San Francisco's cable cars are one of the city's most popular tourist attractions. Cable cars also appear to be one of the city's most dangerous public transit options, averaging about one accident per month.
"The 19th Century technology of the cable cars does pose some challenges," said SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose. "While one accident is too many and we're always working to improve safety, these incidents are rare."
The Associated Press reports that San Francisco spends millions of dollars every year to settle personal injury lawsuits arising out of cable car accidents. Over the last decade about 151 people have been injured in 126 cable car accidents. The types of cable car injuries vary, but range from bruises and broken bones to severed limbs and wrongful deaths.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, cable cars are one of the most dangerous mass transportation methods per mile traveled. Federal safety data indicate that 19 people were injured in 16 cable car accidents last year, the second highest number in a decade. There were 36 San Francisco cable car accidents in 2004.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said that San Francisco's cable cars are an important historic feature of the city and that efforts are underway to make them safer.
"While accidents and injuries are down from just a few years ago, we are always working to improve the system as a whole," Mayor Lee said.
Source: Associated Press, "San Francisco cable car accidents costs millions," Paul Elias, April 15, 2013