Later Friday BART schedule may raise new problems

A proposal to keep BART trains open an extra hour Friday nights would disproportionately affect low-income and minority riders, according to a new passenger survey, but the agency director pushing the plan said there are other possibilities for late-night service.

Because BART officials say the transit system needs 13 hours of track access each week for maintenance purposes, a plan to extend service by an hour Friday nights — keeping trains running until 1:30 a.m. — would have to be offset by starting it back up an hour later Saturday mornings.

Such a late start to weekend service would adversely affect minority passengers, according to a BART poll in which more than 1,000 riders were interviewed over several Saturdays between 6:30 and 7:30 a.m. Of the passengers interviewed, 68 percent were minorities and 53 percent were low-income passengers. Seventy percent were heading to work, and 33 percent would not be able to make the trip if BART started later.

Based on the survey findings, BART staffers said the proposed scheduling change “would have a disproportionately high and adverse impact on minority and low-income riders.”

Last year, the federal government withdrew $70 million in funding for BART’s Oakland International Airport connector project because the transit agency neglected to conduct proper outreach to low-income and minority communities.

Despite the findings on morning passengers, BART board of directors President Bob Franklin, who advanced the proposal, said some alternative for late-night service could possibly arise. He mentioned pursuing a pilot project that would only extend service until 1 a.m. Friday nights — just 34 extra minutes.

He also suggested that the agency investigate how flexible its maintenance schedule could be, and whether hiring part-time workers would free up more time for BART service. Plans to invest in expanded late-night buses also could be on the table, Franklin said.

“There are still some other options out there,” he said. “But if we don’t find a real counterproposal for the original plan, the idea of late-night service will probably die.”

The agency’s board of directors will discuss late-night service possibilities at its meeting Thursday.

Early Saturday riders

A BART survey was conducted with more than 1,000 Saturday passengers over several days.

70%: Commuting to work
68%: Minorities
53%: Low income
33%: Lack transit alternatives if service starts an hour later

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