AC Transit and BART Increase Weekend Trans-Bay Service

The night bus has arrived for carless, weekend commuters.


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Photo by Stephen Loewinsohn

BART and AC Transit partnered to provide better late-night trans-bay service. Coming soon: Night School.

If you find yourself out and about, and without a vehicle in San Francisco, between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m., it becomes quickly apparent just how big the Bay Area really is.

After the final BART train runs its course each night, carless commuters looking for trans-bay transportation have limited options: catch an AC transit bus that runs once an hour or less, call a ride service, or scrape together the cash for a cab ride.

But change is afoot for late-night weekend service seekers, thanks to BART, AC Transit, and a new concept by an Oakland’s Night School.

In December, BART and AC Transit launched a one-year pilot program to expand trans-bay weekend late-night service. The expansion increased the frequency of line 800 (from 24th Street/Mission in San Francisco to Richmond BART) and line 801 (downtown Oakland to Fremont BART) and added a new line, line 822, from 24th Street/Mission in San Francisco to points along BART’s Pittsburg/Bay Point line. On weekends, the 800 and 801 lines operate every 20 minutes (instead of every half hour) from 12:30 a.m. to 2:30 a.m., and the 822 runs every 30 minutes from 1 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Fares are $4.20 for trans-bay trips, and $2.10 for all other bus rides, though senior, youth, and disabled discounts will apply, according to Alice Trost, a spokeswoman for BART. BART conducted a survey in 2011, Trost said, to study the idea of expanding late-night service and found that it had widespread support. BART, however, is unable to expand late-night trans-bay rail service because it needs those hours to do rail maintenance after each day, Trost said. That’s why BART partnered with AC Transit, she said.

“In order to keep the system safe and reliable, we have to have that overnight track work done,” she said.’The only way we can possibly flirt with the idea of having all-night service is if we have a second trans-bay tube, which would obviously be decades away and require significant funding.”

The agencies secured a total of $796,000 for the project, including a Metropolitan Transportation Commission lifeline grant for $496,000, which came with the contingency that the expansion is marketed to low-income residents who need the service for the work commute,’although anyone is obviously welcome to come on,” Trost said. If the expansion test program is successful, she said, BART will consider additional expansion.

“We have a phased-marketing approach,” she said.’If the busses aren’t filling up, we’ll do more marketing. We’ll always try to target the industries that work more in the middle of the night.”

Meanwhile, Oakland’s Night School has been working more than six months to provide all-night San Francisco–East Bay bus services, initially on Friday and Saturday nights, by securing a fleet that’s otherwise the least-demanded form of bus during the dead of night: school buses–an optimal intersection of cheap and cool, Night School co-founder Seth Capron said.

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