Unlike the rather rural 5, the BRTA has deemed that the 12/14, a loop serving the southeast area of Pittsfield, is worthy of bidirectional service! Wow, people, this is huge: you can go both ways around this loop. I’m sure we’re dealing with a ridership powerhouse here!
We started off by heading south down North Street (heh) and then east down East Street (ah). While that main intersection featured some tall buildings and a common, things quickly got suburban on East Street. I mean, how can something as cool-sounding as the “Berkshire Athenaeum” just be a bland brick building with a parking lot? Boring! At least Pittsfield High School had much better architecture.
We swung onto Elm Street, which crossed the East Branch Housatonic River and became home to lots of suburban businesses and houses. It got more residential the further we went, but for Pittsfield standards, these neighborhoods were fairly dense! Elm Street was pretty much all houses for the entire rest of its length, and besides a bit of retail immediately after we turned left onto Williams Street, that was houses too.
Williams Street curved left to become Dalton Division Road, right alongside an organic supermarket. This street was more woodsy, but houses were common enough, and among them was the entrance to a whole development of them. Just as things start to get more industrial, the route now supposedly features a deviation to “Federico Drive”, a little office complex; however, it didn’t exist back when I rode the route, so we had to sit tight until the next deviation a minute later into a different industrial park.
Yes, this deviation served the buildings along “Downing Industrial Parkway”, which included the BRTA garage! Whoa! Upon our return to the main road, the industry shifted over to the Pittsfield mall complex that’s served by a ton of routes. This area got a double-deviation: first we served Walmart (part of the “Berkshire Crossing” complex), then we headed over to the Allendale Shopping Center.
After our deviations, we headed down Merrill Road, passing a few final malls before entering another industrial area. Using Junction Road to cross some train tracks, we pulled onto East Street, passing more industrial buildings and a few restaurants. We then took a left onto Newell Street, a mostly residential road with a few businesses here and there. This merged its way onto Elm Street, and from there, it was back to the Intermodal Center the same way we had left it.
BRTA Route: 12/14 (Southeast Loop)
Ridership: Okay, the “powerhouse” line actually wasn’t a joke: if you consider the 12 and 14 to be one route, which they essentially are, they’re the third-busiest on the system. They get about 229 riders per day on weekdays, while on Saturdays when only the 12 runs, it’s about 120 people.
Pros: Bidirectional loop! I approve. It’s set up perfectly too: because the mall area is at about the halfway point of the loop, the hourly 12 and 14 combine for half-hourly service from both the Intermodal Center and the mall area! On Saturdays only the 12 runs, but it’s still hourly, which isn’t bad. Even besides the malls, these routes do serve some relatively dense residential areas.
Cons: A few of the deviations seem excessive, especially Federico Drive, which is apparently low-ridership enough to be “request only” on the 14. Great. I also find it odd that only the 12 serves Newell Street, while the 14 travels straight down East Street – why the split? They’re both two-way streets!
Nearby and Noteworthy: Oh hey, an escape room in the middle of an industrial park! Neat!
Final Verdict: 7/10
Yeah, you know what, these are decent! They get the highest ridership of the Pittsfield local routes, and for good reason: they’re frequent and they serve dense areas. They certainly have quirks, and these would be great candidates for Sunday service if that was ever considered, but if you’re in the southeastern part of Pittsfield, you’ve got yourself a decent lil’ bus route! Or two.
Latest MBTA News: Service Updates
The 65 is a fascinating route. A crosstown along the often suburban-feeling City (Line) Ave, it runs surprisingly frequently and ends up attracting a decent amount of ridership! Well, I say it’s time for a trip along the literal outskirts of Philly to see what the fuss is all about.
We did the slog from the 69th Street North Terminal through the various SEPTA yards up to Cardington Road. This led us through the big golf course north of the terminal, and we didn’t hit actual civilization until we got onto Landsdowne Ave and ended up amongst the rowhouses of Overbrook Park. We turned onto 66th Street, which was also residential, with little convenience stores and the like on street corners.
We eventually made a right onto Malvern Ave, whose rowhouse constructions felt newer – this was a neighborhood where there were back alleys where people could park their cars. But that abruptly ended at the beautiful campus for the Overbrook School for the Blind. And past there, the houses were much bigger and more spread out, and the neighborhood was much leafier. We passed the 63rd-Malvern loop before making our way onto 63rd Street.
Aside from a short stretch of houses, 63rd Street was mostly retail, especially around Overbrook Station. Speaking of Overbrook Station, we crossed over both it and the Main Line when we turned onto City (Line) Ave, which skirts the border between Philadelphia and the neighboring townships. It was more leafy houses along here for a while, up until we entered the still-leafy-but-at-least-a-little-built-up Saint Joseph’s University campus.
