By Josh Wilson
Working stiffs and clubgoers alike are part of a thriving late-night economy that brings billions of dollars into San Francisco each year. Too bad they can't get home safely or affordably once the fun winds down.
How badly is the system broken? Ask anyone who's spent 45 minutes or an hour waiting for a MUNI "owl" shuttle at 2 a.m. Now ask a late-night bar, club, or restaurant employee who routinely waits at that bus stop with a pocket full of hard-earned cash from tips.
And then there's BART. Wait, no there isn't. Your cheapest, fastest hope for avoiding drunk drivers on the Bay Bridge or not passing out at a bus stop will remain closed for repairs during those critical graveyard-shift hours.
So if you do work the night shift, or are fond of cultural events than run into the wee hours, your options are to a) buy a car, which is expensive, b) take a cab, which is expensive, c) get a different job (if you work the night shift), which is completely unreasonable, or, d) skip all those shows and cultural events across the Bay that end after midnight, which is soul killing and culturally regressive.
And let's not even talk about drunk divers. It would be so much better for folks to simply stumble onto a timely, affordable bus and let a trained professional move the freight.
Thus, MUNI-riding San Francisco Supervisor Scott Weiner has upped the ante with a "Late-Night Integrated Transportation Plan" that might be ready for official review in time for the 2014 holiday party season.
On April 22 Weiner proposed a resolution that would create a Late Night Transportation Working Group, which, in about six months or so, would produce a Late Night Integrated Transportation Plan. That plan, formed with input from workers, business owners, and officials from multiple transit agencies, would then go through the usual City Hall process of review and horse-trading, meaning that an actual vote on the plan probably won't happen until 2015. Weiner's plan comes on the heels of a major, multi-agency hearing earlier this month that brought together stakeholders from the public and private sectors for a healthy round of brainstorming and airing gripes.
Proposals coming to the surface include using vehicle licensing fees to pay for service boosts for the N, L and F shuttles in San Francisco; increased service options for late-night AC Transit buses across the Bay Bridge; and increased education and outreach to inform night owls about their options. Another proposal is for a one-year pilot program that would send buses from San Francisco to the East Bay from 12:30 a.m.-2:30 a.m. on the weekends, according to KTVU.
Fixing BART is another problem altogether. As quoted in KQED's News Fix blog, BART's schedule and service manager Jay Bolick bemoans the system's inflexibility.
“The system was never built for 24-hour service,” he said, a result of decisions "made 50 years ago."
Thus, BART must be routinely shut down overnight for repairs — an artifact of what was surely a more innocent era, when everyone was tucked in for bed and thinking pure thoughts well before midnight.
Image from Thinkstock