By Jennifer Maerz
The thing that stops people in Oakland and San Francisco from hanging out late night together more often is crappy transportation options. Getting back home sucks. Once BART stops, getting between cities is either time consuming or paycheck consuming. So I was really excited to hear about Night School, a new transportation service between Oakland and San Francisco that uses real school buses (and employs school bus drivers) to get folks back and forth across the bay on the weekends. Starting next Friday, May 23rd, Night School will shuttle people between 17th & Telegraph in Oakland and 18th & Valencia in the Mission on Friday and Saturday nights between midnight and 4 a.m., with plans to expand those stops to other locations if the public demand is there.
The comfy new shuttle service is the brainchild of Alex Kaufman and Seth Capron, childhood friends who were frustrated about the lack of late night options between SF and Oakland. Kaufman, an Oakland resident, bemoaned that transportation is "slow, unreliable, and potentially unsafe." He sees Night School as helping both the partiers and the people who serve them. "A lot of people get off work late and have no affordable way to get home – Night School could really serve their needs," he tells me. "Second, according to CHP data, the worst time of the week for drunk driving is between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. on weekends after bars let out. This is the meat of our service time. If people have a way to get home that is reliable and affordable I hope they will be less tempted to drive drunk." Buses will depart every 25 minutes initially, with the idea that as the need to scale up arises, the timing will get faster.
Instead of weaving the bridges wasted or forking over lots of cash, you can bask in adolescent nostalgia as Night School transports 52 adults (with space below the bus for bikes) across the bay and back in time. The Oakland-based company has access to buses that are still in use by the school district during the day – so it also employs a "conductor" for each vehicle to make sure the masses behave even better than students.
Instead of weaving the bridges wasted or forking over lots of cash, you can bask in adolescent nostalgia as Night School transports 52 adults (with space below the bus for bikes) across the bay and back in time.
Riders pay a monthly fee of $19 for unlimited passage – although there's a special deal now where the first 100 riders pay only $10. Download the app, which offers real-time arrival and location information, and you can “suggest a stop” and vote on where Night School expands to next. Kaufman says they'll take this feedback heavily into account as they decide which new stops to add first.
Beyond helping the riders, Night School also wants to help the school district it's borrowing the buses from – the company will donate 5% of profits to the Great Oakland Public Schools Leadership Center to support its Teacher Fellowship Program to recruit, train, and retain effective teachers.
And the founders also hope to help the nightlife establishments along its route as well. "We’ve talked to Oakland bar owners who see a lot of traffic from San Francisco," says Kaufman, "and are really excited about a way to let those people stay after BART shuts down."
Update: Per the comment below, I asked Kaufman about his thoughts on AC Transit, and here's his response. "I think the AC 800 is a great option for people leaving from around Market St. I've taken it many times myself. Night School is initially targeting a different part of the city (the Mission) that's very active at night but isn't currently well-served by AC Transit. We're also offering more frequent service and a shorter trip time. I believe Night School addresses a genuine gap in Bay Area transit. That said, no option is going to be the best in every situation, and that's fine. Like the commenter said, we all need more options!"
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