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Greg DesBrisay


When I worked at SRI International (in Menlo Park) in the late '80s some folks I worked with had a contract to develop an improved braking system for the SF cable cars (a cable car was actually shipped down to Menlo Park and sat in our shop!). SRI came up with a system (something resembling a large metal foot with a thick piece of rubber on it) that was demonstrated to be more effective than the existing brakes, but the design was never adopted by the City of San Francisco.

I didn't work on the project myself, so the information I have is only second-hand, but I was told that the improved braking system wasn't used because the City of San Francisco wouldn't indemnify SRI International against liability in case of the inevitable event that a cable car got into an accident despite the improved brakes.

It seems odd to me that back then the City accepted the liability of using the antiquated wood braking system, but couldn't accept the liability of a better braking system. Perhaps there are other folks giving legal advice to the City these days who would see the wisdom of using an improved system!

Thanks for your reporting on this!

Best Regards,

Greg DesBrisay
San Carlos, CA

Joe Thompson

In comparing the accident rates of cable cars and other forms of transit in San Francisco, it is important to remember that cable cars operate in some of the most congested streets in the city. Cable car crews have suggested that the accident rate would be much better if the city put more effort into enforcing traffic and parking regulations on the streets where the cable cars operate.

Jeremy Nelson

Should all forms of transit be made as safe as possible? Of course.

But remember that autmobile crashes are kill more people (drivers, their passengers, and others - including pedestrains and cyclists) than all other forms of transit compined.

Want to reduce transportation-related deaths and injuries in San Francisco or any other community? The most cost-effective measure is to implement traffic calming to slow down automobiles and give priority to pedestrians and bicyclists.

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Where to start. There are lots of things Metro COULD do, but lilkey wont. Part of the reason for this is that Metro's primary mission is NOT transit it is economic development.But for starters, Metro could try running a transit system, not a commuter system. Schedules and timetables are geared for the average worker during the week, not service outside of work times. While there is service on off-hours, it is limited. Metro and its buses are geared for the lowest common denominator of traveler those that must use it. There is absolutely nothing being done to attract those that could CHOOSE to use it. Buses go, primarily, where lower income riders are forget trying to get around in the county (or, for that matter, the 270 loop) by bus. While it is not a bad thing that the bus serves lower income areas, if that is the ONLY place buses go, people that have the ability to choose will go elsewhere. The bus system also takes TIME (and has some really whacky connections another thing that puts off potential riders) and for those who could choose to take Metro, time is money. When you have time (say, like going to a sporting event), its fine because you know the bus will take you there and you know the bus will take you back (in other words, it will actually meet a schedule) but when you have to be somewhere (like work, or to pick up children, a doctor's appointment, whatever) taking the bus is difficult, particularly when they are late. Most of the buses I have ridden (full disclosure: I have a monthly pass and use it regularly) are chronically late by 4 to 12 minutes. Again, time is money and if I am going to be chronically late because of Metro, I'll find another way to get there. This means making connections is difficult (like, getting off a train and watching your bus leave when the next one isnt for another half hour), and in the winter who wants to wait that half hour outside in the cold for the next bus? In several instances this past month I have also seen buses going WAY over the speed limit at times. Why? Their drivers were about to be off, and they wanted to finish their run and get back to the garage. Additionally, particularly at the North Hanley station, I have seen buses purposefully put up their Out of Service sign just so the driver doesn't have to let folks on before his/her time regardless of the number of riders waiting or the temperature outside. The buses also do not run late enough. Again schedules are based around the commuter, not someone who wants to take public transit. Most nightlife in the St. Louis area shuts down between 1:30am and 3:00am. Don't even think about getting a night bus because there aren't any I realize there may be financial reasons (among others) for this, but it goes back to catering to commuters who have to use the system, and not riders that might choose to. There is little to no advertising in the media, and what advertising there is seems to be geared towards the 99 downtown trolley . Buses tend to run when and where it is convenient for Metro to run them, not necessarily where folks (those that can choose, that is) need or want to go. At times, it is actually easier to take Amtrak from Kirkwood into downtown at night than it is to catch a bus either because of lack of service, or because I would need to make two connections or better. Then you have all the time and effort spent in promoting a trolley which is NOT a trolley. It makes St. Louis look like it isn't interested in real transit. I realize it is intended to be a branded service, but as someone not from here originally, sorry all you've done is encourage me NOT to ride it. Its a downtown BUS, not a downtown trolley. I have ranted here before about inadequate signage, so I'll just say that our bus stop signs are out of date and horrid. If you don't do your research ahead of time, you'd never be able to ride the bus in St. Louis because the signs that do exist nine times out of 10 are wrong because they are years out of date. Along the same lines, have you seen where some of the bus stops are? On the shoulder of busy roads, or places where there is little to no pedestrian access. Particularly in bad weather, how exactly am I supposed to safely get to a bus stop when I have several YARDS of deep snow and ice to traipse through? In many cases, there isn't sidewalk there to begin with. There is the chronic problem of continually being hit up for money for bus/train fare. If it were every now and again, it would be one thing but it isn't. That doesn't sit well with potential riders that could choose to ride. Finally, there is the general disorganization of some of Metro's stations (particularly Civic Center and Central West End). Unless you know where you're going, forget trying to figure out which bus is going to the loop in front of the Sheraton or going to stop at the shelters just north.Wow, that's quite the rant. Didn't intend it, but you did ask.


I just finished reaindg all these comments great insights from everyone. And it's hard to hear sometimes, but I think at the root of it are some very helpful perspectives. I'm also one of the people who chooses to ride the bus, even though I have a car and can certainly get to/from work and school in it a bit more quickly. Some people, shockingly or not, just simply don't like to drive. I feel like I've started my day in a much better place mentally and emotionally if I can avoid road rage filled drivers, accidents and backups, and people weaving in and out at the 55/Memorial Drive/PSB exit nonsense when I head downtown. I also get fresh air and a bit of zoning out time when I wait for the bus/train.I have the luxury of using a student pass from UMSL right now so I don't have to pay any extra and can choose to hop on a bus any morning I have the time and don't feel like driving (and don't have out of office meetings). But I haven't gotten to the point where I do it every day.The thing that keeps me from doing that is a 40 minute door-to-door commute for 5.5 miles (bus and train), vs. a 15 min door-to-door commute by car. Some days I just NEED that extra 15 minutes or so in the morning. Or it's too cold.I agree that we need tools that will entice folks who WANT to like/use/support transit but can't quite make the jump, such as the GPS tracking of buses so you know how long till they'll be at your stop (approx.). DC has this, I saw it in action this fall. Very cool. Also, easier fares (cash-free cards), which I realize is in the works for the relatively near future. And of course, things like correct signage/directionals/bus depot comfort would all improve the image of being a bus rider.I know Metro doesn't own the CWE bus depot, Wash U does, but who else would know that from the looks of it? The station gets very dirty and at times last summer would smell like trash and urine. There aren't enough benches, and the ones that are there are metal and freezing in the winter. All these things make it somewhat unpleasant to wait for your bus there. I appreciate all of the comments people have taken the time to leave, and also Metro for asking us. Viva la bus!

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