Here at BART we are frequently asked why the trains don’t run all night, or at least late enough to get partiers from the clubs of San Francisco back home around the Bay Area after last call. We thought we’d take a minute to explain some of the history and background behind that question.
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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 some public 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.
There is another option for people who need late-night transit. It's the All Nighter bus service and you can find details about it, including a route map and fare information, at the All Nighter section of http://www.511.org/. The All Nighter provides regional bus service from approximately 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. throughout Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco and San Mateo counties. Serving most BART and Caltrain stations, it is operated by five transit agencies that have coordinated their late-night schedules.
Photo credit: Homepage thumbnail image of neon moon by Jeremy Brooks.