Cable Car Accidents Cost Life and Limb

By Matt Baume
|  Wednesday, Dec 29, 2010  |  Updated 1:30 PM PDT
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Cable Car Accidents Cost Life and Limb

A cable car roars down California Street in San Francisco. Photo: Bill in DC on Flickr

Beware the treacherous cable cars: they may be a beautiful icon of the city, but they're awfully dangerous.

It may not surprise anyone to learn that the antique industrial machinery isn't as safe as modern equipment. But the heavy cost of the cable cars is starting to raise eyebrows.

The city will pay over two million dollars in settlements over a single 2008 crash, with even larger payouts expected for other incidents.

A woman was killed by a cable car in 2008 when the vehicle hit her.

The cable car mayhem has a variety of causes, but it almost always comes down to mechanical failure. In the 2008 crash, the car became stuck in an intersection. Then it started to move, but the operators couldn't stop it -- one fell out of the vehicle, and the other couldn't access the brakes due to a jammed door. Numerous passengers were injured when the cable car crashed.

In another incident, a cable car crashed into another vehicle. One passenger was injured so badly his foot had to be amputated. The city has offered him nearly $3 million to settle the case.

Cable car operators received free lunches last week as part of a cable car operator appreciation day.

Muni currently has its California Line cable cars confined to the workshop. The agency is doing an overhaul of the tracks, replacing worn-out equipment and repairing the street.

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