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Penny Wise, Pound Foolish: How San Francisco’s Muni Budget May Put You At Risk For an Accident

To many of us locals, Muni is a landmark here in San Francisco. Loathed by some and beloved by others, it creates a massive transportation network throughout San Francisco comprised of buses, light rail lines, trolley buses and the internationally famous cable car lines. There’s no doubt that without Muni our daily commutes would be hell, our advanced education would be nearly impossible, and the already insane pricing of San Francisco’s prized parking spots would skyrocket. And after celebrating it’s 100th birthday last year, you’d think they would have ironed out all the kinks, but that’s apparently not so.

 Unfortunately, Muni is well known for being unreliable, with common complaints including the system’s 57.2 percent on-time rate, rising fare costs and rude drivers. If that’s not enough to kill your morning coffee buzz, consider the 934 people reportedly injured between 2006 and 2011. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) says that 25 of these accidents were fatal. Almost all of the fatal MUNI bus and rail collisions involved pedestrians.

With SFMTA’s current number one strategic goal being to “create a safer transportation experience for everyone,” there is plenty of room to grow. If you’re a San Francisco native you’ve probably come across a Muni accident a time or two. Bigger accidents include collisions with other vehicles, with reports earlier in the year of individuals being hit by Muni leading to serious injuries and even death. Muni accidents are due to a variety of causes including driver negligence, defective equipment and traffic signal errors.

So what does this have to do with pounds and pennies? In 2012 an article came out featuring Muni’s maintenance history featuring an ex-Muni driver who complained of high voltage wires atop a bus being wrapped in plastic bags for an extended period of time. Maintenance has clearly been far overlooked, with band-aids being slapped on wherever possible: bumpers secured with duct tape, and components held in place with rubber bands – and those are just the parts we can see. Even the Quality Assurance Department, which routinely pulled problematic Muni vehicles out of service, stopped inspecting electric buses in 2011 and rail vehicles in 2010.

The  budget for fiscal years 2013 and ’14 is appropriately subtitled “An Investment in Maintenance”. Whether or not Muni is shifting priorities, it’s too early to tell. There were also rumors earlier in the year of a new startup called Lyft taking over some of the most crowded and dysfunctional muni lines. With a sizeable accident just last month injuring 19 people, it’s clear that accidents and injuries continue to occur. It’s inevitable that not all accidents can be prevented but we can hope that an increase in maintenance funds will not only result in a few more consistently punctual buses, but also decrease the systems safety hazards as well.

While most of us have a Muni story- witnessing an accident to being in a broken-down bus – very few of us actually know what to do if something terribly wrong were to ever happen to us. This is where an experienced personal injury attorney comes in. It’s important to understand that being injured in a MUNI accident is different than being injured in an accident with (or in) another motor vehicle. Because MUNI is a California public transit agency, the statute of limitations is shortened  from the standard 2 year period to only 6 months. If you or a loved one ever has the unfortunate experience of being the victim of a MUNI accident, contact a personal injury attorney immediately.

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