About a week ago, I came across a reddit post displaying the timeline of Washington DC’s Metro development. Needless to say, I set out to create a similar graphic for Philadelphia.
The Philadelphia Rapid Transit Timeline spans 145 years, three transit authority eras and four lines that qualify as rapid transit. The majority of development happened prior to World War II with 54 stations being opened before 1940. Since then, another 27 stations have opened, the majority of them being related to PATCO.
No station has opened since the Broad Street Spur’s Chinatown Station replaced Vine Street in construction necessitated by the building of the Commuter Rail tunnel in the 1980s.
Philadelphia’s Transit Plan vision for 2045 does include several projects that have been added to the timeline as proposals. Only the reopening of the Franklin Square station on the PATCO line seems guaranteed at this point.
Check out the timeline, and of course, let me know if you have any corrections or comments.
Greater PRT started looking into the history of Philadelphia’s Subway Surface Subway lines, in part because the name itself will make your brain melt. From the city that gave you Street Road, of course there is a Subway Surface Tunnel that doesn’t carry subways, but trolleys. Are you following? Really? Because have you seen the maps? Below is the current trolley map which primarily shows the Subway Surface lines.
The map is bad. It’s busy, doesn’t convey any idea of where the trolleys run in the physical world, and if you wanted to connect to anything but the Market-Frankford Line, well good luck.
But short shrifting the trolley lines isn’t just a fault of the route line map. On the official SEPTA system map, subway-surface trolleys only rate a couple of arrows and some cramped text, representing five lines. Hardly appropriate for a system with more than 71,000 riders per weekday.
This isn’t exactly a new problem. SEPTA’s 1982 map wasn’t much better, though it did at least acknowledge that the trolleys did indeed run down streets.
The work is evidently being done by SEPTA’s Strategic Planning intern and they have done a fine job through two weeks. For week one, the inspiration was the iconic Transport for London’s Tube map. That’s been followed up with Boston’s MBTA map, and includes frequent bus lines in addition to the rapid transit lines.
Each map includes the rapid transit line of the Broad Street Subway, Market Frankford Line, PATCO, Trolley Lines, Norristown High Speed Line, Suburban Trolleys and Regional Rail. The MBTA map is more city focused, including higher frequency bus lines and including arrows toward suburban regional rail destinations.
The density of the London inspired map feels light, but that may say more about just how much public transit London offers over Philadelphia than anything else. The Boston map feels workable, with the exception of the Norristown High Speed Line and suburban trolleys being rendered in blue. But that is more an homage to Boston, that a practical choice for Philadelphia.
It’s exciting to see how these experiments continue and what it all means for Philadelphia. It’s promising that at least the intern is getting a firm grasp on the state of transit maps across the world.
Abolishing paid transfers has become a rallying cry of progressive transit advocates in Philadelphia, #freetransfers is the rallying cry. “The transfer is regressive” spout transportation pundits. They point out that the transfer hurts poorer people most because the cost hits the pocket harder and low income sections of the city require more transfers to reach job centers, taxing the poor even more.
What would you say if I told you there was a city employee who was devoted to eliminating transfer penalties and ensuring “the advantages of rapid transit will be extended as equally as practicable to every front door in Philadelphia. ” And what would you say if I told you that proposal dated back to November of 1914?
It’s a trek I’ve made numerous times in my youth and wanted to do myself since the Gallery reopened (lets face it, it’ll always be the Gallery). So I’m a bit jealous Winberg beat me to it. But if I cannot be first to document the journey, I’m happy to share some history of the path.
The underground passageways date back to the opening of the Market Street Subway in 1903. Back in those early days (and even much later), Market Street stores utilized the concourses with display windows and entrances to their shops. Into the 1960s, Gimbels promoted Tuesday sales in its “Gimbels Subway Store.”
As a hoarder of Philadelphia transit maps and photographs I have some items to share from a 1908 book on the Market Frankford Line. Unfortunately, I haven’t always been great about documenting where I found these images. So if anyone knows where the source material was, I’d appreciate the insight.
Further along the concourse, John Wanamaker’s approach to concourse was just as welcoming.
Winberg also mentions the three metal tunnels with the low headroom at 11th Street. I’ve always wondered about that configuration. Unfortunately, this photo from 1908 doesn’t really explain the peculiar configuration.
Though the term bargain basement began at the base of department stores, postcards of the time prove it wasn’t solely a place for bargain shoppers.
The concourses may feel like an undocumented space but maps do exist. The most recent versions designed by the Center City District but others date back to at least 1936.
As the above maps show, at one time you could make your way north, all the way to Race Street, but those passageways, once accessible via Suburban Station have been closed off.
I’ll be on the lookout for a comprehensive map that illustrates just how one could walk from 8th and Chestnut to the Four Seasons atop the Comcast Technology Center without crossing a single intersection. From underground to above the clouds. Sounds like a good walk.
Back in February SEPTA updated its bus map, attempting to show regional rail, subway, elevated rail, trolleys and buses all on the same map. Additionally the map showed frequency of bus transit via color and thickness of lines. SEPTA then asked for comment on the new maps to flavor the next round of maps.
It’s actually two maps that have been released. The first is a new system map showing the 80+ bus routes that connect with the city of Philadelphia. The most frequent routes are shown in red, the routes that run every thirty minutes or less are in teal and those that run every 60 minutes or less are denoted in gray.
The maps are posted to SEPTA’s website and a survey is provided for feedback. This is the latest step in SEPTA’s reworking of its bus network.
SEPTA should feel lucky that no one has rated their line maps for the Broad Street line or Market-Frankford line. These are abominations in their own right. No consistency with the overall system map, confusing letters, colors and variable thickness in lines all gather to lessen the usability of the system.
One of the more puzzling things about the Market Frankford Line is the lack of a station between 15th and 30th Street stations. Especially when you consider that today, all of the city’s tallest office buildings are clustered between 17th and 20th Streets, along Market. After all there are 5 stops east of 15th along Market. Then none west of 15th until the the subway crosses under the Schuylkill River to 30th Street.
To understand how this happened, you have to understand the topography of Philadelphia when the El was constructed. The might Pennsylvania Railroad’s Broad Street Station brought passengers from across the region to Philadelphia via a viaduct that ran adjacent to Market Street. The two-story tall viaduct was known as the “Chinese Wall” to locals and with its noisy, smoking trains and dark underpasses, left the area west of Broad as an undesirable address.