All street-level San Francisco Municipal Railway rail vehicles — including street-level Muni metro light rail vehicles on the J,K,L,M and N lines, and F-Market historic street cars such as the ones involved in Monday night’s accident — are required by agency rules to keep a 250 foot safety gap between one another, MTA staff and the drivers’ union president confirmed Tuesday.

Operators can be approved by street supervisors to approach closer than 250 feet to another Muni vehicle in the case of a delay or other situation, Muni spokesman Judson True said. But oftentimes drivers will neglect this rule without approval, a practice that needs to stop, Transit Workers Local 250A president Irwim Lum said.

“That is a safety procedure that exists — it should be observed,” Lum said. “It’s a safety issue that we are going to make sure we present to our people and re-emphasize that.”
On Monday, an F-Market train rear-ended a Nissan SUV on Market Street in the Castro District. The SUV was crushed between the train and a second train stopped just ahead of the SUV. The driver of the first train appeared to be distracted by a passenger, according to Muni director Nat Ford.

Obeying the rule might not have prevented the accident if the driver was distracted by conversation with a passenger, Muni staff admitted, but it might have prevented the SUV from being crushed between the two trains.

Drivers do sometimes operate their vehicles “faster than they should,” Lum said. “But regardless of their on-time schedules, safety is of paramount importance [to drivers].”

Have you observed Muni surface rail failing to observe this rule? Let us know.

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