Town Square

Student Severly Injured After Crosstown Shuttle Accident

Original post made by student, Gunn High School, on Jun 5, 2007

Some parents and commuters along Arastradero/Charleston yesterday afternoon may have noticed abnormal congestion near El Camino.

Unfortunately, some time after school a Gunn student was seriously injured after falling out of the Crosstown Shuttle. Apparently the shuttle had the green arrow when it was making a left turn from Arastradero onto El Camino Real. Witness accounts say that the safety mechanism that prevents the shuttle's front door from opening failed as the shuttle was in the intersection. One student fell out of the shuttle and hit the pavement and slightly grazed a passing car as the shuttle was still in motion. The driver stopped and paramedics were called in to respond. Witnesses say that the student (name disclosed) was knocked unconscious and was transported to a local hospital where he/she is still recovering. The condition of the victim is still unknown. The intersection of El Camino and Arastradero/Charleston was shut down for some time as Palo Alto police investigated the incident.

The shuttle was overcrowded with students at the time of the incident. Normally the shuttle has a legal maximum of 20 students. Witness accounts put the ridership of the shuttle at around 35-45 students when the accident occurred. Witnesses also say that many students were in front of the 'safe-limit' line and that around six students were standing in the shuttle's stairwell right up against the door.

Let this be a wake-up call to the Palo Alto City Council for ignoring the crosstown shuttle's problems for so many years now. No doubt that overcrowding caused this preventable accident. Maybe the city will finally be forced to address this serious issue if the student's family decides to file a lawsuit against the city.

Our hearts go out the injured student, and we pray for his/her safe recovery.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 5, 2007 at 5:30 pm

My prayers for the student and family.

Unfortunately, I think that the way the shuttle is packed to overflowing may have had something to do with this accident. I think that the overcrowding was dangerous and this may do something about it. It is a case that we need public transport to get our students to school and one free shuttle that is supposed to carry a maximum of 20 students is just not enough. If they decide to be more vigorous about the limit of 20 and leave students behind, that is not good enough. The 88 being discontinued will make the situation worse.

The City, or the School District, it must be done without assuming that the other needs to solve the problem, must act on this before the beginning of the new school year.

Please get our kids to and from school by public transport and do it safely. We don't mind paying for the ride, but we need to get something better. This is Palo Alto and we need a better way.

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Posted by Kathy
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 5, 2007 at 6:13 pm

Yikes! If anybody gets more information, please post it. This is really scary news, and the elminination of the 88, as Parent observes above, is only going to make everything worse!

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Posted by Jay Thorwaldson
editor emeritus
on Jun 5, 2007 at 6:45 pm

Jay Thorwaldson is a registered user.

Police Sgt. Sandra Brown reports that the student, 15, was by the wheelchair-access door Monday afternoon when he fell out. He was reported suffering "moderate head and neck injuries and abrasions," and was taken to Stanford Hospital. Anyone know his status today?

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Posted by Anony
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 5, 2007 at 8:52 pm

i heard that the student fell out the back door when it opened accidntally, a similar incident happend a year or two ago when a student climbed on top of the wheelchair access and fell out due to that door opening, but since the shuttle was stationary no injuries or major things happened.
Also i heard that the student had fallen out in the middle of the intersection which put him at risk at being run over by the car behind the shuttle.
I was riding my bike that day so i do not know more.

The shuttle is very often crowded,it is old has strange smells and various phrases written all over, the seats are broken with the backs torn out and the back seats are uncomfortable. Each day the shuttle come there is a race for seats as seats are better than standing or cramming, and since there is only 1 shuttle every hour many people try to get on the first one to get to school and home on time. The drivers vary from a nice old lady to an extremely rude driver and they don't drive vary well either with the people in the shuttle being bounced around. almost as bad as the one time where the VTA bus driver had fun by rocking the bus with a stop and go, and it was obvious that he enjoyed it, for after every time he did it he would look in the mirror and grin, i felt like hitting him but alas that would have caused to much trouble.

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Posted by Anony
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 5, 2007 at 8:53 pm

and i am very sleepy so my spelling sucks, srry.

