The N-Judah line on San Francisco's Muni system runs to Ocean Beach.

Carrie Hodousek/ KCBS Radio

MUNI Trains Will Not Open Rear Doors After Accident Involving Woman's Hand

Tim Ryan
April 24, 2019 - 7:56 am

SAN FRANCISCO — The rear doors on San Francisco MUNI’s new fleet of light rail trains will stay closed until transit officials are able to fix an ongoing safety issue.

Officials at the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency say the single-panel doors on the new model of train have closed dangerously on objects and passengers, including a woman who got dragged by a train. 

In that incident at the Embarcadero station on April 12, a woman rushing to catch an N-Judah car got her hand trapped in the door. She was unable to free herself as the train began moving, dragging her off of the platform and onto the tracks. 

The passenger was hospitalized with serious injuries but has since been released.

The SFMTA was surprised by the accident, because the agency said it subjected the doors to significant tests before introducing the new cars to the public. 

“They actually were tested for 6 months, opened and closed repeatedly before they were even put on the vehicle,” says the agency’s acting transit director Julie Kirschbaum.

SFMTA mechanics and representatives of the manufacturer launched an investigation of the incident. Officials decided to order that rear doors should remain locked on Monday after replicating the problem in tests. 

While the issue affects both front and rear single panel doors, only the rear doors will be closed. The agency says the front doors will remain in use because they provide disabled riders access to the trains. Kirschbaum says drivers sit right next to the front doors and have been instructed to monitor them to avoid accidents.

The issue has also delayed a $62-million funding increase that would have allowed the agency to expedite the purchase of 151 new trains. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors was expected to approve the funding but instead voted Tuesday to postpone.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin said it would be “irresponsible” to spend taxpayer money on more trains that may not be safe.

The California Public Utilities Commission is investigating the door issue as well as a separate problem with the coupling or “shear” pins that connect the streetcars.