Good news, night owls: BART will resume midnight service almost a month earlier than its previous timeline.
Starting Aug. 2, BART will extend weekday and Saturday service for all routes up until midnight, according to an announcement from BART management. This step toward full service had earlier been slated for Aug. 30.
The decision comes as San Francisco nightlife attempts to bounce back, and BART received numerous “urgent” requests from restaurant and bar employees to keep transportation open later. Some told BART Board of Directors member Bevan Dufty that without a way home past 9 p.m., they were forced to forego shifts or stay stuck at work.
“The hospitality industry and restaurants and many sectors of the local economy reached out and said, ‘we need to start’” late service, Dufty told Mission Local.
Some of that need must be dealt with even sooner, many workers argued. So, in response, starting July 15, four trains will leave San Francisco at 11:30 p.m. One will travel south, from Embarcadero to Daly City. Three will head east, from Civic Center to Pleasant Hill, Civic Center to Bay Fair, and Civic Center to El Cerrito Del Norte, which Dufty said are among the most popular routes, according to ridership data.
Laurie Thomas, the executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, said she and other restaurant and hospitality workers penned a letter to the Bay Area Council and the BART Board of Directors urging more transit options back in mid-June. Thomas said the original Aug. 30 start date was “a disaster.”
“I was hearing from many of our members, particularly from Union Square and downtown, that no one can get back home from a dinner shift. Tourists are stranded. Lyft and Uber prices have gone through the roof,” Thomas said about the 9 p.m. close. “It’s not practical.”
In addition to these added services, separate extra train service will be available after ballgames, meaning both Oakland A’s and San Francisco Giants fans can, once more, choose to be scooped up by train. “People are thrilled,” Dufty said.
Changing a plan nearly a month in advance isn’t an easy task, and required the go-ahead from BART General Manager Bob Powers and the system’s unions, ATU Local 1555 and SEIU Local 1021.
“I really give credit to our general manager, who huddled with senior staff and our labor unions; ATU, in particular, stepped up and were very flexible,” Dufty said.
To cover the extra shifts, BART workers will volunteer to stay later or work on their off days, said Jesse Hunt, the president of ATU 1555.
Hunt said the largest obstacle in extending service has been due to a hiring freeze. “We don’t have the numbers we normally would have, and it takes months to train most of our classifications.”
However, the union was able to collaborate with BART and get training classes in the works, meaning a “batch” of trainees will hopefully be prepped by early August, Hunt said. “We’re clearly committed to getting as much service out there as quickly as we can.”
This also means extra spending, which Dufty said wasn’t a “core issue,” thanks to federal money. An exact number of the cost wasn’t provided to Mission Local, but we will update once it is.
Overall, ridership is still low. On June 30, 82,102 riders rode BART, representing 20 percent of pre-pandemic projections for a regular weekday in June, according to BART’s ridership data.
“I’m thrilled. This [cooperation] just doesn’t happen,” Thomas said giddily. “We made a difference!”
This story was updated with a statement from Jesse Hunt, who wasn’t reached before publication.