Wednesday, May 5, 2021
Uncategorized Tom's Town: Why we need late-night transit

Tom’s Town: Why we need late-night transit


By Tom Temprano

FEBRUARY 27, 2015 — I took a trip to New York for Valentines Day and much of my time there was spent hiding from record-low temperatures below ground on the subway. Riding the trains is one of my favorite things to do when I visit. The ability to get anywhere at any time without waiting is what makes New York New York.

48hillstemprano2I’ve visited New York half a dozen times and each time I return and get on BART at SFO I can’t help but wish that Bay Area transit planners had taken more of a cue from New York’s urban planners of yore.

I’m not saying that San Francisco’s public transportation is awful – I’d put us at a solid OK. Muni does a good job when it isn’t delayed, and if you’re going to and from somewhere that’s on a BART line you can count on doing so quickly and comfortably. We’re also trying hard to get better with major improvements coming including proposed Bus Rapid Transit lines on Geary and Van Ness.

Unfortunately OK turns to awful right around midnight. While New York’s trains keep humming along at all hours, trains (and busses) across the Bay Area literally stop in their tracks at the stroke of twelve.

The impact that this has on our nighttime economy, and the workers who fuel it, is staggering. If San Francisco wants to have world-class nightlife, we’re going to need world class late-night transportation and we’ve got a long way to go before that happens.

Fortunately, we now have more than just horror stories from people who go out for fun or work between the hours of midnight and 6am to back up our need to keep trains and busses running later. This past week, the city’s Late Night Transportation Working Group, which I’m proud to be a member of, released its report on the state of the Bay Area’s nighttime transit.

The report yielded some pretty disappointing findings – here are a few:

— People taking late-night trips (there are 250,000 of them every day in San Francisco) are more than twice as likely to drive alone as people traveling during the daytime. A pretty sad statistic for a city that’s trying to get cars off the road.
— A survey of 3,000 people showed that 90% of respondents said BART being closed between midnight and 5am affects their travel choices. Unfortunately for these many folks, the new tube that BART says is necessary to run all night is “30-50 years off” despite growing political will to get it built.
— The majority of San Franciscans, according to the survey, often or sometimes chose not to travel at night because it feels unsafe. Nearly 70% of women who responded said this as opposed to 50% of men.

This last finding is particularly disturbing for me. As someone who loves this city, especially after dark, I hate that so many San Franciscans aren’t taking advantage of all we have to offer because they’re afraid to go out. As someone who owns a bar, I’d love for us to have enough safe and available nighttime transportation that on any given night, half of our potential customers weren’t choosing to stay home.

More important to me, however, is the safety of my employees who have to get home from work at 2 or 3 in the morning. San Francisco’s nighttime economy employs 60,000 people and those people, unlike the ones noted in the survey, don’t have a choice of whether or not to be travelling between midnight and 5am.

People refer to late night workers at bars, restaurants and other businesses as human ATMs because they’re alone on the street oftentimes with cash tips on them. These workers are targeted for violent muggings far too often. Expecting them to shell out $100 a week taking cabs or car shares is not a solution – particularly not for the low-income workers who make up the majority of the late-night workforce.

As a city we have a responsibility to make sure that our workers are able to get home from work between 9pm and 5am just as safely as people who work a regular 9-5.

It’s only February but David Campos may have already coined San Francisco’s term of the year in the op-ed/economics 101 lesson that he wrote for Wednesday’s Examiner. The phrase ‘let them eat cake development,’ which he used in reference to supporters of luxury housing who thing that building condos for millionaires will somehow make rents affordable for the rest of us, is as spot on as it is clever. Campos then drops the mic as he takes on the cake-peddlers saying “Think about it this way: if there were a bread shortage in San Francisco and the cost of bread skyrocketed, no amount of fancy cake would fix the bread market.”

As if right on cue, we learned that San Francisco is being served its biggest piece of cake yet in the form of a $49 million penthouse that is currently being constructed atop the Lumina tower. The list price is a full $10 million higher than the next most expensive house on the market in San Francisco. For reference, $49 million would buy you 1,071,038 whole tres leches cakes from Dianda’s on Mission Street, which is about how many cakes it would take for me or any other average San Franciscan to feel that they got adequately trickled down on from the sale of a $49 million condo.

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.


