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The 100 mph minivan: City staffers are speeding like crazy, GPS trackers show

New data obtained by The Standard flagged over 1,510 times when city employees topped out at 80 mph or more in April alone.

A white van, a white prius, and a white truck rush through a wet, busy city street with onlookers. Buildings and traffic lights blur in the background.
GPS data obtained by The Standard shows how often city workers speed in San Francisco. | Source: AI illustration by Jesse Rogala/The Standard

An SFMTA employee revved a city-owned pickup truck up to 96 miles per hour on the interstate early one morning. A Park Ranger topped out at 75 mph in a 30-mph-zone in the middle of the night. And a Human Services Agency worker gunned a minivan up to 101 mph on an Antioch highway.

Those are some of the most egregious speeding incidents flagged by GPS devices installed in the vehicles that San Francisco’s city employees drive.

San Francisco is trying to crack down on speeding, the leading cause of traffic deaths and severe injuries in the city. It’s spending millions of dollars beefing up police traffic enforcement and redesigning city streets to that end. But even as public officials aim project after project at slowing down citizens, GPS data the city collects indicates that one key group continues to hurtle around San Francisco at breakneck speeds: city employees.

Back in 2016, city leaders mandated the installation of GPS-tracking black boxes in city-owned vehicles, reacting to severe traffic crashes involving public employees. Nearly a decade later, more than 4,500 of San Francisco’s vehicles, from pickups to Priuses, are outfitted with the black boxes, which feed a steady stream of information back to fleet managers.

But instead of eliminating speeding by public employees, the April 2024 GPS data obtained by The Standard suggests that chronic unsafe driving continues across the civic workforce.

The data, which excludes emergency vehicles that are allowed to speed, flagged over 1,510 times city employees topped out at 80 mph or more in April. That’s well above the 445 monthly incident average the city recorded between November 2017 and November 2020, according to a city report on the topic. The problem has quietly grown since the pandemic, with the black boxes recording an average of 1,600 incidents of city employees speeding 80 mph or more each month from July 2021 to December 2022.

The issue arises both day and night (the minivan in Antioch sped at 3:35 p.m.) while touching both freeways (the SFMTA pickup was on I-280) and surface streets (the Park Ranger was clocked at 19th Avenue and Sloat Boulevard).

A utility pickup truck with equipment, including a large tank and hoses, driving on a city street.
A city vehicle drives down a San Francisco street on June 3, 2024. | Source: Tâm Vũ/The Standard

City employees drove over 90 mph 21 times in April, according to the data. And there were two incidents in recent years, both in 2022, during which black boxes recorded over-100 mph speeds. That includes the Human Services minivan and an SFMTA sedan.

“City employees are putting all of us that are out and about on our streets at risk,” said Walk San Francisco Executive Director Jodie Medeiros when The Standard shared its findings.

The black boxes logged nearly 102,000 incidents of city-owned vehicles traveling at least 10 mph over the speed limit in April. That was spread across 2,789 vehicles, meaning over 60% of city vehicles outfitted with trackers sped by 10 mph or more during that month.

While the figures do indicate widespread speeding among city employees, they are almost certainly inflated due to the technology flagging false positives. That’s because the imperfect GPS system can deliver inaccurate velocity and speed limit information in some cases, according to administrators. Officials who regularly work with the data say that is especially true when it mistakes a highway location for a nearby surface street.

“My confidence level [in the excess speeding figures] is high at a meta level, because things average out,” San Francisco Fleet Business Manager Camilla Taufic wrote in an email. “However, at a granular level… [my confidence] is much lower.”

Danny Yeung, an SFMTA manager who works closely with the GPS data, gave a less generous prognosis.

“This report has so [many] false positives it’s kind of useless to us staff unless it’s a frequent, recurring, or very unusual outlier,” Yeung said.

The skepticism Yueng and other staffers expressed in the data’s reliability may help explain why the city’s so-called telematics program has failed to achieve its founding dream of eliminating speeding by city workers.

The image shows a night-time city street with multiple vehicles, mostly trucks, with headlights on.
A line of city vehicles travels down Market Street in San Francisco in February 2024. | Source: Courtesy San Francisco Public Works

In 2016, then-supervisor Norman Yee was mortified by several fatal traffic crashes involving city workers. That year, a public health employee struck and killed a woman crossing Market Street using a wheelchair and a paratransit bus driven by a city contractor hit an 86-year-old woman.

