What better SEPTA bus route to start out with than the infamous 23/45 combo from South Philly all the way up to Chestnut Hill? Once the world’s supposed longest streetcar route, it got replaced by motor vehicles in 1992 and became just a really really long bus route. But its on-time performance was abysmal, so SEPTA hatched another plan: split it into two! So now, we’ve got the 45 from South Philly to Center City (a generally short trip) and the 23 from Center City to Chestnut HIll (still a really really really long trip). For now, let’s tackle the southern section of the route, the 45.
We began at Oregon Station on Broad Street, but we instantly turned onto Oregon Ave. Once we got past the boundaries of Marconi Plaza, there were row houses on both sides of the road and many businesses. Also, Oregon Ave has a median, and in South Philly, that can only mean one thing: the whole thing was covered with parked cars!
Suddenly, we turned off the wide Oregon Ave onto the very narrow one-way 11th Street. The two-story apartments along here were generally austere, with flat fronts and not too many porches. Most intersections had at least one corner store. Also, each intersection with even a semi-major road (about every 500 feet) had both a stop sign and a bus stop. Progress was slow.
After what felt like forever, we got to Snyder Ave, the next stop on the Sub three blocks away. It was more row houses from there, save for a Catholic high school. Suddenly, 11th Street ended at Passyunk Ave, which we merged onto. This street was dotted with lively businesses and restaurants, part of the fantastic East Passyunk neighborhood.
A block before the famous Cheesesteak Corner with Pat’s and Geno’s, we turned onto Reed Street, going by an ACME supermarket with a big parking lot out front. We curved around onto a new 11th Street outside of an industrial building. This 11th Street was wider: it was two ways, with perpendicular parking and three-story apartments instead of two.
There were many businesses at the intersection with the wide Washington Ave, and beyond there, the apartments got more diverse in height and style. They also started to get more charmingly old, and eclectic businesses were popping up at every corner. 11th became one-way again at Bainbridge Street, and once we crossed Locust Street, another change occurred: we were now very much in Center City, and the buildings got taller and taller, with many more businesses. Even though the route goes a few blocks further north, I got off at Market Street to transfer to the 23 – it seemed like a fitting place to do it.
Route: 45 (Broad-Oregon to Center City)
Ridership: Since the route is so short, it’s not a huge surprise that ridership is on the lower side for SEPTA’s City Transit routes: 4,299 passengers per weekday, lower than other routes that are less frequent. Still, my Saturday morning ride got 29 people, which is pretty darn good – clearly, people are using this.
Pros: Like most core Philadelphia routes, the 45 takes a nice direct path through the city. In this case, it covers the 11th and 12th Street corridors. It also runs super frequently, with service every 10 minutes or less on weekdays, every 15 or less on Saturdays, and every 20 or less on Sundays. Night service starts at every 20 minutes around 8 and gets down to every half hour by midnight. It has a pretty good span – buses run from 5 AM to almost 3 AM.
Cons: The 45 is plagued by the problem that almost every SEPTA bus route has: too many stops. Now, in the 45’s case, it’s not as bad because almost every intersection in South Philly has a stop sign. There wouldn’t be much time savings from stop consolidation unless the intersections were changed, so the frequent stops feel a little more tolerable here. It’s also worth noting that the route has a surprisingly low farebox recovery ratio, at just 18%…perhaps service could be running more frequently than it necessarily needs to be? But finally, here’s my biggest problem with the 45: the free transfer to the 23 didn’t work on my Key card! Is it not supposed to work with Key? Because the schedule says that cash and token users can request a paper transfer, implying that the transfer should happen automatically with Key! Yeah, I’m really mad that SEPTA got an extra two bucks out of me.
Nearby and Noteworthy: The 45 serves a ton. The East Passyunk neighborhood is trendy, with lots of hipstery stores and restaurants, while closer to the city, the route passes the intriguing Philadelphia Magic Gardens. Plus, there are tons of cute corner businesses sprinkled along the whole thing.
Final Verdict: 7/10
I can’t believe they charged my $2 for that stupid transfer. I’m going to hope that that’s an outlying case, because other than that, I like the 45. Since it was split off from the 23, it has seen a dramatic improvement in on-time performance, and from what I saw, it didn’t seem like too many people were actually doing the transfer to continue north. The route is slow from stopping all the time, but with the stop signs, there isn’t much that can be done about that. And even if service is running “too frequently” to have a good farebox recovery, I’m not going to dock points for too much all-day frequency on an urban route. That said, they could probably take a few buses off on weekdays and it wouldn’t cause too much trouble. But no matter – the 45 is a great connection from South Philly to Center City, and possibly beyond if the darn transfer would work!!!!
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