Around 54th Street, we entered the suburban retail portion of City (Line) Ave. For the next while, lots of businesses with parking lots (either in front or in back) lined the road, including as we travelled over the Cynwyd Line at Bala Station. An apartment building (“Mansion at Bala”, yeesh) and a shopping plaza appeared after the station, plus Belmont Reservoir.
The Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine spurred on a few healthcare related buildings. We also passed that weird standalone Saks Fifth Avenue, plus the competing NBC/ABC buildings on opposite sides of the street (one in Philadelphia, one in Bala Cynwyd!). From there, it was over the Schuylkill River back into Philadelphia proper, and after navigating the highway ramps on the other side of the bridge, we stopped outside of the Wissahickon Transportation Center.
We continued onto Ridge Ave from Wissahickon, climbing into the hills and going by the rowhouses that are packed in as densely as they can be given the topography. As we got further up, though, the houses got a bit less dense, turning into duplexes, along with a few businesses with parking lots. And when we turned onto Walnut Lane, the semidetached houses got even further apart, eventually breaking away completely into a golf club. We then crossed Wissahickon Creek and the various nature trails around it.
The neighborhood across the creek is called Blue Bell Hill, and there were a ton of woods around here as we ran past a few houses but mostly just a bunch of parkland. A big apartment building showed up once we hit the Chestnut Hill West Line, though – this was near Tulpehocken Station. We were very much in civilization after that, albeit in the form of giant houses with gorgeous architecture.
Things suddenly got way denser when we turned onto Germantown Ave. The cobblestoned main corridor of Germantown, there were lots of rowhouses and businesses along here. The intersection of Germantown and Chelten is the commercial apex of the neighborhood, and here the buildings were tall and the streets were bustling. We turned onto Chelten Ave, reaching the end of the route…four minutes early! That’s a little concerning.
Route: 65 (Germantown-Chelten to 69th Street Transportation Center)
Ridership: As I mentioned, the 65 gets great ridership! For a route that spends a lot of time in suburban areas, 7,695 people per day is great, slotting the 65 as the 27th-busiest on the system. My ride only got 20 people, but other buses heading the other way were full-seated load, which is exactly what you want! Ridership tends to be at consistent levels throughout the whole route, reinforcing the fact that most people use the 65 to travel short distances.
Pros: This is an unexpectedly important element in Philadelphia’s grid of buses! It’s so awesome to see a rather suburban route like this get the ridership that it does! That generally carries over into the schedule, too: it’s every 8-10 minutes at rush hour, every 15 minutes on Saturdays, and every 20 minutes on Sundays. Plus, aside from a few early morning short-turns and some late-evening trips that depart from 69th Street’s South Terminal instead of its North Terminal, this thing is one service pattern and one service pattern only.
Cons: You’ll notice I didn’t put weekdays on my list of frequencies. Yeah, that’s because oddly, weekday service is less frequent than on Saturdays – it’s every 18 minutes! And from what I can tell based on a cursory glance at the schedule, they seem to have fewer buses running on weekday middays than on Saturdays, six instead of seven. Now, it could be that Saturday ridership is just higher (which would be a little odd in itself), but it seems to me that it would be a worthy investment to bring those weekday headways down to every 15 minutes! Also, I’m a little concerned that my bus arrived Germantown four minutes early – were we early during other sections of the ride, too??
Nearby and Noteworthy: City Line Ave has never been the most attractive destination to me – it just feels like suburban sprawl. But Wissahickon and Germantown? Heck yeah! If you’re coming from West Philly, the 65 may just be the way to go!
Final Verdict: 6/10
I am really heavily conflicted here. I want to give this thing a 7, I really do, but…every 18 minutes? It’s such an awkward frequency! I commend the route for its weekend service being as good as it is (better than services that run more often than this one on weekdays!), but weekdays are still when most people are travelling (at least most likely – maybe Saturdays really are much busier). The route creates a really valuable connection along the outskirts of West Philadelphia, but because of that, shouldn’t it have a better weekday schedule?
Latest SEPTA News: Service Updates
I was hoping that the whole Corona quarantine rendering me a housebound worm would at least spur me to write more (a “productive worm”), but it seems like it’s instead encouraging me to mindlessly watch a bunch of YouTube videos (a “worm worm”). So, uh, bear with me as I force myself to actually use my brain for something other than deciding which pretzel I should eat next. Hey, at least the quarantine means I can get through this crazy backlog without adding more to it – and it’s so far behind that when I rode “the 5“, it was still two separate routes!
