As a San Francisco Bus Accident and Cable Car Accident Attorney, I do my best to help those injured in cable car crashes in our City by the Bay. Tourists and locals alike ride the San Francisco Cable Car, not for its speed (9 miles per hour), but for open air, convenience or nostalgia.
A few years ago, I learned that the San Francisco Cable Car was perhaps the most dangerous vehicle in public transportation in the entire country. If they move so slowly, how can they cause so many injuries per mile? Obviously, we have to look at this on a per mile basis, since the MUNI busses cause so much damage and injury.
Well, despite the local laws to the contrary, passengers continue to hop on and off moving cable cars, and the conductors and brakemen do nothing and say nothing about it. When I asked if jumping on a moving cable car was against the law, a brakeman told me in no uncertain terms that this was illegal. Then I asked him what the operators of the cable car do when someone jumps on the moving cable car, and he advised that they say nothing because the people usually fall off anyway. Great attitude! And the cable car operators are the most senior operators in the San Francisco MUNI system.
Another reason why we have so many injuries per mile is that the cable car is built of steel and wood and there is nothing soft to bounce off when the cable car lurches or when someone hits the car. Passengers who are bounced around inside the cable car are bounced into very hard unforgiving equipment, and this causes more injury per mile travelled.
So, if the cable car is so dangerous, why does the City still use it? Tourism? Symbolism? Great reasons, but safety is certainly not the highest priority.
Some riding the cable car may also choose it because it is not gas powered and follows along a predesignated track in a carriage which would appear to be safe. There was, however, a Cable Car accident last Wedneday morning, February 6, 2013 which sent seven people to the hospital. The accident was reported at 10:15 a.m. at Washington and Powell streets, according to fire officials.
In this case, no other vehicles were to blame for the accident. It was negligence on MUNI’s part as there was a large metal bolt on the track which caused the cable car to stop in its tracks quickly. Had MUNI been more conscious of track maintenance, this accident could have been prevented.
San Francisco Fire spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge said one of the injuries–an elderly man who fell and hit his head–was considered life-threatening. My condolences go out to this man and I hope for a speedy recovery.
I have been following the safety track record of MUNI–busses, trains and cable cars–for many years, and know that their track record is sketchy. Unfortunately, MUNI vehicles are often involved in serious injuries whether to bicyclists, pedestrians or other motorists. Sometimes these accidents cause wrongful deaths to pedestrians, motorists, motorcyclists, bicyclists and MUNI riders alike.
I would like to see MUNI take safety and maintenance more seriously, especially for America’s only moveable national monument, the San Francisco Cable Car.
Image: Simeon Schatz Photography