City may pay $750K in Muni-related death

As Muni-related deaths continued to increase over the last three years, The City is prepared to pay $750,000 to settle the death of a 64-year-old San Francisco man who was run over by a bus on a rainy winter evening in 2005.

Edward Badelalla was walking in the crosswalk at Haight and Cole streets about 6 p.m. when a 43-Masonic bus made a right-hand turn and struck him. It was the second Muni-related fatality in December of that year, prompting safety advocates and the supervisor for the district to call for reform in pedestrian safety.

But efforts to improve Muni’s pedestrian safety record have not materialized into improved numbers. Three people, including Badelalla and a 4-year-old girl, were killed by Muni vehicles in 2005. Four deaths were recorded in 2006, seven were recorded in 2007 and one person has already been killed this year.

The rising death toll prompted Municipal Transportation Agency Director Nathaniel Ford to call the pedestrian safety record one of the most disappointing outcomes of 2007 when he spoke at a retreat in late January. Muni is working to put together a summit in the upcoming months, and operator training sessions are in the works. Officials are working with community groups such as WalkSF to reverse the trend.

The group’s president, Manish Champsee, said keeping pedestrians safe should be a top priority for the MTA.

“If Muni really got serious about safety, they could save a lot of money,” he said.

The MTA’s Safety and Training Unit took a hit last summer when a longtime manager retired. The position is currently handled by another manager at the agency, and it remains unclear whether the position will be filled any time soon. According to a recent budget analyst report, funding for the safety manager position was used to fill a climate control position in Mayor Gavin Newsom’s office.

In Badelalla’s case, his six children filed the lawsuit claiming bus driver Melvin Melo failed to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. In response to the claim, The City denied all responsibility for the death, asserting that Badelalla knew the risks of crossing the street and was negligent in being careful. Melo is still employed as an operator with Muni.

The settlement conference is scheduled for April 1. The MTA Board of Directors is expected to discuss the case in closed session on Tuesday.

bbegin@examiner.com

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