SAN FRANCISCO—The city is launching a new safety campaign as part of an effort to make San Francisco’s streets safer for pedestrians, cable car riders and operators.
San Francisco cable cars were introduced to the city in 1873, and have been an iconic attraction for tourists to see a street-side view of the city over sprawling urban hills. Cable cars have been known to be a dangerous method of transportation, particularly for the conductors who operate and assist passengers on and off the vehicle.
Two years ago, cable cars were recognized as “one of the most dangerous forms of mass transit,” according to the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) report. In 2013, the U.S. DOT reported one accident each day, making the cable cars “one of the most accident-prone forms of transit in the United States per mile, [and] costing the city of San Francisco millions.”
Over the last decade, city authorities have reported over 130 accidents and over 160 injuries sustained due to cable car-related incidents. Many of these accidents have been attributed to cable cars stopping in the middle of the street to let off and pick up riders. Due to cable cars not having their own lanes, injuries caused by oncoming traffic are common.
According to San Francisco Municipal Transit Authority (SFMTA) spokesperson Paul Rose, “The city is implementing a public awareness campaign, the SFMTA is evaluating signage within each cable car to increase safety, police are enforcing laws so that pedestrians do not pass cable cars, and all cable car operators will be required to wear reflective vests and hold up stop signs for additional safety.” Rose stated that two cable car employees were injured this year, which instigated ongoing discussions with the mayor’s office and city officials to promote a safety campaign to be implemented this year.
In April, cable car operator Santiago Montoya, 53, was struck by a vehicle while assisting passengers off the cable car. Montoya sustained injuries from a fractured leg and broken ribs. Another unidentified operator is still being hospitalized after being struck by a motorcycle in June.
The State of California law requires drivers to stop at a safe distance behind trollies and streetcars while passengers board and exit. As of this week, citations will be issued to drivers who neglect to follow the “Do Not Pass” law. Police Chief Greg Suhr stated that “anyone who passes the stopped cable cars can expect to be issued a $238 ticket.” As of this week, 15 citations have been issued, Suhr noted.
Recent efforts in increasing road safety are part of the city’s commitment to eliminate all traffic deaths by 2024, also known as Vision Zero SF.
In the SFMTA’s press release, Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin stated that the city is “absolutely committed to the safety of our Operators as well as our riders… to ensure everyone has a safe experience on Muni’s legendary cable cars.”