  1. Muni does have late night Owl service on several lines throughout the city, which is coordinated with AC Transit late night service and Samtrans late night service. Whether or not to use the service is up to you.

  2. that is total bullshit and you know it. prove it or shut up with your anti union trolling bullshit.

  3. agreed. but then again website management has never been the owner’s forte. look at what a shit pile the BG site was (oh wait it’s gone!)

  4. not many restaurants are open late. That just leaves bars and restaurants. I have no issue with those businesses but I will not pay more in taxes so that people can stay out late and drink a lot.

    Clubgoers should budget for a cab home.

  5. Right. You wrote that given ‘the Mehserle situation’ and of course you weren’t talking about race. Just own it. You’re a racist.

  6. Clubs, bars, theaters and restaurants are all businesses that have late hours. Why do you hate the business community? Are you some kind of communist?

  7. I wasn’t talking about those who work odd hours. The emphasis of Tom’s article was on nightlife. I’m not interested in subsidizing partying.

  8. IAWU, I think we should have it but only if we put a lot more security on BART trains & stop being so pc about things. There are definitely a lot of criminal elements that come out at night.

  9. “Please cite a source that says we don’t have late-night transit because it is ‘way too dangerous.’ Instead of your word gymnastics, wouldn’t be easier for you to write what you really mean, that you don’t like black people?”

    I said we don’t have late night transit because it is too dangerous. I’ve been harassed in SF by people of all types, WP in Safeway at night for instance.

    I did not mention race because, frankly, crimes happen across all communities.

    Calling me a racist really says a lot more about you than I am. I pity you, sincerely. And yes, I do think you are a racist.

  10. The reference to decent working poor is that they need late-night transit. That should have been obvious from the context.

  11. The reference was to those who party late at night, and not to those who work. That should have been obvious from the context.

  12. OK, so in other words, you cannot substantiate your claim. You merely believe that a handful of corporations may not be paying corporation tax at their full rate which, in the case of the US, is the highest in the western world.

  13. DOYDR: Do Your Own Damn Research. But FYI, Wells Fargo, AT&T, and Chevron are among the biggest tax-evaders in the nation. Westfield Mall gets huge tax breaks. And Twitter, Zendesk, et. al. are leveraging their tax-breaks into real estate deals, driving up prices for office space downtown.
    As for gouging customers to support lavish executive salaries, that will all change when people boycott and divest from them in favor of worker self-directed enterprises. There’s nothing corporations do that can’t be done by someone else.

  14. “Presently, most corporations pay no or very little taxes at any level.”

    Please provide evidence for that bold assertion.

    And even if true, who do you think ultimately pays corporate taxes via higher prices, lower wages and smaller dividends?

  15. I don’t think it’s possible to “save” money. But it is possible to to get adequate funding for regional transportation from the businesses that owe a large part of their bottom-line to the Bay Areas allure, mystique, tax-funded infrastructure, and unique human resources. Presently, most corporations pay no or very little taxes at any level. This is especially true in San Francisco of the tech companies and commercial real estate developments.

  16. I am not remotely interested in paying more in taxes just so a few clubbers and ravers don’t have to cough up for a cab late at night.

    Put a transit tax on nightclubs if that is the aim. Decent people are at home tucked up in their beds by mid-night. Others can party on their own dime.

  17. But the main reason to automate trains is to reduce operating costs. In fact BART was designed as driverless but the unions insisted a guy sit up front and do nothing.

    Otherwise it’s just more costs for the technology without the savings that are supposed to go with it.

  18. In fact there needs to be a Regional Transportation Agency that incorporates the dozens of separate an vastly unequal transit systems around the Bay into one seamless integrated network. A person should be able to get on in Santa Rosa or Richmond and get off in San Francisco or San Jose without using 5 different transit systems. Pollution and congestion don’t have borders; neither should “transit districts.”

  19. First off, comparing the dining and nightlife scene in NYC “the city that never sleeps” to SF “the city where you can’t find a decent restaurant open after 10pm” is ridiculous. Yeah, it would be convenient to have more transit, but who’s going to pay? You do know that BART is hitting up SF for a billion dollars right now?

    Second, to pay for those services do you think taxes on old time residents paying on a $400k basis is as lucrative as taxes on new residents living in the same home with a $1.1 million basis.