Yes, so there used to be a route 5 and a route 13. Probably due to low ridership on both, the BRTA decided to combine them into a one-way loop. Sure, I could shelf this review until I get the chance to ride the loop again, but Pittsfield is such a pain to get to, plus the loop route incorporates very few actual new roads (only about 650 feet of unique running!). So with that in mind, we’ll start with the original 5, which was the eastern half of the current loop.
We went up North Street from the Intermodal Center, running through downtown Pittsfield and its outer, more suburban frontiers. Merging onto Wahconah Street, we passed the backside of the Berkshire Medical Center and then some more businesses, plus Wahconah Park, a small baseball stadium. There were lots of houses here too, including a few apartment complexes as we got further up Wahconah.
Wahconah became woodsy for a bit, but an industrial park came just before we merged onto North Street (again). This too was industrial, but it had a little bit of everything: businesses and houses showed up in spades, too. It leaned more heavily toward those latter two as we came right up alongside Pontoosuc Lake, entering Lanesboro in the process.
Lots of lake-oriented establishments cropped up, including several hotels, a mini-golf course, and a boat rental place. A section of forest separated this collection of civilization with Lanesboro Center itself, which was little more than some denser, historical-looking houses and some municipal buildings. The bus turned around at a Mobil gas station.
So at this point, modern route 5 buses would turn around and traverse the side of the lake again. Meanwhile, the former route 13 terminated on the south side of the lake, mere hundreds of feet away from the 5; when turning the two into a loop, it took little more than a right turn onto Hancock Road to get to the 13 portion of the trip! So for our summer 2018 journey (yup, let that sink in), we shall now travel there, for an inbound trip on the “13”.
Hancock Road featured a bunch of houses. And then we turned onto Highland Ave, which also featured a bunch of houses. Things finally switched up when we intersected with Pecks Road: there, we passed some businesses, an abandoned factory, and a trailer park. The street was now called Valentine Road as it ran through some forest, but we were back amongst houses once we turned onto Lakeway Drive. Several turns on the small roads of this neighborhood later, we arrived back at the Intermodal Center.
BRTA Route: 5 (Pittsfield/Lanesboro)
Ridership: The most recent ridership I have splits the 5 and 13 up into separate routes: at that point, the 5 got about 82 riders per weekday and 30 per Saturday, while the 13 got 35 riders per weekday and 14 per Saturday! Okay, yeah, I see why they combined these – as a single unit, they would rank in the upper echelon of local Pittsfield routes, assuming their ridership levels are similar.
Pros: Honestly, if I had actually gotten this review done on time back when I rode it, I would’ve suggested to make it a loop anyway. Soooooo…thanks for making it happen, BRTA! Yeah, the 13 especially got such low ridership that it didn’t make a lot of sense to run on its own, but it does still serve some sizable residential neighborhoods. The route has the standard Pittsfield BRTA timetable: every hour on weekdays, and every two hours on Saturdays.
Cons: All of the cons associated with running a one-way loop: if you want to get to one side of it, you’re gonna be in for a long trip. There’s also a questionable by-request deviation. Lanesboro Elementary makes sense and can be reasonably done within the layover time, but “Mount Greylock Turnaround”? My best guess for what that might be is far enough away to instantly make the bus late if someone requests it! I appreciate the BRTA trying to help out transit-oriented mountain climbers, but that seems pretty volatile…
Nearby and Noteworthy: Pontoosuc Lake certainly seems to be a big attraction! That seems to mostly be limited to boat-related stuff, though – if you want to swim, the western side of the loop goes within about a ten-minute walk from a beach on Onoto Lake!
Final Verdict: 6/10
A one-way loop isn’t pretty, but it’s the most cost-effective way to serve these areas. Neither of the previous routes were getting extraordinary ridership, so combining them allows for one bus to be more productive. It does mean you end up with the classic one-way loop pitfalls, but they’re pretty much unavoidable.
Latest MBTA News: Service Updates
This station has an almost…enigmatic feel to it. When you’re inside it, it’s like being inside this mysterious place that appeared out of nowhere and hasn’t been changed in years. Such is the nature of the Haverford Regional Rail station.
Haverford Station is located right in the community’s small downtown, but there still manages to be some parking slotted in around the station building and between some houses and the tracks. It adds up to 169 spaces (80 $1 daily ones and 89 $25/month permit ones). Aside from that, three bike racks are provided next to the station building, while shelterless bus stops on Lancaster Ave provide connections to the 105 and 106 buses to 69th Street.
Ah, but now we enter the station and the enigma of it becomes clearer! This place is just…bizarre. The way the walls are molded and painted feels like you’re in a house, but the way everything’s cracking and falling apart turns it into a haunted house. A dank, moist tunnel with exposed brick beneath the peeling paint takes you underneath the tracks, where you’ll find a painting…of a…stormy arch desert (?)…just…on the wall. It’s eerie in the neatest way possible. Oh, also, there was an antique furniture store accessible from down here (again, bizarre), but it seems to have shut its doors for good.
