On June 12, the morning commute began just like every other workday for Muni operator Archimedes “Archie” Rivera, a 12-year veteran with the transit agency.
At roughly 9 a.m., Rivera pulled his two-car L-Taraval train into a packed Civic Center station, waited for the hordes of passengers to board, activated the vehicle’s automatic travel system and began to proceed to his next stop at
However, something caught Rivera’s eye just as the train began to depart — a blind man, clearly confused, had stumbled onto the tracks at the station. With the man less than 10 feet from the train, Rivera slapped his hand on the emergency brake — the “mushroom,” in operator parlance — and slammed the 80,000-pound vehicle to a screeching halt, narrowly avoiding a tragic accident.
Rivera said he still does not know how the blind man got down on the tracks.
“It all happened so quickly,” said Rivera, a native of the Philippines who moved to the Bay Area in 1992. “I really believe it was a miracle that no one was hurt.”
Amazingly, just nine days after Rivera’s quick-thinking heroics, a fellow Muni operator, Melody Martin, was thrust into a near-identical situation, with similarly flawless results. On the morning of June 21, Martin was operating a K-Ingleside light-rail vehicle and had just pulled into the Civic Center station. While slowing the vehicle in preparation for stopping, Martin noticed a young man leaning precariously over the boarding platform. As the train approached within 40 feet of the man, he lost his balance and fell awkwardly onto the tracks.
“At first, I thought it was a kid playing,” said Martin, who has been an operator for 11 years. “But, then I saw his cane and realized that he was a blind passenger who was struggling to stay on the platform.”
Like Rivera, Martin acted instinctively and pressed the emergency brake, stopping the vehicle just 20 feet in front of the dazed man.
For their actions, Rivera and Martin were both honored with recognition certificates by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which manages Muni. While accepting their awards, both operators graciously deflected deserving praise.
“It’s nice to be recognized, but all operators do great things every day here,” Martin said.
“I consider this award for all our employees,” Rivera said. “One mistake by us could mean something very bad, so we have to be at our best at all times.”