Stranded late-night workers and partygoers seeking to return to the East Bay from San Francisco will soon have reason to celebrate.
A new bus line will expand late night transit across San Francisco Bay, and existing transbay buses will run more frequently, under a pilot program starting this weekend, created in a partnership between AC Transit and BART.
“People who take late-night service don't want to wait 2½ hours to get home,” Greg Harper, president of AC Transit's board of directors, said at a news conference announcing the new transit line.
Now, he said, late-night transbay transit riders won't wait nearly so long.
The new 822 AC Transit line will run every half-hour, starting at 12:56 a.m. on weekends. The bus will depart from a new mini-terminal behind the entrance to the Mission and 24th street BART station.
Late-night bus frequency for two additional bus lines, 800 and 801, will increase from every 30 minutes to 20 minutes. Line 800 runs from San Francisco to Richmond BART and 801 from Oakland to Bay Fair BART.
All of the late-night transbay lines cost $4.20 for transbay trips and $2.10 for nontransbay trips, according to BART.
“I live in Berkeley and depend on public transit,” Thirsty Bear employee Dani Silberstein said. He said he is tired of waiting up to an hour for a bus, and is excited for the new service.
He also pointed out that when late-night partiers, some of whom are drunk, crammed in late night buses are a recipe for confrontation.
“My last two bus rides, there were verbal altercations,” he said. People chafed, he said, as “people stood shoulder to shoulder.”
Safety, then, is another reason he's glad for more buses.
Patrick Millet, a supervisor at AC Transit, said that those problems were largely taken care of by sheriffs who patrol the buses, but he admits rowdy folks can be an issue.
In Millet's view, the real benefit of the expanded bus line is simple — late night workers have a better chance of getting to their beds to sleep. Still, he thinks more work can be done.
“I worked the owl shift for three years,” Millet said. “You get a lot of people who get to the end of the line and still can't get home. They're stranded [with less transit options] from 2 in the morning until 5 a.m. waiting for BART to reopen.”
Supervisor Scott Wiener said the service could also spur San Francisco's nightlife economy.
East Bay residents who want to spend money bar-hopping and clubbing in San Francisco, he said, often must cut their night short or risk being stranded when BART stops running after midnight. This hurts small businesses, he said.
“This is a first step,” Wiener said, “and we have much work to do to make our transit system truly world class.”
Wiener held a series of hearings this year around late-night transit access. The hearings and the subsequent working groups were credited by BART officials as key in spurring the pilot program.
About $496,000 in funding for the one-year pilot program was secured from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission's Lifeline program, and was awarded in coordination with Alameda County Transportation Commission and the Contra Costa Transportation Authority.
BART also contributed $200,000 from its operating budget, and expects to recoup $100,000 from fares and service.
BART Director Tom Radulovich said this is not a fix-all, but the beginning of expanded transbay transit.
Future options may include double-size articulated buses (like the 38-Geary uses) in transbay use, increasing the frequency of the late night 822 line, or even synchronizing pickup and drop off between BART, AC Transit and Muni lines.
“There are next steps for this,” he said, “if ridership is successful.”