Coming out of the tunnel on the outbound side, the outside wall of the building has some beautiful little details and a bit of ivy growing. The inbound building is okay, but this outbound one is truly a work of art. We’ve got some more parking lots on this side, again both outside the building and across the street. It’s worth noting that in neither case are crosswalks provided to get across…it’s jaywalking time.
Once you’re on the platform itself, it feels like any other Main Line station. Still, it is very nice: most of it is sheltered, and the outbound side provides a bench right alongside the beautiful building exterior. Nifty staircases lead from the platform directly to the lots across the street from the buildings.
The inbound side doesn’t have any benches, though, probably because the waiting room is on this side. Given how well-designed the rest of the station is, though, it’s a shame that this waiting room is just a long, narrow bench and a ticket office in what feels like a 1950s office lobby. It’s only open from 6 AM to 11 AM on weekdays only, too, so most of the time, you’re out of luck when it comes to seating.
Ridership: This one gets pretty standard Regional Rail ridership with 404 boardings per day, but given that it’s sandwiched between the powerhouses of Bryn Mawr and Ardmore, I’d say that’s pretty good! Certainly a large portion of the ridership here is heading for the station’s namesake school, but the parking lots regularly filling up indicates that plenty of people commute from here to Philly, too.
Pros: Look, the fact that the paint in that hallway is chipping is ostensibly not a good thing, but I don’t want it to change. I’m not a believer in ghosts or anything like that, but the hallway here just has a certain aura that I am really drawn to. The mysterious painting helps a lot. Uhhh, but okay, other than that, we’ve got some parking (nice for a downtown station), a good location, and mostly sheltered platforms.
Cons: Argh, it’s not accessible. Darn it. And the lack of benches on the inbound side is rough, especially when this station probably does get a bunch of off-peak ridership from college students.
Nearby and Noteworthy: A bookstore dedicated exclusive to children’s books? YES! AMAZING!
Final Verdict: 6/10
Probably the highest score I can give to a station that’s not wheelchair accessible. And look, I know that when this station gets upgraded to be accessible however many years down the line, it’s probably gonna lose a lot of the aspects that give it such a cool energy. It’ll certainly be a necessary upgrade, but I’m also gonna appreciate what we have now, because this station really is something special.
Latest SEPTA News: Service Updates
I’m back in Boston due to Penn kicking us out due to coronavirus! It shouldn’t affect the stuff that gets posted (boy, is my SEPTA backlog long), but just figured I’d let you all know.
Thanks for releasing your service changes during midterm season, MBTA! They put these out two Saturdays ago (they go into effect March 15th) and I’m only just getting to them now. And because we’re not in Better Bus season anymore, I get the feeling this might be a lot of fluff…
SL1: And whaddaya know, we start the list off with a pretty inconsequential change. Headways are being adjusted, sometimes longer and sometimes shorter, but never more than two minutes.
SL2: Aside from some minor headway adjustments, it looks like we’re bringing back the weird AM/PM termini on the Design Center loop. I mean, I guess it makes sense for commuters, but it sure is explained terribly on the schedule…
SL3: Headway adjustments, although they’re all positive this time! Particularly noteworthy is the shift from “every 15 minutes or less” in the inbound direction on weekday afternoons to “every 12 minutes”! Although “every 15 minutes or less” could’ve just meant “Yeah, there’s one 15-minute gap and the rest is every 12”. Who knows? Also, the last inbound trip on weekdays is eliminated.
1: Probably the one truly major change we’re gonna get this rating! The 1 will finally stop doing the whole loop around Harvard Yard, instead using Dunster Street to immediately travel inbound. This leads to some minor headway changes, although the real gains from this will hopefully be in reliability. Please. Anything helps.
4: Evening departures from Tide Street will be at cleaner times.
8: Departure time changes throughout the day, plus the elimination of an outbound trip near the end of the morning rush.
15: The 3:15 inbound weekday trip from Kane Square will now leave a minute earlier from Saint Peters Square.
16: A bunch of trip time changes.
18: Trip time changes throughout the day, but they did make inbound buses near the end of service slightly more frequent!
19: Yup, trip time changes.
27: A school trip in the morning will leave slightly earlier.
34: A morning school trip will leave later.
39: Morning rush frequencies will be decreased by about a minute, but weekday afternoons make up for it: service goes from every 15 minutes to every 12!
42: Three trips are shifted by a few minutes.
47: Some trip time changes for inbound midmorning trips on weekdays.
55: Welpppp, say goodbye to another clockface route. The 55’s clean hourly midday headway changes into every 65 minutes! Rush hours see lowered frequencies too.
