It’s a bad day for the new Muni trains, and not in the normal way, as two separate reports uncover two different major mechanical flaws — one of which has already injured multiple people.
As longtime residents know, the introduction of new, updated equipment or routes in the Muni system often comes in five stages, not unlike the Kubler-Ross Five Stages of Grief; Step One is the initial giddiness we feel when prototypes and renderings are released. Step Two is when we learn of massive cost overruns, and Step Three is the inevitable delay of the new fleet’s rollout. At Step Four, the modern new vehicles finally arrive to great fanfare, and we are now at Step Five with the new Siemens light-rail train cars — the discovery of mechanical flaws that endanger riders and require that cars to be removed from the fleet.
Two separate and quite scary problems are detailed in separate reports today. The San Francisco Examiner found that the new trains’ doors are defective and have injured people, while NBC Bay Area discovered that the “couplers” that attach double-trains have been failing and leaving the second train immobilized.
"The N-Judah train departed the station, dragging the woman with it.— Joe Fitz Rodriguez (@FitzTheReporter) April 18, 2019
People on the platform banged on the doors.
Eventually the woman’s hand was freed from the door ... she then hit the train, bounced onto the platform, and fell to the tracks."
Both issues are pretty bad, but the dragging and injuring of an elderly woman is clearly the more horrifying of the two. The Ex details in the how last Friday afternoon, a poor old lady got her hand trapped in a new train’s doors, the train started moving and dragged her fifteen along with it, and she was then reportedly knocked onto the tracks.
Reporter Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez managed to chase down and talk to a witness. “A couple of us had seen what had happened and were really shaken up,” reader Will Hayworth told the Examiner. He said the woman suffered a “giant gash,” and the San Francisco Fire Department said the victim was in “serious condition.”
Muni says it’s aware of the issue, and is adding new, more sensitive edges to the doors. “The doors on the new trains are safe,” SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose said in a statement to the Examiner.
But the Examiner found two other incidents in September and December of 2018 where passengers were trapped in the new trains’ doors. Rose insisted that these incidents occurred during a “test phase” and that “the current doors passed several tests to ensure safety and compliance.”
This is totally separate from NBC Bay Area's report detailing how attached double-trains were essentially detaching themselves from one another. On the very same day of the of the elderly woman incident, couplers connecting the double-trains snapped and trains were separated. The second train was just cold stranded on the tracks! Apparently it was not the first time this has happened, and in an abundance of caution, Muni is no longer running the fancy new trains as double-trains.
“We are not putting (two car new trains) out on the street until we find out what the root cause is and understand the failures,” Rose told NBC Bay Area.
This all comes after the Board of Supervisors just approved $62 million to buy more of these very malfunctioning trains. Sup. Aaron Peskin told the Examiner he was “horrified to hear this,” so that $62 million more is in some degree of doubt.
And we here at SFist don’t mind pointing out that we told you that it was a bad idea to roll out this new fleet on a Friday the 13th.