    Seriously, figure out the intersection of what SF can afford and which part of the population pays for it…

  20. The idea isn’t to save money, it’s to have the trains run 24/7/365 on fixed schedule.
    I would have liked to have seen a light-rail line on Geary that was underground from Montgomery and surfaced at Arguello. And one on Van Ness that would be in the median from Bay to South Van Ness, then underground to Army. In this Perfect World, MUNI would be subsidized by the tech, banking, and real estate industries, so there would be no need to collect fares. People who were formerly operators would be retrained in security, maintenance, and to be able to direct visitors to where they want to go.

  21. TrollKiller, the Muni workers union would insist that an “operator” be seated in the train anyway. So it wouldn’t save any money.

  22. There is something wrong with you. Seriously, you leap from tangent to tangent and with each post you appear more idiotic.

  23. Finally something good to read on 48 hills that doesn’t create divisiveness, and the first actual article on transportation I’ve seen, focusing on possible improvments on enhancing late night service on Muni and BART, or highlighting the need to, the only prior articles on transportation I’ve seen in the past were all about bus bashing and smearing Lyft and Uber. BTW, the last two, paragraphs of this article seem so irrelevant.

  24. I don’t read this blog enough to know much about you. Regardless, racists come in all colors. You are the disgusting one here.

  25. You sound extremely, I mean extremely racist. I am biracial as I’ve said before here. No one but you mentioned anyone’s skin color. That is just disgusting of you.

  26. Tom, Tim etc want the money that rich people have, without having to have those rich people in the city. I feel sure that would love to impose a special tax on rich people with no connection to SF.

  27. OK, so I imagined that you introduced “black people” into the discussion at 07:53 a.m. today?

    You know the rule – the first person that mentions race is the racist.

  28. Nowhere in my request for data to substantiate the wild claim by 4thGenSFer that there is no late-night transit because it is ‘way too dangerous’ do I make any suggestions about violent crime or who is committing crimes.

    You either have severe reading-comprehension issues, are just a trolling racist, or, more likely, both.

  29. Tom, it’s time for some tough talk.

    Public transit is expensive. BART and MUNI are hundred of millions of dollar behind on maintenance and budget. Overnight BART would require a new tunnel under the bay. Compensation for public transit workers is expensive. We’re talking techie-class pay and benefits.

    Guess what’s going to pay for those things. Not all those things we love. Not subsidized housing. Not preserving La Raza in Calle Veinticuatro. Not Mercy housing for recently homeless downtown, or medical benefits for the poor, or subsidizing the lifestyles of artists and activists, or babysitting and supporting the nation’s vagrants, addicts, and dropouts.

    You know what will help pay for it? All those luxury condos on the waterfront, in the Mission, in the Castro. But most of all, 50 million dollar condos.

  30. Guest, are you suggesting that blacks commit a disproportionate amount of crime, particularly violent crime?

    The black community itself acknowledges that as a problem, of course, but I’m interested in seeing your data. For instance, if you were correct, then black cities like Oakland and Stockton would have high rates of crime. Do they?

  31. Please cite a source that says we don’t have late-night transit because it is ‘way too dangerous.’ Instead of your word gymnastics, wouldn’t be easier for you to write what you really mean, that you don’t like black people?

  32. Tom, who is claiming that the purpose of building a $50 million dollar penthouse is to reduce home prices elsewhere in the city?

    I don’t know anyone who claims that. It is totally orthogonal to the issue of whether the voters wish to pay more in taxes to house more poor lower-income people in SF.

    Maybe if your transit improvements happen, that won’t matter anyway, if BART ran 24 hours a day and could ferry people to and from Oakland in ten minutes like the NYC subway?

  33. The reporting on this site is stellar. The domination of the “comments” section by the same extremely small group of most-likely-hired trolls is truly tiresome. Please get rid of them – by any means necessary.

  34. Late night Bart service would also almost certainly reduce the number of intoxicated or or just under the legal limit drivers on the road, making the city safer for all modes of lite night transit. (Keeping in mind that while violent crime gets disproportionate news attention, injury from traffic accidents is the real risk for the average pedestrian on the city streets.)

  35. The reason is that it’s way too dangerous. And given the Mehserle situation, no one wants to spend the $ on security and policing like they do in NYC. We’re quite pathetic like that. We give in almost every time to the PC monsters. So we’re not going to have it until the left is pretty much out of the SFBA. Until that time…..

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