57: Trip time changes for some outbound night trips on weekdays. Also, the 193 (I cannot believe they called it that on the schedule change list – get some darn continuity with your early morning trips, MBTA!) is shifting by a few minutes on weekdays.
60: No actual changes, but the Mall at Chestnut Hill seems to have been renamed to the Shops at Chestnut Hill. Unfortunately, they forgot to update one of the timepoints (weekday outbound) with that information…
64: Oh! Hang on, we actually have kind of a substantial one? Instead of using Life Street to return from its deviation to the Boston Landing area, it’s gonna use Market Street instead. But maybe update the street labels on the map to not highlight Life Street as if the route takes it? Also I worry how much slower that routing will be at rush hour. Tell me again why this thing deviates a block, anyway?
65: Some trip time changes, most notably resulting in a lost outbound trip in the morning rush.
91: So why does the Saturday night service have to go from being every hour to every whenever-it-wants? Also, the route now has an ominous note about how the Washington Street bridge diversion will add additional travel time and essentially render the regular schedule null.
92: A Saturday night trip is being shifted a minute earlier. A MINUTE!
93: Trip time shifts for outbound morning rush service, plus Saturday night service goes from hourly to wheneverly! Boy, I sure love losing all this clockface…
94: The bad: the Saturday headways are all over the place now. The good: they’re more frequent! While the old schedule was a clean every 50 minutes, this new one is anywhere from every 35 to every 50.
95: A few school trips are shifted or removed on weekdays, while Saturday service has some trip time changes to make it just a little bit more insane than it already was.
96: A weird outbound trip on weekdays is being eliminated, and the Saturday service sees the same service increases as the 94.
97: Time shifts on outbound Saturday afternoon service.
99: “Weekday, Saturday, and Sunday schedule changes in the late evening.” Uhh…no, these changes are happening at all times. Weekday times get shifted, Saturday service gets improved from every 50 minutes to every 40 (although with some weird, inconsistent departure times from Wellington), and Sunday service goes from every 60 minutes to every 70. So…with the inconsequential weekday changes, the good Saturday changes, and the bad Sunday changes, I guess this balances out to net neutral?
101: A few time shifts on weekdays and on the last trip on Saturday nights.
104: Aghghhhh, flipping between the old and new schedules is sensory overload! And the sad part is that not much seems to be changing – they really seem to have just switched all the times without changing the headways too much (although Saturday nights lose some service).
105: Literally no change, despite the fact that the online page thinks there’s one.
106: Yikes, they did this one dirty. Weekdays just see time shifts, but Saturdays go from a beautiful half-hourly schedule to an ugly 40-minute schedule, while Sundays go from hourly to every 70 minutes.
108: Similar boat. Time shifts on weekdays (although with a few added morning rush trips, that’s nice), while Saturdays go from every 30 minutes to every 40 and Sundays go from every 60 to every 70.
109: Similar to the 104, a lot of time shifts that don’t seem to affect headway too much.
110: Time shifts on weekdays, but hey, Saturday evening service goes from every hour to every 45 minutes!
111: A few select trips are eliminated, leading to some weirdly long gaps in the middle of shorter ones…
112: Time shifts on all days.
120: The terminus was reverted from Jeffries Point back to Maverick, leading to some associated time changes.
132: Oh boy, let’s keep the Saturday schedule at roughly hourly, but give it time changes to make it leave at confusing, random times! Great!
134: Whoa, underrated change right here! Saturday night service goes from every 50 minutes to every 25 and gets extended from Medford Square to Playstead Road! Nicely done, MBTA, nicely done!
170: Time shifts for all four daily trips.
225: Oh, perhaps they went towards this? The 225 goes from every 15 minutes at rush hour to around every 10-12! Plus…oh, they’ve added the Quintree Mall short-turn again for a few morning rush trips. Okay, ew, but I guess anything adding more service is good…
352: Trips are lost in both rushes, alas.
354: A lot of time shifts, plus some lost peak-direction evening rush trips.
411: Despite what the MBTA tells you, the time shifts here aren’t confined to Saturdays: they happen on weekdays too.
426: The 8:03 AM outbound trip on weekdays will now start at Wonderland 15 minutes earlier instead of Linden Square.
430: Time shifts on weekdays and Saturdays. Also, the MBTA may want to take another look at the 10:20 inbound trip on weekdays: it seems to arrive Malden Center at “10:504”.
505: Time shifts.
So yeah, not much going on here. I guess we couldn’t have expected much after the big Better Bus changes, but hey, at least we got Dunster Street on the 1, some better night service for the 134, and the 61/70 schedule finally shows which trips are interlined! Small steps, small steps.
