BART fleet in recovery mode following 24 hour service


BART fleet in recovery mode following 24 hour service

We did it. We got through the final scheduled closure of the Bay Bridge, with hundreds of thousands of additional people turning to BART to get across the Bay around the clock. Seems like the hard part is over, right? Not necessarily. For the skilled workers who keep BART’s train cars running, a demanding set of recovery tasks lies ahead in the coming days.

During the bridge closure, BART’s oldest-in-the-nation rail cars cranked out an extra 235,000 miles. The result is an extra dozen cars will now be forced out of service and will head to the shops for regular preventative maintenance. Additionally, unscheduled failures ran about double normal this weekend. The list of car troubles runs the gamut; everything from doors not opening to overheating to stuck windshield wipers.

BART’s Chief Mechanical Officer estimates it will take her crews at least a week to catch up with all the maintenance that comes with an extra 7,800 car hours. Not that she’s complaining – she and her staff are gratified to be among the many unsung heroes of BART’s landmark ridership (not to mention Thursday’s 97% on time performance). However, their challenge does provide part of the answer to the frequent question: “Why doesn’t BART run 24 hours a day all the time?” Running 24 hours puts additional stress on an already stressed fleet of rail cars.

There’s also the issue of giving track crews a chance to work on the system when trains aren’t running. Right now there's a gap of about four hours between when the last trains of the day leave, usually around midnight, and when the first trains of the day start up, around 4 a.m. on weekdays. (Those are end-of-the-line times; last-train times from individual stations may be later. For example, the latest SFO to Pittsburg/Bay Point train on a Saturday night leaves Embarcadero Station at 25 minutes past midnight, actually Sunday morning. Check the schedule for details.)

That short window of time without service is used for essential nightly track maintenance.  Unlike most large public rail transit systems with multiple sets of tracks on the same routes, BART doesn't have the duplication that would allow us to run trains on one set while performing maintenance on another. Third-rail power has to be shut down for maintenance crews to be able to operate safely and do the work that keeps the system safe and reliable. And the trains can’t run when the power is down.

A little history: BART was never intended to be a 24-hour system. When cost projections were initially developed, the residents of the region who voted to approve BART supported a system that would have limited hours of operation. (In its early days, BART was even closed on weekends.) You can read more about BART's history in the History and Facts section of our website. BART does extend service for certain special occasions, such as New Year's Eve celebrations and some sporting events, when large late-night crowds are expected. You can find out about extended service -- and lots of other information -- by signing up for our e-mail alerts.

For information on transit options provided by other agencies during the hours when BART is not operating,, or contact BART's Transit Information Center at 510-465-2278.