ledemunicoll.jpgSan Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority Director Nathaniel Ford said today that recent Muni accidents, including a streetcar crash that injured six people Monday evening, are unacceptable but insist the transit system is safe.

“It is safe to ride Muni,” Newsom maintained, but he acknowledged, “It has been a very frustrating few weeks.”

In Monday’s accident, a Nissan Pathfinder was apparently struck from behind by a Muni F-Market streetcar at Market and Noe streets, causing the sport utility vehicle to crash into the rear of a second streetcar and become sandwiched between the two trains.

“It appears to be that the operator was distracted by a customer who approached him with some information,” Ford said. He said the accident is still being investigated.

Andrew Sartorius, 21, and his boyfriend Gene Cain, 35, both of Roseville, were on that streetcar Monday and said the operator had engaged in a lively conversation with a passenger for some time prior to the crash and appeared distracted.

Sartorius, who came to San Francisco with Cain to see the musical “Wicked,” said people fell out of their seats due to the impact.

Sartorius was left with a bruised elbow and Cain, who had his arm around Sartorius during the crash, suffered a wrist injury.

On July 18, a Muni light rail vehicle crashed into another train at the West Portal station, injuring 47 people. The operator of the train told investigators he blacked out right before the accident.

The National Transportation Safety Board is still probing that incident.

Both Newsom and Ford called the accidents “unacceptable.”

“Our hearts go out to those individuals who have been injured in these incidents,” Ford said today.

“We are not emphasizing on-time performance vs. safety,” he insisted.

“We’ve actually seen a dramatic improvement in the safety of the system,” Newsom said.

He said that since last year, Muni has actually had a “double-digit decline” in traffic incidents such as collisions and derailments.

Ford said that along with improved procedures, training and more street supervisors, the Muni board last month approved a new camera system to monitor drivers in order to be able to later review a driver’s actions immediately prior to an accident.

The new system will be in all Muni buses by the end of September, but Muni is still working with the manufacturer to design a system for its light-rail vehicles, Ford said.

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  • somawally

    One might think, “Why is the Nissan Pathfinder in the same Muni-only lane as the street cars?” This looks like the accident happened in front of the old Tower Records store, just as west-bound traffic on Market approaches 16th and Noe Streets, where the Cafe Flore is. It’s a big, busy intersection where those three streets meet.

    However, I think, along this segment of Market Street, cars can legally access this otherwise Muni-only lane to make a left-hand turn onto either Noe or 16th Streets, which would be pretty hazardous from the far right lane towards the curb.

    Either way, the second street car towards the rear should not have been anywhere near the first street car. Heck, maybe the Nissan Pathfinder “softened” the blow of what would have been the second car plowing directly into the rear of the front car … a la West Portal.

  • Fred

    If Newsom and Ford want to assert safety in the face of recent accidents, they’ll need more than words. They’ll need to show us the statistically significant numbers. How does Muni safety compare with similar systems in the US and the world?