The K really is an odd duck in the SEPTA canon. Forming almost an upside-down U, this route is a crosstown across North Philadelphia that completely overshoots the Broad Street Line, running through some of the northernmost reaches of the city. Despite that, it manages to get pretty darn busy! This requires further investigation…
The K even starts weirdly: buses begin at the intersection of River Road and Midvale Ave in East Falls, a place where no other route starts. There was no one else on the bus as we took a right onto Midvale, running through East Falls’s small downtown before making our way up a twisty hill with rowhouses lining the road. A few more businesses were clustered around East Falls Station, then the road got incredibly leafy and lined with beautiful houses.
We had a brief one-block foray on Fox Street in order to get to Queen Lane, which aside from more houses, took us past the Drexel University College of Medicine. As we hit Queen Lane Station, the neighborhood finally started to densify and our first passengers started getting on. The street was now lined with denser rowhouses and people were getting on at a steady clip.
Some semi-detached houses returned when we took a left onto Wayne Ave, though, but a giant apartment tower did serve to offset that a bit. Some suburban businesses with parking lots showed up as we turned onto Chelten Ave, but they quickly morphed into a more constant affair: retail lined the road, culminating in some multistory buildings at the major intersection with Germantown Ave. Businesses continued from there in various forms as we passed Germantown Station, eventually supplemented by more semi-detached houses and eventually pure rowhouses.
We got more retail at the intersection with Chew Ave, and Chelten Ave got really diverse north of that, with rowhouses, businesses, a few churches, a school, and a park/recreation center. At an intersection surrounding a tiny triangular monument, Chelten Ave suddenly turned 45 degrees to head east; buses heading the other way use it, but we would continue straight on what was now called Wyncote Ave. This street passed some more businesses and houses, with similar scenery as we turned onto the wide 66th Ave.
We eventually crossed Broad Street about a mile north of the Broad Street Line’s northernmost station on it, Olney. East of there, it was a very sudden shift to lower-density housing, as the street became lined with big single-family homes and a ton of trees. Some rows returned as we made a right onto 5th Street and passed the Oak Lane Reservoir, then we turned onto Godfrey Ave less than half a mile from Fern Rock Transportation Center as the crow flies (but because of the street system and station layout, a significantly longer distance by walking).
Well, on Godfrey Ave, density was back: rowhouses for days along here! A suburban shopping plaza and a school appeared when we turned onto Front Street, but it quickly became dense houses again, continuing as we took a right onto Champlost Ave. Well, at least until that street curved its way into the woods. This was just a brief jaunt into the small forested area surrounding Tacony Creek, and once we turned onto Adams Ave and crossed it, we were back in civilization.
Civilization, as it turned out, meant a giant factory, a giant shopping plaza, and a giant apartment complex. Sure, there was a brief section of rowhomes after that, but it was back to suburban businesses as we made our way onto everyone’s favorite road, Roosevelt Boulevard. Luckily, this segment on the twelve-lane behemoth was short: we pretty quickly merged onto the dense, residential Foulkrod Street (where the speed limit for buses, according to the signs, is as low as 5 MPH. 5 MPH!!!!). As we approached the El, one final right turn onto Oxford Ave led us to the dropoff at Arrott Transportation Center.
Route: K (Ridge-Midvale to Arrott Transportation Center)
Ridership: Yeah, for a pretty bizarre route, it’s interesting that the K hits the top 30 for ridership: it’s the 26th-busiest on the system, nabbing 8,448 riders per weekday. Even my Sunday trip was decent, with 37 riders over the course of about an hour. It’s noteworthy that the bus was empty from East Falls to Queen Lane, but even so, that part of the route serves as an important connection, and East Falls is the best place to turn the bus around, anyway.
Pros: It’s honestly amazing to me that this strange upside-down U of a route that doesn’t even touch the Broad Street Line can get so much ridership, but I’m so proud of it! Unfortunately, I don’t have a ton to say about the schedule that belongs in this section, but the every 7-10 minute peak headway is nice, as is the roughly every 12-15 minute schedule on weekdays and roughly every 20 minute schedule on Saturdays.
Cons: SEPTA is usually pretty good about keeping consistent headways, so I don’t understand why this route has such weird ones! On weekday midmornings, the range is from every 15-17 minutes, while on Saturdays, it’s every 19-21. The Sunday schedule is roughly half-hourly, which is subpar anyway, but it doesn’t help that it actually ranges from every 29-32 minutes (and it’s even worse at night, ranging from every 30-37 minutes)! The layovers are all over the place, too – on Saturdays, for example, the time the bus spends at Ridge and Midvale ranges from seven minutes to twelve minutes, changing trip by trip. If the layovers could be more standardized, the schedule could probably be more consistent! Also, while I can’t find any data on productivity specifically, the K almost certainly runs more frequently at rush hour than it has to – the load profile shows a few packed midday trips (probably school runs) and late trips (no idea why those are so busy!), but rush hour is not any more crowded than other times. Buses could be taken off the route during those “peak” hours to improve service middays and weekends.