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Posted by Paly parent
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 7, 2007 at 12:08 am

My son takes the Embarcadero Shuttle every day--it's a terrific service, but obviously more attention needs to be paid to safety issues. I've seen how crowded the shuttle is every day after school; seems like the city needs to purchase larger vehicles for peak hours. I've taken the shuttle a couple of times from the downtown train station and was surprised by hits dilapidated condition. Time to figure out how to fund this service appropriately, don't you think??

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Posted by Richard
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 7, 2007 at 6:16 am

The shuttle service is very popular and we should thank the City for funding it at all, not blame them for not prvicing more. The City contracts out the service, so the buses are owned and maintainted by the contractor. Larger buses might have problems negotiating some of the turns, but more buses could be added. Since these are being used as school buses, I think the school district should increase the amount they are pitching it to the total cost.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 7, 2007 at 9:02 am

The shuttle service was instigated as a service to get people to use downtown for shopping or for the elderly to get to medical appointments, etc. It was never envisaged as a school bus service.

Now that it has become an essential means for many to get to school or wherever, the whole service should be dramatically rethought.

The city needs to be involved in public transport. That is clear. VTA has very little idea of what is happening in Palo Alto and what is on the cards. They are too big to take note of every little thing that takes place in their service area. Therefore, they should be getting information from the city about how crucial their service is and will become in the future from future developments.

The city has started a shuttle service. It is free and funded from city coffers. Now is the time to find a transport group to do the Palo Alto thing, a survey, a study, a recommendation, to get this city a service that is useful and of a high enough standard to be proud of. Small frequent shuttle services are a great idea. They should be more frequent in peak hours and should provide coverage throughout more of the city. They should not be free, except perhaps to the elderly or the disabled, but they should not be expensive either. Regular usage should be encouraged so that those who buy passes get a discount. They should be advertised and their routes and schedules should be easy to find (I find that the routes are disguised very well). The high schools in particular should be giving information about them in their welcome packets and larger employers should be doing the same.

If this service truly wants to serve the community they can do it. They just need to do a much better job than they are doing at present.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 7, 2007 at 4:24 pm

There was a time when we had school buses.

Taking the dollars used for student transportation and using them as a community resourse was a great idea, BUT we should not forget the original intent: safe transportation to and from schools for students.

If we need TWO cross town shuttles at a given time slot, or a BIGGER bus, we should do that.

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Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 7, 2007 at 4:51 pm

It would be interesting to know why this hasn't been written up in the Weekly. I am sure that the reporters can get some information as to how the student is recovering and exactly what the authorities say is the "cause" of the accident. I am sure that the shuttle was over-crowded, but unless there was some horsing around, I can't see how a student fell out. It is possible that the overcrowding was such that when the bus suddenly accelerated or something that a person standing may be thrown against a door, but if it opened because of this then there must be something wrong with the door.

Please weekly, try and find out.

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Posted by ShuttleRider
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 7, 2007 at 5:29 pm

I was on the shuttle when this happened, and I've noticed alot of things wrong with the shuttle and its drivers. I take the shuttle regularly in the morning and in the afternoon. I rely on this form of transportation to get from home and back. Also, the VTA was thinking about closing the 88 bus, which means even more students will crowd the shuttle and accidents will start to occur more frequently.

Going back to the accident, I saw the door burst open because this kid was leaning against it, as he always does. Everyday whether the shuttle is full or empty, he would lean on that wheelchair acces door. I think a combination of his ignorance, momentum of the turn, and the overcrowding of the shuttle led to this accident. I'm EMR trained through the Palo Alto Fire Explorer program, and once he fell out I told my friends to call the police quickly. Traffic was still moving, and I quickly ran out to check on this kid, and another more expirienced explorer showed up as well, by chance, and helped me evaluate the kid. Unfortunately the other explorer had recently cleaned out his car and his equipment so all we could do was keep the kid safe. He wasn't totally knocked out, he bumped his head, and he woke up soon after, and he was trying to get up, but the police officer kept him down, other than that all I've heard is that he is doing fine in the hospital, he'll be out for the rest of the week, but should return by next week.

I hope the weekly and the city will do something about this madness and maybe get a bigger shuttle? We already have two, just get bigger ones.

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Posted by onlooker
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 7, 2007 at 9:50 pm

Wow!!! I never thought such a thing like this could happen in Palo Alto. I travel to India five times a year and incidents like this are commonplace. Commuter trains are so overpacked that passengers grab hold onto the edges/sides or stand on top of the roof. Occasionally of course there are accidents... people falling off or getting hit by another train. The commuter buses also don't even stop completely... they slow down at a bus stop and passengers have to 'jump' on. Once again people get hurt or are run over by these buses from time to time.