Spurred by a desire to live up to the city’s then-new Vision Zero initiative to eliminate traffic fatalities, Yee spearheaded legislation requiring the city to equip the vast majority of its vehicles with black boxes. His goal was to end the temptation for city workers to speed, Yee told The Standard.

At first, the program seemed to work. Once the telematics system was up and running, the city’s centralized fleet management division began sharing reports with departments, shining a light on widespread speeding. Officials took the problem on and the monthly count of 80+ mph speeding incidents dropped by 60%—from a monthly average of roughly 1,150 incidents in 2017 to just 450 monthly incidents from 2018 to 2020, according to a city report on the topic

But progress flagged as Covid pushed the issue to the back burner. In August 2020, the Budget and Legislative Analyst’s Office released a scathing report on the program, excoriating officials for failing to curb “excessive, recurring and dangerous rates of speeding in city vehicles.” 

“The city is missing the opportunity to manage the city fleet more effectively, curb dangerous driving behavior such as excessive speeding, reduce accidents and claims, reduce vehicle emissions, and prevent wasteful spending on underutilized vehicles,” the report said. “Combined, we estimate that these factors cost the city $10.5 million annually.”

Three somber individuals hold a person’s photo and flowers with purple ribbons.
Friends remembered Thu Phan at a March 2016 memorial. A city worker struck and killed Phan with a vehicle while she was crossing Market Street. | Source: Courtesy Jessica Christian/S.F.Examiner

The core problem the analysts diagnosed was that no single authority was taking the lead on dealing with problem drivers. Fleet management, which falls under the City Administrator’s office, couldn’t investigate or discipline department-level employees. Meanwhile, city departments were not fully utilizing the telematics system for all of its intended purposes, the report concluded.

The report barely registered in a city beset at the time by pandemic-era woes, Yee said. So the telematics program remained largely the same. 

‘Some serious accountability’ needed

According to the black box reports, city worker speeding has steadily increased in the years since the report was issued. It peaked at nearly 2,400 80+ mph speeding incidents in August 2022. That’s according to the annual report fleet management quietly compiled last summer. The division has not yet released any official 2023 or 2024 speeding figures, beyond the raw data obtained by The Standard.

“This is ridiculous; we can’t wait for another city vehicle to kill somebody before they react,” said Yee, who left the Board of Supervisors in January 2021. “I say, why do we have to wait for something tragic to happen? Let’s prevent it.”

How seriously city officials are taking documented speeding incidents is difficult to puzzle out, since the details in specific cases fall under the opaque screen of personnel matters.

“We took the appropriate personnel action in some of the cases you pointed out in which we believe speeding occurred,” SFMTA spokesperson Erica Kato said after The Standard flagged several apparently egregious speeding incidents in the telematics data. “However, we cannot delve into personnel matters for the individual cases as a matter of policy.”

Two white service trucks are on a city street with tall buildings and streetlights.
Two city vehicles drive through downtown San Francisco during a Lunar New Year Parade cleanup in February 2024. | Source: Courtesy San Francisco Public Works

It’s up to individual managers within SFMTA to review any red flags in their employees’ black box data, according to the department. And due to the possibility of a false positive, agency bosses cannot rely solely on the telematics data to dole out discipline.

At Recreation and Parks, officials receive weekly telematics reports that flag when its vehicles exceed 80 mph, said spokesperson Tamara Aparton. They, too, carefully vet the data for fear of false positives.

“When employees are found to be driving at unsafe speeds, they face disciplinary action,” Aparton said. “Although we cannot discuss individual personnel matters, consequences can range from counseling by a manager to termination, depending on the circumstances and the driver’s disciplinary history.”

Meanwhile, the City Administrator’s Fleet Management division, which oversees the citywide telematics program, still does not have the authority to crack down when it spots problem driving.

“It is up to the department to manage their employees,” said City Administrator’s Office spokesperson Angela Yip.

The fact that egregious speeding among employees has continued despite the rollout of the black boxes means that the city should revisit how it’s disciplining the behavior, Yee said.

Medeiros, the pedestrian advocate, shared a similar sentiment.

“I think that city leaders can put their money where their mouth is with Vision Zero,” she said. “And have some serious accountability for dangerous speeding by city employees.”

Jonah Lamb contributed additional reporting to this story.
Noah Baustin can be reached at