The routing itself has a few odd aspects too. The fact that it splits into two one-way segments around the western portion on 66th Ave makes very little sense to me – all the main roads in that area are two-way and wide enough for buses to pass, so it feels really unnecessary to put the two directions a four minute walk apart. I would opt for having both directions take what the eastbound currently does: Wyncote to 66th, a much simpler trip than the westbound route, which has to do an awkward jog onto Stenton Ave. Speaking of awkward jogs, what’s up with the route’s deviation on Front Street and Champlost Ave just to the west of Tacony Creek? Running it straight down Godfrey would make a lot more sense, especially when the deviation doesn’t serve anything not within a short walk from there, and it’s doubled by the 57 anyway.
Nearby and Noteworthy: East Falls is great, Germantown is great, and there are neat-looking ethnic restaurants (Caribbean, Korean…) along the whole route.
Final Verdict: 5/10
I really have a lot of respect for the K, and I think that positively affected the score. This is such a bizarre, underdog route that clearly serves an important crosstown purpose, and that’s reflected in the ridership. But this has to be one of SEPTA’s craziest single-variant schedules, what with the bizarre headways, and the routing has quirks that make no sense. With some streamlining, the K could be really good, but as it stands, it’s mediocre at best. Or, as some might say: it’s O”K”. HA!
Latest SEPTA News: Service Updates
We headed out from the ITC onto the highway-like Center Street, passing some suburban businesses before turning onto Housatonic Street, whose retail had smaller parking lots. There were houses along here, too, and relatively dense ones at that. A major stop along the route is “Pittsfield Plaza”, which is now…entirely dedicated to a U-Haul center. Yeah, probably not generating a ton of ridership from that.
We got some forest after the plaza, but a few side streets had houses along them. The street became a bit of a hodgepodge, with residential sections, as well as some businesses, a few hotels, and some industrial buildings – that last one especially as we turned onto Lebanon Ave. We used this mostly house-lined street to loop around and head back to Pittsfield.
BRTA Route: 15 (West Pittsfield/Lebanon Ave)
Ridership: These short Pittsfield-based shuttle routes all seem to get similar levels of ridership, and the 15 fits into that mold nicely, with around 62 passengers per weekday and 15 per Saturday. That equates to around 5 people per round trip on weekdays (which isn’t awful given that the BRTA is rural and the round trip is just half an hour), but mine got a whole 10!
Pros: Standard BRTA stuff: an hourly service on weekdays, a defendable bi-hourly service on Saturdays, and a direct route serving a bunch of houses and a few workplaces.
Cons: Nothing like a by-request deviation to a historical museum! If someone actually takes the BRTA to the request-only stop at Hancock Shaker Village, you have my blessing.
Nearby and Noteworthy: Besides Hancock Shaker Village? Nothing much.
Final Verdict: 5/10
I’d put this in the same boat as the 11, but unlike with that route, the 15 doesn’t really have any anchors that could potentially drive ridership up. Maybe transit vouchers for employees at the few factories near the end of the route, but other than that, it’s really just houses. The downfall of Pittsfield Plaza surely didn’t help matters here.
Latest MBTA News: Service Updates
I reported this to SEPTA, so it isn’t an issue anymore, but the station page for the Girard Broad Street Line station showed a map of the Girard Market Frankford Line station! See, this is why you don’t give your stations the same name, because stuff like this happens! Once this post is done, though, I’ll have reviewed every SEPTA station called Girard. What a milestone.
Girard is one of the most well-served stations on the Broad Street Line, since all three service patterns stop here: locals, expresses, and the Broad-Ridge Spur. This is the southernmost station where everything’s on the same main line, too, so you end up with a few odd, not-publicized connection opportunities. On weekdays, many northbound locals meet up with northbound expresses, while on Saturdays, every Broad-Ridge Spur train is supposed to meet with a local (delays notwithstanding, of course).
But other than the timed meetups here, the platform at Girard is standard BSL express stop fare. While the tracks are full of gunk and the paint on the walls and ceilings is chipping away, the platform itself is pretty clean, with some appealing tilework on the pillars and plenty of places to sit or throw out your trash (although clearly some people still prefer to use the tracks). The staircases have some neat artwork to give a bit of a unique flavor to the station, though.
