Passengers board a new J Church train. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has been working to fix a problem with the sensors that are supposed to prevent doors from closing on objects or people. (Ellie Doyen/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Muni testing fix for its malfunctioning train car doors

Problems with safety sensors, couplers have plagued light-rail vehicles

Muni is on the cusp of testing a fix for a malfunction on the back doors of its $1.1 billion new train fleet that dragged a woman on to the tracks, according to an internal Muni email shared with the San Francisco Examiner Wednesday.

Last month, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency locked the back doors on all of its new light-rail vehicles, known as LRV4s after an investigation by the Examiner revealed the new trains’ back doors can and do clamp down on people, trapping them.

It happened to one woman in April, when a train door closed on her hand and dragged her to the tracks. The Examiner found at least four other incidents of people getting caught in train doors, and subsequent public meetings exposed other incidents as well.

Now for the first time since April 23, SFMTA has scheduled testing one of its LRV4s with an operational back door while in “revenue service,” meaning, out on the tracks with passengers boarding it. In an email sent Tuesday to staff and other Muni managers, Muni LRV4 test supervisor Emmanuel Enriquez said that Wednesday starting at 9 a.m., the LRV4 team would be testing Car 2036 on the tracks with two operators: one driving, and one at the rear of the car monitoring “the operation of the rear single panel doors.”

The problem SFMTA identified previously involved the doors’ sensors, called “sensitive edges.” Car 2036 has been equipped with “the latest door sensitive edge enhancements,” Enriquez wrote to SFMTA staff, and the testing will continue for two weeks.

Though the fix was planned, SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose said the scheduled testing itself was pushed back.

“Testing in revenue service did not occur today,” he said Wednesday in a statement. “We are awaiting confirmation on when testing in service will start.”

The train door problem was the latest in a list of mounting woes for the SFMTA. Its newest trains suffered coupler problems, and the Muni Metro subway went out of service for a day in late April. The cumulative public black eye led Mayor London Breed to announce a nation-wide search for a new SFMTA director. Ed Reiskin, the current SFMTA director, also announced he will depart his role in August.

The California Public Utilities Commission launched an investigation into Muni’s malfunctioning doors. The entity regulates rail safety in California.

joe@sfexaminer.com

Editor’s Note: This story was updated to reflect comment from SFMTA indicating the test date for the door fix was pushed back.

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