Six Injured When Historic Muni Streetcars Collide with SUV

market_crash3.jpgCrash at Market and Noe. Photos: Nocturnal Perambulations

Two historic San Francisco streetcars on the outbound Market Street tracks collided with a Nissan SUV at Market and Noe streets in the Castro at 5:45 p.m. Monday. Six people were injured, including both people in the SUV, and the operator of the train that collided with it from behind.

The MTA later issued a statement saying both the streetcar operator and driver were treated and released from the hospital. Three people were treated on the scene and one refused treatment.

Hundreds of people at the scene watched as crews removed the trains and the squashed SUV. Service on the F-line was finally restored around 8:43 p.m.

Witnesses told KCBS radio that the operator of the F-Train that hit the SUV from behind may not have been looking forward when the crash happened.

"The driver was kind of talking to a passenger, kind of distracted, and several ways down the road, he kept on talking," said passenger Gene Cain, whose wrist was injured.
"If he would have been paying more attention I don’t think it would have happened."

"Any witness statements are part of the investigation," said MTA spokesperson Judson True. "We are continuing to talk to witnesses."

Supervisor Bevan Dufty was on the scene shortly after the crash and was visibly shaken. "I’m devastated by this accident. I think it seriously calls into question our credibility with the public." Dufty was already planning to hold a hearing next Monday on the recent Muni crash at West Portal Station, which injured 47 and totalled two light rail vehicles. This crash will also be central to the hearing.

MTA Chief Nat Ford issued a statement late Monday night calling the crash "intolerable" and "deeply frustrating."

"I know that the riding public is concerned about Muni safety, and so am I. Our ongoing work to improve Muni safety is clearly more urgent than ever."

The MTA also issued a press release identifying the operators:

The two Muni Operators were identified as Lonny Butler, who was operating the moving streetcar (Car No. 1893), and Leonard Peralta, who was operating the stationary streetcar (Car No. 1007). Butler began as a Muni Operator in 2002 (he joined the rail division in 2007) and Peralta was hired in 1995 (he joined the rail division in 1999). Per normal procedure, both Operators will be tested for drugs and alcohol and have been placed on non-driving status pending the results of the investigation.

More photos here. Updated 11:19 p.m.

dufty_small.jpgSupervisor Bevan Dufty on the scene.
market-crash1_1.jpg

  • Stinky

    Good grief… Guess the driver of the SUV took “BUSES AND TAXIS ONLY” to mean “DRIVE HERE!!!”

  • Jeffrey W. Baker

    I think cars are allowed there, because it’s a left turn lane to Noe.h

  • elgreg

    I just can’t believe that Radio Shack is still in business.

  • The car was in a shared left turn lane, the car had done nothing wrong by entering the turn lane behind the first streetcar.

  • @elgreg
    Sorry, I changed the photos to our own. Your joke makes a lot more sense with this:
    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/object/article?f=/c/a/2009/08/03/BAET193I42.DTL&o=0

  • Jason Bentley

    That photo is begging to have FAIL written across it in big white letters.

  • bikerider

    “The car was in a shared left turn lane, the car had done nothing wrong by entering the turn lane behind the first streetcar.”

    Nonetheless, this latest accident emphasizes the importance of removing cars from Market — so they don’t get in the way of the heavy transit (and bike) traffic.

  • Jeffrey W. Baker

    If the car hadn’t been there the rear streetcar would simply have rammed into the front streetcar instead.

  • Seth

    Premature to assign blame.

    But I wouldn’t mind if Muni could grow more of a culture of service and safety. Taking cars off Market Street – or every SF street – won’t solve this problem.

  • bikerider

    “If the car hadn’t been there the rear streetcar would simply have rammed into the front streetcar instead.”

    Well, except that the front streetcar would not have been stopped in the first place. One of the advantages for making Market St. a transitway is that streetcars don’t get stuck at intersections.

    That isn’t to say there is any excuse for Muni’s easily distracted trolley drivers, but anytime you have trolleys running in mixed traffic, this type of incident is going to happen more frequently.

  • Peter Smith

    i’m too lazy to look it up right now, but I remember commenting on all last year’s muni accidents that Nat Ford should be fired because he refused to hire a safety director for so long, even after the Chronicle (or someone?) called him out on it. did he ever fill that position?

  • night rider

    How about replacing the historic cars with more modern ones with better safety features which will also support our failing economy.

  • ZA

    ROAD DESIGN FAIL

    Regarding left turns and trains…it’s not ideal, but that’s what Castro is for.

  • another accident, another multi million dollar payout by MUNI…how many days will it be before Mayor Newsom has anything to say about the poor performance of his MTA?

  • JMC

    Cash for Clunkers? Muni, you’re DOING IT WRONG!

  • Paul

    We shouldn’t be all that surprised. The city encourage these vehicles to be a tourist attraction and tourist ask the operators questions all the time. This type of accident was bound to happen. I always thought it was a matter of time.

  • transitobserver

    @ night rider, before you assume that modern streetcars would be any safer, check your facts. Tthe braking systems and other safety features of the F-line cars now meet all applicable safety standards, and there’s no evidence at this point that this accident wouldn’t have happened just the same with a “modern” streetcar. (If proof needed, look no farther than the recent Muni LRV accidents.) Whether or not the brakes on the F-line car were working correctly at this particular moment is for the investigators to sort out, but in any event more care has to be given by operators to keeping a safe following distance on the street. That’s just common sense.
    @Paul, that’s a poor excuse. That part of the line is mostly locals, and the operators still have an obligation to keep their eyes on the road and concentrate. (Several witnesses say the operator had his head turned around talking to a passenger. If true, another breach of common sense.)

  • CBrinkman

    Those old streetcars are sure tough. The car is shmushed, but the 2 street cars look barely dented. No wonder they’ve lasted so long and are still in service. Poor MUNI – having a dedicated right of way would help a lot of issues but this sounds like a distracted Muni driver.

  • When did street cars become “trains”? Where’s the locomotive? Does the media in San Francisco really think they are trains? At least in this article, they correctly call the persons operating the cars “operators” and not “drivers”. It’s common knowledge that you “operate” a rail vehicle, not drive it.

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