Serious accidents involving city public transportation agencies always draw major headlines. After all, there are fewer fates more terrifying than being hit by a train or bus. In the past year, Portland’s TriMet public transportation agency has been plagued by numerous high-profile pedestrian accidents. And San Francisco’s Muni system has had its share of accidents causing injuries and even fatalities. In one of Muni’s most costly debacles to date, the agency agreed to settle a personal injury lawsuit filed by a passenger injured in 2008 this week for more than $2 million.
In July of 2008, 52-year-old Alma Del Bosque was struck by the Powell-Mason cable car line at Mason and Washington Streets, causing serious injuries, including a broken femur. Bosque’s leg was not amputated despite early warnings that it could be, but he still fronted nearly $500,000 in medical bills and was bedridden for months, unable to work. Muni has settled to pay two other passengers present when the accident took place $50,000 each for less serious injuries. Another December 2009 Muni accident crushed the plaintiff’s foot, which was later amputated. The plaintiff, John Gainor, is expected to receive an even larger multi-million dollar settlement, reports the Examiner.
The financial strain that serious Muni accidents put on the city of San Francisco is a serious burden. The San Francisco Appeal notes that the city’s mass transportation agency hopes to collect a total of $5.5 million from cable car fares this year, which is minimized by the $4.85 million spent on accident settlements (and that’s without Gainor’s settlement).
Like traffic accidents in general, public transportation collisions are far too common. In July 2009, for example, nearly 50 passengers were injured when a Muni L train collided with a K train at West Portal station. Only two weeks later, a two Muni F trains sandwiched an SUV, injuring six and sending two to the hospital with serious injuries. And last April, a man was trapped and killed in a Muni bus accident. The next day, another pedestrian was struck and killed in a bus accident at Castro Station.
San Francisco’s transportation agency needs to get serious about improving its safety record so that pedestrians can walk free of the fear of getting squashed on city streets, and city budgets can stop buckling under the pressure of major accident legal settlements.