a blue curb without a placard is allowed a heavier fine ($275-$307).

  33. HC Says:

    I was touring Oakland last week. I too got a ridiculous ticket for dropping my brother off at a bus stop. Being from NYC, the traffic/transit police is more rude than NYC – and that is saying a lot from a New Yorker. The ticket was issued to the rental car. I’ll let the rental car company deal with this. $250 is totally ridiculous.

  34. HC Says:

    An addendum to my previous post, the ticket officer’s name is Arbitter. He sure was bitter.

  35. JCM Says:

    I just received the 250.00 ticket…I am amazed and appalled! Where is the white zone to drop off and pick up people at the BART station?
    I understand it is a 450.00 fine for double parking, which is your only other option. I have dropped off and picked up my 81 year old aunt several times….Please tell me exactly where you are supposed to let someone out to safely get to the entrance of the BART station?

  36. RC Says:

    I have ridden on AC Transit buses and see people getting ticketed all the time. AC Transit bus riders waiting at the bus stops have actually warned people to move their cars and drivers do not listen.

    Don’t stop next to red curbs or where signs say not stopping/no parking. The AC Transit bus stops that I have seen that are mentioned here (MacArthur BART/Coliseum BART, etc) are marked with red curbs or no stopping/parking signs. Read your DMV manual…red curb means no stopping. Most of you who stop are taking a chance and rolling your dice that you are not going to get caught.

    I agree that the fine of $250 is way too much, but the deputy/officer does not determine the fine amount. AC Transit police officers are just doing their job, handling bus/bus zone related stuff. I am sure that AC Transit is aware of the amount of citations and complaints that are written. If they wanted more warnings given instead of tickets they would have let the Sheriff’s Office know.

  37. CW Says:

    I recently receive a $250 ticket in the mail after dropping off a sick carpool partner at a bus zone. It was the only place to pull over. I do understand the letter of the law, also the spirit of the law. I appealed and lost, then requested a formal hearing along with the $250 payment. After I received a collection notice of $350, I called AC parking enforcement and the clerk said that my check an my request for a hearing was not received. She also said if the check ever surfaced, they would cash it but my request for a hearing is denied because it is out of the time frame. Appeal rights? I think not.

  38. JI Says:

    I too received the infamous $250 ticket from a Alameda County Sheriff at West Oakland BART. At this station, there is an indented area between two bulb outs that serves as the bus zone (or so I thought). I am having difficulty locating info on exactly what constitutes the bus zone to know if my assumption is correct. I was definitely not within the indented area, but in the street. Cars were occupying all the other spots around the corner which is technically the passenger unloading zone. I am at the stage of having to request a hearing, because my review had been denied. What peeves me is the requirement to pay $250 before the hearing can be scheduled. I can understand holding the money until the hearing as a deposit but was told that they cash it immediately.

  39. MG (new to Berkeley) Says:

    I just got hit dropping off my wife in the morning at Rockridge. We couldn’t have been there for more than 15 seconds.

    This is wrong. How do we organize to change this practice? Who has authority over AC Transit? It’s our county. We want it to be safe and we want traffic to run smoothly (and it’s much better than Boston, I admit!) Large fines delivered by surprise don’t help! Clear signage, as someone already pointed out, would help a lot more. Isn’t there a way to have someone somewhere direct AC Transit to do that? That seems very reasonable. Also, who sets the fine?

    But golly, at $1000 for every four tickets they must have raised millions, literally.

  40. SP Says:

    I received one this AM for $255 at the MacArthur BART for dropping off my spouse who is now unable to drive for medical reasons. Officer Wysack (Badge 244) was at my drivers side window yelling iat me to open the window before my spouse could even exit the vehicle. She rudely told me to park IN THE BUS ZONE while she instructed another officer to fill out the ticket. I explained that this was my first time dropping a passenger off here ever and it was not clear where to do it. I also suggested that a warning would be sufficient and that a $255 fine is quite unreasonable. Deaf ears. This is not only immoral but unsafe and detrimental to the goal of increasing public transit. I will drive my spouse to work now rather than risk this bus stop sting operation.

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