Transit Adventures

A Broad Street Subway Day in Philly!

Today, me and my one railfan friend decided it was time to go down to Philly and together visit every station on the Broad Street Line. I am not at all a fan of buses but New York to Philly is one of the few rides I can tolerate since the bus is so much more economical and only a slightly over two-hour ride. For example, even just booking last night fares were only $9 on each way Greyhound Express (reserved seats with a boarding number) while New Jersey Transit is 15.50 each way plus the extra $5 for SEPTA on the Freedom Passes (the $11 day pass, which was our means of transit for the day, has that service fee to go to jersey). The average travel time doing this to Center City is about two and a half-hours, so the wise is virtually the same (if we were comparing a five hour train ride or five hour bus ride, I would still be on the train, I’m not a very big fan of buses). If that was Amtrak I might also be more tempted (getting the AGR boost) but the cheapest Keystone/Regional fares are $50 walk-up (I paid less to go from Los Angeles to San Francisco) and $36 in advance (generally these trips are too spur of the moment). Travel time on the fastest regional is 1 hour 17 minutes, (as long as 35 minutes). I have to throw in that a same day purchase for Acela (taking only 1 hour and 5 minutes, average speed 84mph) is between $94 and $156 in advance still $94 is the lowest weekdays.

Anyway back to our day today. I had a nice fast, crowded rush hour ride on the A train and was walking into the Port Authority Bus Terminal and Greyhound subterranean station area for the 8:00 departure. I found my friend, we were in the teens in line (based on boarding number) and got on the bus which left on time. There was a little bit of traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike in one place and terrible traffic crossing the Ben Franklin Bridge due to construction but we still pulled into the Greyhound Station across from Market East Station before 10:30. From there it was off to buy the slightly expensive but great value (unlimited rides on Regional Rail except to Jersey) Independence Passes.

There we took to the Market-Frankford Line one stop from 11th to 8th left fare control and transferred to the Broad-Ridge Spur, one of the most underutilized subway branches I know of (especially in a downtown). It only runs two car trains (5 or 6 are the norm for Broad Street Subway’s Express and locals). We stopped at Chinatown (whose exitgets the most bizarre of the day, in the middle of a parking lot), then Fairmont and walked inside fare control to the northbound platform and than back outside via the street to reach the southbound platform. Next we spent the rest of the morning and most of the afternoon visiting and getting off at every Broad Street Subway Station. This included an excellent stop for a cheese steak at Pats King of Steaks and some confusion at City Hall, planning to reenter via the 15th Street Market-Frankford El/ Streetcar Station we ended up in the passageways at 13th Street instead. We attempted to take a trolley line but forgot to pull the cord and it bypassed 15th and ended up walking down Market Street back to City Hall.

We concluded trip at Fern Rock Transit Center and decided it was time for an included adventure on regional rail. There was one problem, we both assumed that there would be timetables at Fern Rock Transit Center but all were gone of the branches we were considering. I looked up the Lansdale/Doylestown branch on my iPhone and had a simple trip (no double backing) spending between ten and twenty minutes at Fort Washington, Ambler, Gwynedd Valley, North Wales, and Pennbrook. Three of these, much to my surprise, are modern stations with high-level platforms.

This evening we ended up back at Market East and had an excellent (but not all that leisurely) dinner at a Vietnamese Restaurant. The day concluded with a joy ride on the Market-Frankford El out to Huntington and a return to the Greyhound Station with plenty of time before our 9:40pm bus. There 9:40pm came and went, the bus driver had gotten lost (from where I don’t know), a station worker lined all of us up, collected our tickets, we were 7 and 8 (buying the tickets the night before) and much to my surprise the line was long and the bus almost full. The bus finally left a little before 10:even00pm and was slightly eventful with both of us getting annoyed at people playing music without headphones, luckily about half-way through the ride we had some relief when the driver noticed and pulled into the Bus Terminal (a gate across from where the trip had started this morning) at 11:50pm. Next was a walk underground to the A train, it was of course running local at the late hour, but came almost immediately (love when that happens, especially late at night) and at 12:30am I was back at 181 Street.

Full disclaimer/explanation: I am posting this at 1:48am ET on April 5, 2012, it will appear (without my manipulation as a post from yesterday), this is because I haven’t bothered to reset the clock on WordPress from Mountain Time (where I was living a year ago) and like being able to write after midnight posts for the day I actually did the writing or trip.