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Muni LRV4s again running two-car trains with additional door sensors

San Francisco’s transit officials have remedied safety and mechanical issues with its new LRV4 Muni rail cars related to the single-rear doors and a coupler system design flaw.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency again ran two-car LRV4s Monday with all doors working, which is good news for Muni subway passengers who have been stuck riding single-car trains since April.

Muni officials in late April locked the rear doors of all of its LRV4 trains after an incident where a woman’s hand was caught in the door and she was dragged by the rail car, resulting in serious injuries, the San Francisco Examiner reported.

In an update to the San Francisco County Transportation Authority board Tuesday, SFMTA’s Director of Transit Julie Kirschbaum said the agency installed two additional sensors on rear doors to prevent objects, including hands, from being stuck.

Muni Metro LRV4 testing
Garrick Wong/SFBay Billy Gibson, a transit operator for 36 years for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, steps into the new Muni train in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, July 21, 2017.

Kirschbaum warned passengers that while the transit agency added the new sensors, it is still not a good idea for passengers to stick their hand through the door as it closes.

Another major problem was related to the coupler system, which connects the rail cars.

The transit agency stopped running two-car trains due to another April incident where shear bolts were found to have broken off from the coupler system.

Kirschbaum said Siemens made modifications to the system and rail cars with broken coupler systems will be corrected by the end of July.

Muni Metro LRV4 testing
Garrick Wong/SFBay SFMTA transit operators, engineers, and consultants test out Muni’s new train in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, July 21, 2017.

Another design change coming to the LRV4s is a new braking system. Operator use of the emergency “mushroom” brake button is resulting in flattened wheels on the new rail cars. Seven LRV4s are awaiting a new set of wheels. Kirschbaum said:

“It is creating one of the most significant issues in our vehicle availability.”

Kirschbaum said she hopes to have the new braking system safety-certified by September.

Operators are used to using the mushroom brake button on the older Breda Muni rail cars, while new rail cars have four different ways operators can hit brakes in case of an obstruction or emergency.

Kirschbaum said the mushroom brake button on new rail cars have a greater impact on wheels compared to other braking options available on the LRV4s.

Though transit officials hoped to cut the schedule of replacing old Muni rail cars with LRV4s by six months, the SFMTA slowed that process down due to the arising problems.

The Transportation Authority board — made up of members of the Board of Supervisors — stalled $62 million in funds to purchase new trains after discovery of the safety and mechanical issues on the new models.

Kirschbaum said she will continue to provide updates to the board on the performance of the first batch of new rail cars prior to resubmitting the funding request.

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