.Designated Driver: Midnight Express Charters Private Bus To Bring You Back From San Francisco

Earlier this month, as he and his friends were having drinks in San Francisco, Cory Althoff was bemoaning the fact that he’d need to cut his night short if he wanted to make it back to his own bed in Los Altos. It was either that—or, if he wanted to stay out past the last Caltrain back down the peninsula—find a local friend with a couch.
It was a decision with which Althoff was all too familiar.
“Ever since I was in college and started going out in San Francisco, my friends and I have noticed it’s a huge problem,” he says, alluding to the fact that Caltrain and BART stop running around midnight most nights of the year, and that taking a taxi or an Uber back home is wickedly expensive.
And then he and his friend, Michael Horton had an idea: what if they hired a charter bus to take a large group home to a handful of destinations in the South Bay?
“Everyone just got really excited and they said they’d love to use that,” he recalls. “The next day we got up and basically just started working on the website and got it coded in 24 hours.”
That was two weeks ago, and the resulting website—MidnightExpress.io—allows people to book a $15 seat on a charter bus, which leaves San Francisco at 2am Saturday morning and drops up to 56 passengers off at a handful of South Bay destinations along the way.
In the wee hours of last Saturday, Dec. 20, they ran their first bus from SF down to the San Jose Caltrain Station, stopping at Palo Alto, Los Altos and Mountain View Caltrain stations en route. The was sold out.
“It’s been sort of a whirlwind,” Althoff says of how fast he and Horton took their idea from conception to reality.
Encouraged by the interest and success, Althoff and Horton are pressing forward. So far, they only run one bus, at the end of Friday night (early Saturday morning), and they only stop at the four above mentioned Caltrain stations. However, they are looking at the possibility of booking more buses and adding more nights and stops as demand grows.
They don’t have an app. Instead they have a simple website, which can be accessed from a browser or a mobile phone. For now, Althoff says, that’s all they really need. “We’ve got a really, really great response.”
As of publication, there are still slots open on the bus for this coming weekend and for New Years Eve. It’s true, Caltrain will run late between Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, but Althoff says he and Horton didn’t create Midnight Express to help people out on holidays.
“There are thousands of people that want to go out in San Francisco on the weekends,” he says. “And they want to stay out past midnight. We just want to give people a way to go out in the city and enjoy themselves and to be able to get home safe and get home affordability.”
The Midnight Express departs from the 4th and King Caltrain Station in San Francisco every Friday at 2am. More info.


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