Matching late-night transportation with our late-night reality

This Op-Ed first appeared in the San Francisco Examiner on August 7, 2016.

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Until BART runs around the clock, Bay Area transportation options will not reflect the region’s actual nighttime patterns. (Ekevara Kitpowsong/Special to S.F. Examiner)

By Scott Wiener on August 7, 2016 1:00 am

San Francisco and the Bay Area run 24 hours a day. We are not a 9-to-5 community. We have a robust nighttime economy — in San Francisco, contributing more than $4 billion annually to the economy and employing more than 50,000 people — and nightlife is part of our city’s cultural heart. A huge number of residents go out at night and need to get home late, and many workers either get off work late at night or start work very early in the morning.

Unfortunately, our transportation systems don’t reflect our city and region’s actual nighttime patterns. We too often operate as if everyone works during the day and sits home at night. BART shuts down shortly after midnight, as do the Muni subway and Caltrain. While our various bus operators — Muni, AC Transit, Golden Gate Transit and SamTrans — have overnight service, that service is extremely limited and not usable by everyone.

The lack of late night transportation options has real consequences. Workers are stressed about missing the last train or leaving work at 3 a.m. with tips in their pocket and being a sitting duck while waiting an hour for a bus. Patrons go home earlier than they would with better transit or, worse, drive under the influence.

While transportation network companies have made things much better than the previous state of affairs — the nightmare of trying to catch a cab at 2 a.m. — they aren’t always cheap at peak hours, and for many workers, taking a daily ride share an extended distance isn’t a viable option.

In 2014, I authored legislation to require the preparation of a master plan for improved late night transportation. An impressive group of nightlife advocates, business owners, workers, transit advocates, city staff and others met for nearly a year to formulate that plan. The plan, issued in February 2015, makes a series of recommendations, including expanding late night bus service, improving the speed and efficiency of overnight service, increasing safety and comfort and ensuring that transportation options are affordable.

We are already seeing progress. BART and AC Transit collaborated to add an additional transbay overnight bus line connecting the Mission to Oakland and other East Bay points. Muni increased service on its Owl lines and rationalized their routes.

On Friday, we announced a broad late-night bus service increase by all of our major bus operators, including Muni, AC Transit, Golden Gate Transit and SamTrans. This next step keeps our forward momentum going.

Of course, the holy grail of late night transportation is 24-hour BART service. We will get there once we build a much-needed second transbay tube.

This second tube will allow BART to run 24 hours, in addition to helping us create a true regional rail network by connecting Caltrain to the Capitol Corridor and ultimately getting high speed rail over to the East Bay.

Yet, for now, we are making progress one step at a time. We will continue to transform our transportation systems to reflect the reality of our residents.

Scott Wiener is a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He serves as chairman of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority and represents San Francisco on the regional Metropolitan Transportation Commission.


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