BART, AC Transit renew late night bus service for next year

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Paige Hagerman/Staff

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The Bay Area’s late night bus system has been approved to run for another year, in a continued effort to expand services to weekend nighttime commuters.

The program, a collaboration between AC Transit and BART, offers commuters more options when BART closes for night maintenance. The late night bus services program has been approved to continue into August 2018, according to Bob Franklin, BART department manager of customer access and accessibility. BART released a tweet with the late night buses routes, along with a link to the AC Transit website Tuesday.

“There had been much interest in exploring a way to provide a public transportation stop that offers fast service across the Bay when BART is closed,” Franklin said. “Our last survey … confirmed that there is a stronger, later ridership on Friday and Saturday nights.”

Starting in 2014, this expansion of the “Night Owl” program increased bus service frequency to every 20 minutes on the San Francisco-to-Richmond and Oakland-to-Fremont lines, according to Franklin. BART stops operating at midnight every day and reopens at 4 a.m. on weekdays, 6 a.m. on Saturday and 8 a.m. on Sunday.

According to Franklin, the 800 line, which stops in Berkeley, is popular among Berkeley residents. He added that the expanded bus service is important for employees and UC Berkeley students commuting home.

“People go out to restaurants or shows. There are also a lot of workers who have to get home after work,” Franklin said. “It’s included in the student pass as well, as long as students have their Clipper card.”

Late night buses receive sponsorship from agencies including the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Alameda County Transportation Commission and the Contra Costa Transportation Committee.

Campus freshman Jayde Estrada, who is part of the UC Berkeley Fall Program for Freshman in San Francisco, said she believes the program is useful and effective because it provides a safer option to return home at night.

According to AC Transit spokesperson Robert Lyles, the late night bus service program itself hasn’t changed since 2014. The program is reevaluated every year based on ridership, cost and feasibility, according to the AC Transit website.

“(The program) costs about $500,000 per year. We look at the ridership for this service versus other services,” Franklin said. “A couple years ago, we ran Rockridge to Pittsburg, but no one was taking it.”

Franklin said BART and AC Transit have faced increased competition with ride-service programs such as Uber and Lyft, but he added that ridership has been improving in the last two years.

Contact Mary Kelly Ford at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @MaryKellyFord1.