San Francisco’s Muni started testing Friday on a fix for the problem doors on its new fleet. Officials are optimistic that now-closed rear doors could get regulatory approval needed to reopen the doors as soon as next week.
Muni ordered the rear doors of its trains to be locked after three riders got their hands stuck in the doors of the new fleet since October, including an incident last month when an elderly woman survived despite being caught in a rear door and dragged onto the tracks at the Embarcadero station.
At the controls of the J-Church test train on Friday, operator Angel Carvajal said riders have been clearly frustrated that Muni has had to shut the doors since the incident last month.
“People are confused,” he said. “They are not expecting to have that door out of service – they are used to having those doors open.”
But on Friday, Carvajal got a chance to open the back door, at least for a day of testing. “Now, everybody’s free to go, any door they want, in and out,” he said.
But to be on the safe side, Muni posted an observer to make sure passengers got on and off the test train without getting stuck.
“They say they had a guy back there to be a nanny to the door,” passenger Joe Kenas said wryly as he sat near the front of the J-Church car. Kenas, who has been riding Muni since 1966, says he hopes the troubled agency gets a handle on all its door problems.
“I trust it to be all right today,” he said.
Back at the rear door, operator Lisa Telsee showed off the revamped system, pointing to the two separate sensitive edges on the train car side of the door and the third bank of sensors on the door itself.
“It works much better” Telsee said of the upgraded system. But it quickly became clear the system is not yet entirely foolproof. She put a gloved finger in the door and closed her eyes to do a test on the spot. But the sensor did not detect her finger and closed. She pulled her hand away and said, laughing, “I didn’t put my finger in the right place.”
Back at the helm, Carvajal, a 32-year veteran of Muni, was philosophical about the future of the new fleet.
“New technology, we have to get used to it,” he said. “We have to get along with it.”
If regulators sign off on the door fix, Muni spokesman Paul Rose said, all the rear doors could reopen as soon as next week.