Security and Safety

San Francisco takes steps to increase cable car safety for operators

Posted on August 12, 2015

Fred Hsu
Fred Hsu

Mayor Ed Lee, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) and the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) announced key steps to help keep operators of the historic cable cars safe while on duty.

“Keeping our City’s cable car conductors and operators safe while they are doing their job is our highest priority,” said Mayor Ed Lee. “Our historic cable car system is more than a century old, and our staff sometimes has to step into harm’s way to keep others safe. We are taking immediate action to keep staff safe by reminding motorists to stop behind cable cars, stop while operators are entering or exiting, and being aware of their surroundings. Safe driving will save lives and keep everyone safe.”

In the last four months, severe collisions resulted in two operators being hospitalized due to their injuries. The new efforts are a result of discussions with Mayor Lee, the Transport Workers Union Local 250-A, SFPD and SFMTA to bring additional awareness and enforcement to the issue.

The city has committed to the following safety enhancements for cable cars and its operators:
  • SFPD will increase enforcement on cable car lines to ensure that motorist do not pass cable cars servicing a boarding zone.
  • Each cable car is now equipped with a mobile stop sign that operators can hold when they step out of the vehicle.
  • Launching a public awareness campaign to create more awareness of passengers and operators as they off-board cable cars.
  • The SFMTA is evaluating all signage within the cable car itself, along the route and at key areas, such as turnarounds, to assess any needed changes to increase safety.
  • Developing a cable car collision reduction program to identify ways to reduce collisions involving cable cars.

“Cable cars attract people from all over the world,” said SFPD Chief Greg Suhr. “And with so many people getting on and off the vehicle, it is important for motorists to follow the law. A driver would never pass a school bus, same thing with cable cars. Drivers who ignore this law can and will be cited.”

California Vehicle Code § 21756 requires drivers to stop at a safe distance behind any trolley or streetcar. The law determines distance to be the rear of the nearest running board or door. The driver and their vehicle must remain stopped for the duration of passenger boarding and exiting.

Fines for violation of the law are $238.00.

“We are absolutely committed to the safety of our Operators as well as our riders,” said Ed Reiskin SFMTA’s Director of Transportation. “Consistent with our Vision Zero efforts, we thank the Police Department for working with us to ensure everyone has a safe experience on Muni’s legendary cable cars.”

The city adopted Vision Zero as a policy in 2014, committing to eliminating traffic deaths by 2024. The approach includes building better and safer streets, educating the public on traffic safety, enforcing traffic laws, and adopting policy changes that save lives. The result of this collaborative, citywide effort will be safer, more livable streets as San Francisco works towards the Vision Zero goal of zero traffic fatalities by 2024.

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