I guess it makes Palo Alto comparable to a third-world country like India. We can sweep streets, collect garbage, but can't keep people from falling out of our buses!

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Posted by CmmonSense
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 8, 2007 at 8:34 am

If the injured student had a habit of always leaning against the door, how come the drivers never told him to stop doing it? From what I heard from kids who use the shuttle on a regular basis, the drivers don't seem to be interested in safety issue and completely ignore the kids behavior. A shuttle driver is responsible for his passengers safety and he/she should never allow anybody to lean against a door.

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Posted by duh!
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 8, 2007 at 5:29 pm

Maybe you should try driving an oversized vehicle with 35 talkative highschoolers and middleschoolers taking up every inch of room. Also the wheelchair accessible door is in the far back. Try paying attention to traffic, checking large blind spots, avoiding bicyclists when pulling over, navigating through after school congestion, and (according to you, cmmonsense) trying to see all 35-40 passengers simultaneously.

We have normal human shuttle drivers here, not miracle workers with ten-eyes on the back of their head. If ordinary drivers like you and me are easily distracted by one cellphone... you expect shuttle drivers to handle all the above? Obviously no... this should be common sense.

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Posted by JJO
a resident of University South
on Jun 14, 2007 at 2:16 pm

The drivers probably know better than to reprimand a Palo Alto kid. Heck, the police won't do it for fear of lawsuits so how can you expect a bus driver to enforce the rules?

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Posted by just thinking
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 14, 2007 at 2:28 pm

As regular rider occasionally tripped by school hours, I've seen most everything that happens routinely, performed by the angels of Palo Alto.
The drivers know it is a waste of time telling the children to not do pull-ups, climb over seats, or throw partially full soda bottles front to rear, but they try to be heard of the shreiking and yell -often laced with words the webmaster would delete.
I once asked a young lady if she would talk that way in front of her grandmother - the young gentleman with her (sitting in her lap) recommended I perform an immpossible act. She giggled. How cute.

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Posted by Eric Stietzel
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 16, 2007 at 5:50 pm

A child falling out of a shuttle is a tragic (if, as stated, he regularly leaned against the door) sign of a society falling apart.

There was a time when people were willing to pay taxes and we had decent public services. Then there was a tax revolt. Services decreased. People responded to reduced services by reducing support by cutting their taxes (actually the taxes of richer people mostly). The result was a declining spiral.

If we want to live in a civilized society, we're going to have to pay for it, folks. And I, for one, don't think a society is civilized if the top 1/2% controls as much wealth as the bottom 40% or large numbers of people go without basic medical care because they can't afford it or that runs up a huge national debt while deferring maintenance of the infrastructure so that our children and grandchildren will have living standards far below ours.

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Posted by Eric Stietzel
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 16, 2007 at 6:08 pm

My previous post was the 17th comment on this thread. Jay Thorwaldson also identified himself completely. Two other people hinted by stating their first names and neighborhoods. That means more than 75% of you chose to remain completely anonymous. If we're going to have a community, shouldn't we be willing to speak out? If you're afraid to put your name to your words here, how will you be able to take a stand before the City Council? And don't forget German Pastor Martin Niemöller's words just before he was executed by the Nazis:

First they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out -- because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the communists, and I did not speak out -- because I was not a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out -- because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me -- and there was no one left
to speak out for me.

Oh yes, I should add that removing the cloak of anonymity makes me think very much more carefully about what I say, how I say it, and how sure I am about my facts.

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Posted by Ken
a resident of Monroe Park
on Jun 16, 2007 at 6:21 pm

"A child falling out of a shuttle is a tragic (if, as stated, he regularly leaned against the door) sign of a society falling apart."

I agree.

Poor baby refused to follow the safety rules, and leaned against the door. Pretty cool, eh? It is our fault, or at least a sign of society falling apart.

It is quite clear that he will obey the rules, if taxes are raised.

Therefore, I propose a consumer tax of 15%, concurrent with the elimination of the income tax. Everybody will then be contributing equally to the safety of our kids that ignore the rules.