Cable cars cost San Francisco plenty in accident payouts
SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco remains the only place on the planet with a true, manually operated cable-car system serving the public, and the clanging, hill-conquering public transport is a top tourist draw. But the cable cars also stand out for the inordinate number of accidents and the millions of dollars annually the city pays out to settle lawsuits for broken bones, severed feet and bad bruises caused when 19th-century technology runs headlong into 21st-century city traffic.
Cable cars average about an accident a month and routinely rank among the most accident-prone mass transportation modes in the country per vehicle mile traveled annually, according to the Department of Transportation. Over the last 10 years, city officials have reported 126 accidents injuring 151 people.
After the latest serious accident — when seven people were injured after a cable car slammed to an unexpected stop after hitting a small bolt in the track — The Associated Press obtained through a public records request a listing of cable car-related legal settlements over the last three years.
Those figures show the city paying nearly $8 million to settle about four dozen legal claims.
The city has paid on average $12 million annually to settle all claims connected to its mass transportation system that in addition to cable cars consists of electric street cars and buses, which travel many more miles and carry many more passengers.
City officials acknowledge that the open air cable cars, which ply only eight miles of track, produce a disproportionate amount of accident-related costs. But they say the cars are a much beloved and valuable part of the city's life.
“The iconic cable cars of San Francisco are a National Historic Landmark and we work every day to make them safer,” San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said, adding, “While accidents and injuries are down from just a few years ago, we are always working to improve the system as a whole.”
Federal transportation figures show 19 injuries and 16 accidents last year, the second highest amount reported in the last 10 years. There were 36 accidents reported in 2004.
The city has been settling lawsuits almost since the cable cars began operation in 1893. One woman won a 1970 jury verdict of $50,000 after she claimed that a minor accident on a cable car she was riding turned her into a nymphomaniac.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Fissures begin to emerge among Dems
- Boston airport’s ‘naked man’ remains behind bars
- Liberal Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg has stent placed in heart artery
- Fewer adults smoking, U.S. survey finds
- National Guard reinforcements contain damage in Ferguson
- Many older people silently harbor gene mutation that could start them on the path to blood cancer
- Obama’s immigration actions neglect business pleas
- Obama administration announces plan to limit smog-forming ozone
- Test vaccine to fight Ebola promising
- E-cigarettes cut cravings, study finds
- House ethics panel defers campaign finance investigation of New York Rep. Grimm