There are two ways of getting from the Norristown Transportation Center to the Plymouth Meeting Mall. One is the 98, which is as reasonably direct as you would expect a suburban bus route to be. The other is the 90. It is a mess.
Well, the route starts out normal enough. We made our way onto Main Street, which was lined with dense businesses and apartments. Arriving at the very barebones Main Street Regional Rail station, we turned onto the wide Markley Street, using it to get onto Marshall Street. Now, it’s worth noting that we took this retail-lined road in the opposite direction of the mall, but…maybe there was a good reason for it.
The businesses turned to apartments, and the apartments turned to duplex houses when we turned onto Stanbridge Street. At this point, the route had been relatively normal, but once we turned onto Laurel Street, it was all over. This took us into the Norristown State Hospital campus, which consisted of winding, speed bump-ridden roads. Arghhhhhh.
I’ll spare you the twisty route we took through this campus, but good lord, it was excruciating. Like I said before, speed bumps were rampant, so it was a constant 15 miles an hour through the whole detour. The roads were also super narrow, so that made making turns a blast. Yeah, the Norristown State Hospital deviation was a great way to spend 8 minutes of my life.
We left the campus and turned onto Sterigere Street, which took us back to the original entrance point to the hospital. We continued on Sterigere from there, going over Stony Creek and merging onto Harding Boulevard, a wide road with a leafy median. Next, we turned onto Markley Street, a mere 7 minute walk from the last time we were on it. The bus ride, for the record, had been about 15 minutes.
Markley Street was mostly residential, and its dense apartments slowly turned into regular houses. There was a brief spurt of suburban businesses, and right after that, we entered East Norriton and the street became Swede Road. It was mostly houses until we got to the suburban retail of Germantown Pike. We did a slow deviation to “serve” a few shopping centers, which seemed pretty pointless considering that despite its pedestrian unfriendliness, Germantown Pike does have sidewalks and crosswalks.
Where would we go from the “East Norriton Crossing Shopping Center”? Would it be a left towards the mall? No, apparently not…we took a right instead. Suburban businesses gave way to suburban houses, which gave way to…farmland? Where the heck were we?
Oh, I see. It was a deviation to the Einstein Medical Center. Okay. Yeah. That’s nice. Cool. I’m glad this route goes out of its way to serve every single thing on the planet. What did we do from there? Head straight back, of course! Another ten minutes gone!
Finally, it was time to go to the mall. The rest of the route was on Germantown Pike, and it was smooth sailing. The road itself was a suburban smorgasboard of houses, retail, parking lots, random apartment buildings, and office parks. Suddenly, there was the mall, and we pulled in. That was that…thank goodness.
Route: 90 (Plymouth Meeting Mall to Norristown Transportation Center)
Ridership: The route gets 572 people per weekday, which divides out to around 17 people per trip. I guess that’s okay, but it is worth noting that this is the 11th lowest-ridership route in SEPTA’s Suburban Division.
Pros: If you want a tour of every hospital and mall in the Norristown area, this is the route for you! No, I’m kidding, but the 90 definitely does serve important places with its deviations that no other routes go to. It runs every hour six days a week, from about 6 AM to…11 PM? Wow, that’s late for a route like this!
Cons: If you’re trying to use this bus to get anywhere, tough luck! Even if you’re trying to get to one of its deviations, like the Einstein Medical Center, it will still take forever because you almost always have to suffer through another one, like the Norristown State Hospital deviation! Plus there’s the random deviation to the shopping plazas that doesn’t seem to have much of a purpose to me. Heck, why not just terminate the route at the Einstein Medical Center and let people bound for the mall take the 98? Seems like that would save some route miles. The routes are only about a 6 minute walk apart in Norristown, and they run right with each other on Germantown Pike.
Nearby and Noteworthy: Norristown Farm Park actually looks like an awesome place to walk around, so I guess that’s a bonus to the Einstein Medical Center deviation. This is also the closest route to the Elmwood Park Zoo, a quieter and slightly cheaper alternative to the Philadelphia Zoo. Taking the 90 is a whole six minutes faster than flat-out walking from the Norristown Transportation Center! Wow!
Final Verdict: 3/10
This is the kind of route I would expect to see in some tiny nowhere town, not a major Philadelphia suburb. I understand that the places the 90 serves are important, but because it has so many deviations serving different markets, the route ends up being more inefficient for everybody. Taking it from beginning to end, which no sane person should ever do, was a nightmare. Just use the 98 if you’re going to Plymouth Meeting!
Latest SEPTA News: Service Updates