BART hopes to lure off-peak riders with reduced waits

Leonard Flaherty is just the type of rider BART hopes to woo with a new proposal to reduce the wait time between trains on evenings and weekends to 15 minutes or less.

Flaherty, a regular Caltrain commuter between Millbrae and San Francisco, acknowledged Tuesday that if BART trains ran more frequently, he might be more inclined to jump aboard when he gets off work in San Francisco after 7 p.m.

“There is plenty of frequency during the commute hours, but if they increased the frequency at night when I get off work late, I would be willing to pay a little more,” he said.

In an effort to tap into riders’ time-sensitive psyches, BART wants them to forget about consulting a timetable and instead head to the nearest station where a train is bound to arrive in a matter of moments, BART board Director Tom Radulovich said.

“I think it will go some way toward reinventing the way people view BART,” Radulovich said.

Calling the proposed change “turn-up-and-go service,” the plan is all about reaching the 13- to 15-minute wait mark, Radulovich said.

While passengers can wait as long as 20 minutes for a train at off-peak times today, that time would be reduced to 15 minutes after 7 p.m. on weekdays and all day on Sundays under the proposal, BART spokesman Linton Johnson said.

Because of the cost, Saturday trains would continue on the current schedule for now, Johnson said. Increasing the number of trains is estimated to cost about $1.2 million and could begin Jan. 1 if approved by the BART board, he said.

The idea of adding trains at off-peak hours was proposed a year ago, but a multimillion-dollar deficit prevented BART from funding the change. This year, a 3.8 percent fare increase, effective Jan. 1, 2008, and proposed parking fees of $1 to $5 per vehicle are expected to give BART a minor surplus — about $9 million — for the first time in years,Johnson said.

BART board members plan to take up the increased service proposal at the board’s budget hearings on June 14, Johnson said.

ecarpenter@examiner.com

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