I noticed that Secane had a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the completion of its overhaul, but for some reason it didn’t click with me that I should probably go and check out the new station. An anonymous person in the comments suggested I check it out: “Ahem…Newly renovated Secane station opened yesterday. Review?” Alright, Anonymous, this one’s for you!
Because I’m a masochist, I took the 107 here! I didn’t realize that SEPTA considers it to be an actual connection, since it doesn’t directly serve the station, but the bus stop is just a sign at any rate. From there, I walked to the Providence Road side of the station, which is where the old platforms were and still are. You can get onto them directly from the level crossing, or you can use the staircase from the road.
A canned announcement about midday outbound trains boarding on the inbound side played over the tinny speakers as I walked down the low-level platform. The deep voice of the Regional Rail announcer combined with the rather low quality of the speakers made it hard to make out what he was saying, but I got the jist by standing under one of the speakers. The old station building is on this low-level portion, and it’s now locked and in a state of disarray.
Once you ascend the ramp to the high-level platforms, there are a million signs along the yellow platform strip telling you to WATCH THE GAP. WATCH THE GAP. WATCH THE GAP. Not all of the station is sheltered, but even the open portions have a ton of seating, plus wastebaskets and recycling bins scattered throughout!
Once we get under the awning of the building, there are more benches, but also some additional passenger information. I love the new departure screens, while a panel has the SEPTA map and schedules and information for the Media/Elwyn Line. Unfortunately, the frame of the panel covers up part of the schedule, meaning you can’t really read the station timepoints on weekdays. Also, the schedules still show Secane as being inaccessible. Oops…
I gotta say, I was shocked when that door to the waiting room opened up. This appears to be a full-time waiting room, although no signs announce the opening hours so I have no idea (they also don’t announce that this is a waiting room and everyone is welcome – none of the eventual waiting passengers came in here). The place is temperature-controlled, and it has a ton of seating space, a placard about the history of the station and line, and a fancy TV departure screen (whose clock is a few minutes fast, alas).
There are also bathrooms here, something that was very convenient for me at the time I visited. The men’s room was near-spotless and a joy to use – it even had an “emergency lock release” button in case you need to get out in a hurry. I know it’s brand new, but hopefully it stays this clean for a while. Water fountains are located next to the bathroom entrances, and while the water temperature was tepid at best, I’ll take it over nothing!
A complicated network of stairs and ramps lead down to the parking lot and underpass. The ramps are windy, but I get it – it was cheaper than installing elevators. Six bike racks are provided (although the website says there are none), while the lot currently has 87 spaces – 47 are a dollar a day, free on weekends, while 40 are $25 per month permit spaces. Overnight parking seems to be allowed, with no signs saying you can’t. SEPTA also apparently bought two homes in order to expand the lot by 200 spaces, which is both a blessing (the small lot regularly gets full) and a curse (they’re destroying part of the neighborhood for more parking).
Because the waiting room has no place for ticket sales, SEPTA installed this weird box thing at the parking lot entrance. I guess in the morning rush an employee goes in there and sells people tickets at the tiny window? It’s odd, but it works. What doesn’t quite work is the placement of the two parking machines: they’re sandwiched in between a ramp and the back of the ticket box. It’s possible to get in there, but you’ve gotta squeeze! Honor boxes are provided as well, for those with loose change they need to get rid of.
Alright, here we have the underpass, which is a bit drab, but nice as far as underpasses go. Now we can move on to…hang on. HANG on. “Trains to Central City Philadelphia”? CENTRAL City Philadelphia??????? Who the heck commissioned those? Central City? NO one says that!!!!! Oh my gosh, these signs are everywhere, too! But they’re not even consistent! Some signs say the usual (and CORRECT) Center City! This is awful! 1/10!!!!!
The outbound side gets another set of stairs and ramps to and from the platform and underpass. From here, there are a few bike racks, paths to an apartment complex and Bishop Ave, and a probably toxic pond. That apartment complex has its own parking lot, but it’s reserved for “authorized vehicles” only – presumably people living in it.
So the sheltered part of the outbound side is lined with benches and wastebaskets, with an eventual ramp leading to the low-level platform toward Providence Road. Meanwhile, the unsheltered portion has lots of seating too, as well as a separate shelter with more benches inside. A staircase on this end connects to the path to Bishop Ave; unfortunately, while the inbound side has a similar staircase, there’s no path. It’s an emergency exit. So if you’re coming from Bishop Ave and you want to go inbound, you have to travel to the underpass and go around.
Ridership: So when choosing the Regional Rail station to upgrade, SEPTA chose the one with 393 daily weekday boardings. Huh. Well, it is a local station with a lot of riders walking in from surrounding houses, and there are some nice sets of apartments near the station as well.
Pros: It’s so good! I gotta say, SEPTA did a great job with this station. Even if it was just the high-level platforms, it would still be a pretty good station: it’s accessible, the underpass is nice enough, and there’s a decent amount of parking for both cars and bikes. Plus, I’m not really sure why (maybe it’s because it’s almost the exact middle of the line), but every train stops at Secane – locals, expresses, you name it. It lends itself to really frequent service at rush hour. And once you factor in the station’s waiting room: WOW. It’s SO nice, and it’s open all the time! That raises the station from being good to great.
Cons: Small problems throughout, like the squashed parking machines and the lack of an inbound entrance from Bishop Ave. The level crossings at Providence Road have to stay down when outbound trains are stopped, at least based on this article, but that seems to be the only case of that happening here. Really, though, Secane’s biggest problem is just having relatively low ridership and being ridiculously close to its neighbor stations. It really feels like there were other candidates far more suited to being renovated than this one.
Final Verdict: 8/10
Gosh, it’s a really nice station. I was close to giving it a 9, but I think it’s really let down by its location. The entire Media/Elwyn Line suffers from really close stop spacing, and now that both Secane and its neighbor, Primos, have been upgraded, there’s no chance that either of them will be eliminated. Maybe there’s no chance any of the stops will be eliminated. Sigh…I guess there are always express trains at rush hour…
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