BART will convene a study group to look at the issues that would be involved in considering any adjustment to regular hours of service, at the request of the newly elected president of the BART Board of Directors.
Bob Franklin, who was elected at Thursday's meeting to lead the board for the year 2011, noted that "there are a lot of factors" that must be weighed. A few of the many issues are:
- Maintenance time -- providing adequate time for maintenance to keep BART running safely and reliably. Some of this necessary maintenance can only bedone in the small window of time that BART is closed, between 1:30 a.m.and 4 a.m. on weekdays and the slightly longer maintenance windows that exist on weekends.
- Coordination with connecting transit such as buses and Muni Metro, to make sure people taking BART have connecting transportation.
- Additional costs for staff, be it direct or indirect. For example, who would pay to provide security in shared Muni/BART stations in San Francisco, if BART stayed open longer than Muni or alternatively; who would pay for the additional Muni hours of service if they chose to match BART's extended hours?
Franklin noted that the current start time of approximately 4 a.m. on weekdays was instituted after the Loma Prieta earthquake, when BART played a crucial role keeping the Bay Area workforce in motion during the Bay Bridge closure. He noted that, two decades later, "it's worth taking another look".
"Is that the appropriate starting time?" Franklin asked. "I would just like, as president, to take a look." "No promises," he added.
BART Chief Communications Officer Linton Johnson added that, "There are many, many issues that have to be taken into consideration. Unfortunately because of the need to do vital system maintenance during the already limited time that the system is closed, any change would help some riders at the expense of others."
He noted, for example, that if the morning start time were shifted later, in order to allow BART to remain open later in the evening, it would have a negative impact on workers who have to get to work to start very early shifts.
Johnson said BART frequently hears requests from the public about staying open later, even if it were only on Friday and Saturday nights, so riders could stay out later at nightclubs and other entertainment venues in San Francisco. However, the longer maintenance window on the weekends -- now
from about 1:30 a.m. to 6 a.m. on Saturday and 1;30 a.m. until 8 a.m. on Sunday -- is when BART maintenance staff perform the most complex tasks that require additional time to complete.
A study group chaired by BART's Assistant General Manager of Operations, Paul Oversier, will be convened and will meeting in the coming year to look at the issue of BART service hours, along with gathering input from the public.