Weekend revelers looking to cross the Bay for entertainment that stretches late into the night face a transportation dilemma — take a car or leave early.
Transit service on BART shuts down around 12:15 a.m., and taking a taxi over the Bay Bridge is costly and difficult, as more cabbies refuse to cross the span because of the lack of a return fare. Unless your plans end before midnight, you are likely out of luck for a return trip.
The new leader of the BART board of directors wants to remedy that situation.
Director Bob Franklin, who will assume the presidency of the nine-person board next month, said one of his top priorities is finding a way to keep BART operating later Saturday nights.
For years, BART passengers have been clamoring for the agency to run 24-hour service, a proposal that is technically untenable since maintenance crews need at least a few hours of unfettered access to the railway each night.
To meet both those needs, Franklin wants the agency to look into starting trains 30 minutes later, at 4:30 a.m., each weekday, while extending Saturday night service until 1 or 1:30 a.m.
Crews would have an extra 2½ hours of maintenance work done during the week with the later start time, which could defray weekend maintenance and allow for later Saturday service.
“We don’t have to be open until 3 a.m. on the weekend,” Franklin said. “This is really for the people who have to leave a show or the theater early to catch the 12:15 train from the Embarcadero [station].”
One problem that arises with the plan is that pushing back the start time of trains on the weekdays could affect Financial District workers who arrive in San Francisco to meet the 5 a.m. opening of the stock market. Franklin countered that, saying that with Wi-Fi access set up throughout most of the BART system, workers could actually begin the work day during their commute. He also said only about 2,400 passengers ride the system from 4 to 5 a.m., a fraction of the 350,000 daily average.
Mike Rogers, a Lafayette resident who commutes daily on BART, said he would “absolutely” like to see the transit agency run later Saturdays.
“That’s one of the drawbacks of living in the suburbs — either you take your car to The City or you leave early,” Rogers said. “Plus, all the stockbrokers I know drive to work.”
Oakland native Larry Battiste said he always drives to San Francisco on weekends, but if BART ran later, he said he would consider taking the train.
The transit agency has not studied a scheduling change since 1989, so it is willing to examine a possible shift in service, spokesman Linton Johnson said. However, it must carefully evaluate a number of factors — including security measures, running service when Muni is shut down and the effect on current riders — before moving forward with a plan, he said.
“We need to study this properly because clearly there will be some winners and losers with a scheduling change,” Johnson said.
Burning the midnight oil
The idea of extending BART service later on Saturdays has emerged as a priority of the incoming agency board of directors president.
350,000: Average weekday ridership for BART
2,400: Passengers using system from 4 to 5 a.m. weekdays
22,029: Fans on Facebook page dedicated to persuading BART to run 24-hour service
1989: Year agency last investigated scheduling change
Sources: BART, Director Bob Franklin