Good news for the Bay’s late night workers and weekend partiers: BART is once again considering expanding its weekend, late-night bus service. The six-month test may begin as early as December.

BART has debated the idea of extending hours before, but any plan rarely gets off the ground. They tested a late night service in the 1990’s after popular demand, but it failed somewhat miserably. As Bay Area population increases and BART has additional resources at its disposal, it looks like late night service may be back on the table.

Late Night Transit…A Plan Years in the Making

San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener is the head of a 26-member committee, made up of members from the hotel, restaurant, entertainment and transportation industries, which is pushing an expansion of a greater Bay Area late night transit service. The San Francisco Chronicle quoted him as saying “the fact that BART shuts down so early on weekends, that Muni Metro shuts down so early, that Muni Owl lines are so unpredictable and useless to most people, and that cabs, until recently, were unreliable, poses a serious problem.”

Although there are no current plans to extend train service into the late hours of the night, AC Transit is willing to expand its bus program by adding routes between key BART stations into the early morning. This includes service crossing the Bay Bridge, and throughout Contra Costa County, into Richmond and further south to Fremont. BART is keeping an open table for the possibility of offering later train service in the future.

As of now, BART has come up with a short-term plan to pay for the $800,000 pilot program. This includes $498,000 in state funds, $200,000 from BART, and an estimated $100,000 to come from fares, according to the Contra Costa Times. If the service turns out to be popular, BART will have to come up with a more long-term plan to address the financial aspects of the program.

Bay Area Riders: “We want late night BART!”

Although riders have pushed for BART trains to run later before – even 24-hour service, BART put the brakes on the notion, explaining that it needs the electric tracks shut down in the middle of the night to perform much needed maintenance.

A meeting to discuss a contract between BART and AC Transit is set for October 8, where the transit companies will further discuss the program and some of its logistics to work out any initial kinks. The Contra Costa Times quoted Clarence Johnson as saying “I think the outlook is good… we already have late service until 5 a.m., so we’re talking mostly about increasing the frequency of service.”

If a deal is worked out between AC Transit and BART at the October 8 meeting, BART riders may see late night service start as early as mid-December. Stay tuned!