Muni riders walk subway tunnel during delay


A major Muni delay on Monday inside the Market Street subway during the evening commute Monday highlighted safety concerns when frustrated passengers pulled the red emergency lever, opening the train doors.

Passengers were able to open the train doors manually and disembark the train while still inside the subway tunnel between Van Ness and Church stations.

With no trains coming in, there were no trains going out with Muni riders crowding outbound station platforms.

John Haley, SFMTA’s director of transit told SFBay that crews took too long to arrive at the subway to remove the stalled train, which prolonged delay. Haley said the stalled train could have been dealt with in five minutes.

He said it was unacceptable how the transit agency handled the delay on Monday night:

“This was not our finest hour.”

During the extended delay, passengers caught near the Duboce junction took it upon themselves to get off the train. Haley said passengers were at least stuck on the train for 30 minutes.

Instagram user ruthietuttie took video inside of a inbound N-Judah with the doors open. She said someone had pried the door open, and her video showed inside of the subway tunnel.

Haley said he was aware that passengers had opened the doors from pulling the emergency lever on three trains and had seen at least five other videos:

“I understand that passengers were getting anxious and frustrated, but it’s something that we discourage passengers from doing.”

He added it was unsafe for passengers to leave the train inside the subway tunnel without the help of SFMTA staff.

With passengers leaving the trains on their own, the delay was further extended as crews now had to help guide passengers inside the tunnel to the Van Ness Station, said Haley. The transit agency also had to sweep both of the inbound and outbound sides to make sure no further passengers were inside the tunnel.

Haley knew of one injury, a passenger who was injured while walking inside the subway tunnel.

He said the transit agency will take a closer look at the incident to see how it could improve addressing subway delays and communications between operators and riders:

Jerold Chinn
Jerold Chinn is the San Francisco Bureau Chief of SFBay and covers transportation and City Hall. He has spent a decade covering transportation in San Francisco. Jerold is a San Francisco native and frequently takes public transit everywhere he goes. Follow Jerold on Twitter @jerold_chinn. Email tips to

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