Late-night BART passengers might be able to take advantage of extended hours starting in September, but the service and scheduling change will not come cheap for the agency.
BART’s last trains depart downtown San Francisco stations about 12:30 a.m., but under a proposal supported by board President Bob Franklin, that time would be pushed an hour later to 1:30 a.m. on Saturdays.
There is a Facebook page with more than 23,000 fans advocating for extended BART service hours, but running trains late into the night and early morning is difficult due to the necessary maintenance work that must be carried out in the agency’s empty subway tunnels.
Also, BART would have to hire part-time operators and trainers, since drivers’ current contract with their union prevents the transit agency from scheduling mandatory overtime work. All told, extending the service for a six-month trial period in September would cost $1.2 million, half in extra labor costs and half in marketing and outreach, Franklin said.
If the agency were to add an hour on Friday nights, it would have to delay the opening of service on Saturdays — which normally begins at 6 a.m. — by an hour, Franklin said.
Ironically, by making the last train later, BART would actually see an overall reduction of 300 passengers a day, according to the agency’s projections. The agency is forecasting that 2,600 people would use the extended service, but about 2,900 passengers use the train between 6 and 7 a.m. Saturdays.
Franklin said the late-night service would still be worth it, since extended hours have the potential to attract new customers to BART. He also said the agency could cut down on its labor costs by talking with the operators union on reworking its contract to allow for overtime scheduling.
BART Director Robert Raburn — who, like Franklin, represents passengers in the East Bay — said he enthusiastically backs the late-night service. He said BART has a strong history of supporting commuters, but hasn’t done enough to reach out to casual passengers who might use the system to travel back and forth from social events.
“It makes sense that we don’t force people to leave that encore performance at the show,” Raburn said.
He pointed to Washington, D.C.’s Metro system, which runs until 2 to 3 a.m., as a possible model for BART.
“If BART could do that, maybe we could convince more people to get out of their cars and onto public transportation,” Raburn said.
Today, the agency’s board of directors will discuss the proposal for late-night service. It could give conceptual approval to the plan, which would be followed by a month of public outreach. If the board approves the project following the outreach, the late-night service would be implemented in September.
Franklin said if the pilot project attracted enough passengers and went smoothly with maintenance crews, the agency could look into extending service on Saturday nights as well.
BART has not changed it service schedule since 1989.
$1.2M: Cost of extending BART service for an hour on Friday nights-Saturday mornings (six-month period)
2,600: Projected ridership during that time
2,900: Ridership during 6 to 7 a.m. period on Saturdays (service would not be available at that time)
$28M: Projected BART budget surplus for upcoming fiscal year