BART plans to alter its schedule later this year in an effort to make it more efficient to use BART at any time of day rather than the agency centering its service around weekday work commute hours.
Currently, BART trains arrive every 15 minutes on weekdays until 9 p.m., while arriving every 30 minutes on nights and weekends.
Starting Sept. 11, trains will arrive every 20 minutes at most at every station in the system on weekdays, nights and weekends.
The changes will also make trains more frequent on the yellow line, which runs between Antioch and San Francisco International Airport.
The yellow line is one of BART’s busiest lines, shuttling riders across Contra Costa County, Alameda County and San Francisco, but is currently only served by trains every 15 minutes during peak weekday hours. That schedule will change to every 10 minutes Monday through Friday before 9 p.m.
Members of BART’s Board of Directors have repeatedly called for increased night and weekend service since the COVID-19 pandemic began and changes in work activity, particularly in downtown San Francisco, limited BART’s ridership to only around 40 percent of pre-pandemic expectations.
“We know that commute ridership is not coming back,” BART board member Rebecca Saltzman said Thursday during a discussion of the tentative schedule changes. “The commute is not coming back to any mode” of transportation.
“Maybe we can inch up a little bit, we have to continue to capture those riders, but if people are only going into their office one, two or three days a week, we’re not going to capture them five days a week,” she added. “It’s not possible, they’re sitting in their home, they’re not getting on BART.”
Laura Hill, a policy director with the business advocacy group Bay Area Council, argued that BART will make workers even less likely to commute via train on weekdays with larger gaps between trains and that BART should instead prioritize safety and cleanliness aboard its trains.
Hill noted that polling conducted by the Bay Area Council among employers in the region found that 78 percent are “somewhat or very concerned” about their employees’ safety aboard public transit.
“We understand why you are taking a closer look at your service plan,” Hill told the Board of Directors. “However, adding service where you already know you have demand at the expense of weekday service does not equal more ridership during evenings and weekends, but it does guarantee that you make weekday commutes even less appealing.”
Ridership has rebounded better on weekends for BART, with recorded fares totaling between 60 and 70 percent of pre-pandemic expectations.
Weekday fares, meanwhile, have struggled to reach much higher than 40 percent of pre-pandemic expectations.
BART officials also believe the schedule changes will not increase costs as the transit agency is essentially shifting some trains from peak weekday service to nights and weekends.
“Someone who’s traveling alone late at night who has to wait 30-plus minutes for a train, knowing that they might get a train in 20 minutes or a shorter time period actually, I think, brings safety in riding the system after hours,” board member Mark Foley said.
The BART board will consider the schedule changes as part of its budget approval process this summer. The board must approve the budget before the end of the fiscal year on June 30.