© 2021 KALW
KALW Public Media / 91.7 FM Bay Area
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

San Francisco makes steep cut in tow and boot fees for low-income drivers

Eli Wirtschafter
To qualify for newly reduced fees, low income drivers must report to the SFMTA Customer Service Center on Van Ness.

The death of Michael Brown at the hands of police in Ferguson, Missouri, set off months of protests and an investigation by the federal Department of Justice.

In 2015, the DOJ found that police in Ferguson disproportionately targeted Black residents with traffic tickets and other fees. Similar patterns soon came to light across the nation.


Ferguson kicked off soul-searching in San Francisco, which has some of the highest towing charges in the country. In 2016, the city treasurer José Cisneros said the city was “guilty of a form of predatory government.”

Citing Ferguson as an inspiration, he announced a new office to reform city fines and fees: the Financial Justice Project.

On Sunday, July 1, some of the reforms recommended by the Financial Justice Project are taking effect. Low income drivers will get a steep discount on charges for towed and booted vehicles.

Do these changes go far enough? KALW News transportation reporter Eli Wirtschafter came into the studio to discuss what he learned from the city department behind the reforms.



"If we can find something that works better for people, it can actually work better for the city as well. When you make it easier for people to pay their tickets more people will pay, and more people will pay on time. That's a good thing for people, and a good thing for our city." — Anne Stuhldreher, director, San Francisco Financial Justice Project

Click the audio player above to listen to the full story.