Chronicle: Dead-man switch failed to stop train

August 24th, 2009

Muni’s onboard master train-control lever, known in the transit industry as the dead-man’s device, failed to activate during July 18th’s crash between a K and L train at West Portal station when one of the light rail transit operators passed out for medical reasons. The lever, which requires a half a pound of pressure to keep the train in operation, was switched down from 2.5 pounds in 1996 after operators complained about hand and wrist problems from the amount of pressure.  Muni chief Nathaniel Ford says that Muni may consider increasing the amount of pressure on the lever as part of their efforts to bump up safty in the system.

Investigators have not yet concluded that the dead-man lever contributed to the West Portal crash.

BOS Hearing on MTA Safety Monday

August 7th, 2009

Think SafetyThis should be interesting: Supervisors Dufty and Elsbernd have called a hearing before the City Operations and Neighborhood Services committee on Monday, August 10 to discuss Muni’s recent safety and reliability problems, notably the Muni Metro and F-Market crashes. The meeting is in the Board Chambers at 10:30 am.

Meanwhile, some riders were stuck on an inbound M-Ocean View car for 19 minutes in the subway yesterday before being taken to the wrong stop. This sort of thing happened during the “Meltdown” of 1998, and it’s very disappointing to see that it’s happening again.

Updates are available from during and after the hearing.

To insure or self-insure Muni

August 6th, 2009

The SFMTA purchased insurance at the cost of $2.4M, which covers claims from $5M to $25M. The policy went into effect July 1, which means that the July 18th crash between two Muni LRVs at West Portal Station, which injured over 40 people, maybe covered. So far, the only claim that has come forward is a $193 claim from a passenger who had some personal belongings damaged, plus her medical costs from hitting her head.

The largest Muni payout was in 2003, where a Muni maintenance truck jumped the curb and crushed a little girl to death. That payout was $5M, which would have just have been within range of Muni’s new insurance policy.

Chronicle: King street train crash finds driver at fault

February 22nd, 2009

AccidentLast summer’s King Street train collision was the result of a fatigued driver that was using his cell phone for phone conversations and to download from the Internet. The 45 year old driver had a record of two other at-fault accidents, and according to a Muni spokesman, the driver is no longer on the Muni payroll.

Muni’s Accident Payout Total: $66M Since 2002

September 22nd, 2008

AccidentToday’s Chronicle has a sobering article about the cost to the SF farepayer and taxpayer of Muni accidents where the city settles or loses a lawsuit: $66 million in the last six years. (This is $11M per year, or about one-tenth of annual fare revenues.) Of course a good chunk of this money goes to plaintiffs’ lawyers, and Muni is not at fault in every case, but still this is a pretty big amount for a system that is trying to improve its safety record and respond to increased demand for service.