Girard has two mezzanines, but the one on the south side of the intersection is only open from 7:30 AM to 4:00 PM, weekdays only (at all other times, it’s exit-only)! I mean, according to the faint older sign, it was at one point only open from noon to 4:30, so I guess it’s improved since then? The current hours are still bad, though – at least it’s only a matter of crossing the street to get to the other entrance, but people still manage to fare evade here anyway by wrestling open the emergency door (admittedly small sample size: two people I saw while I was here). Clearly it’s gonna happen whether you keep the entrance open or not, so why not just keep it open?
The other mezzanine is where the elevators go, but annoyingly, they drop you off slightly below ground level, so elevator users have to ascend a few steps or a ramp once they get up here. Again, the classic SEPTA hallmarks are here: a few benches to wait at just inside fare control, a too-small number of faregates and fare machines, and some outdated AT&T signage. The ramps to the elevators have some more of that cool staircase art, though!
One elevator and two sets of stairs lead to street level. Aside from one entrance to the bad mezzanine that’s just a staircase in the ground (which frankly makes sense – they shouldn’t be advertising that thing given its opening hours), Girard’s entrances have a nice aesthetic to them. It’s not unique to this station, but I still like the way the shelters feel like they’re bursting out of the ground.
The connections here include the 4 and 16, because of course they do, but these subway-paralleling routes actually get shelters in both directions! There’s also a connection to the 15, which in the westbound direction gets a proper median stop, while in the eastbound direction it’s just a standard roadside stop…with no shelter. C’mon, the 4 and 16 get one, but not the far busier 15? Boo! Not that the median stop is any better when it comes to putting a roof over people’s heads, of course.
Station: Girard (BSL)
Ridership: This is one of three stations on the Broad Street Line that gets the max number of trips every day (596!), but it’s by far the least-used of the three. Just over 4,000 riders per day is decent enough ridership, although once you factor in how many trips a day it gets, it averages out to under 7 boardings per train. I guess local-to-express transfers might throw in a few extra riders here, but generally this is not a super busy stop.
Pros: Aside from your standard pros, like a decently clean platform, nice entrances, and wheelchair accessibility, Girard stands out with its neat staircase art.
Cons: The entrance on the south side of the station being closed evenings and weekends is the big one for me, especially when people still seem to fare evade in there anyway – presumably that’s the reason they keep it closed, but it doesn’t seem to be helping much, so I say just leave it open sans cashier. Other problems are smaller, like the dirty tracks, the sunken elevators, and the lack of a shelter for the westbound 15. Also, it would probably make more sense for this to be a local-only stop and for Cecil B. Moore to get express service, but we’re long past the point where that kind of infrastructural change can be made…
Nearby and Noteworthy: Lots of fast food chains surround this one intersection: take your pick from McDonald’s, Checkers, or KFC! Or if you’re looking for a real place to go, this is the closest stop to The Met Philadelphia.
Final Verdict: 6/10
For all intents and purposes, this is a fine station. It’s accessible, it gets a ton of service, and it’s in a sensible location – what more could you want? Aside from that entrance being open more, the elevators being raised a little bit, and the express stops making more sense, that is. 6/10 seems about right.
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Yikes, Crane Ave is the main street on the 16, and it offers pretty much nothing transit-oriented aside from one apartment complex. That’s the breaks when you’re running a system as rural as the BRTA, I guess…
The initial section on North Street was urban, though, since we were right downtown – that benefit was dampered, though, by the fact that there are three other routes that go this way. The 16 is the only one that actually deviates into the Berkshire Medical Center, probably because it gets the least ridership out of any of the buses on this trunk, so the deviation inconveniences the smallest amount of people. It was north of the hospital that we broke free from the other routes, running alone on Route 7 past a bunch of leafy houses and the giant Springside Park.
We turned onto Crane Ave, the route’s main street, but a dense residential neighborhood lasted just a few blocks before devolving into spread-out houses with no side streets. Oh, and two golf courses. Across the street from each other. The small Oak Hill Apartments complex was pretty much the only thing along here that could conceivably justify sending a bus this way. Crane Ave eventually led us to the mall complex in northeastern Pittsfield (served by many other routes), and a deviation into the Allendale Shopping Center ended the trip.
BRTA Route: 16 (Allendale Shopping Plaza/Crane Ave)
Ridership: Among the lowest on the system, getting about 57 riders per weekday and a mere 19 per Saturday. The full trip takes just 15 minutes, though, so that slightly offsets the incredibly low passenger numbers.
Pros: This route is verrrrryyyyyyy political. Serve an entire street just to get one apartment building? Alright, fine! Granted, these routes serve a coverage purpose and very hard to get rid of, and the 16 provides a decent hourly weekday service to the places it goes.
Cons: Five trips every two hours on Saturdays is sad, but what are you going to do when ridership is so low? The 16’s biggest problem, though, is that it just doesn’t really do enough to justify existing on its own. Because the 1 and the 4 run so close together during their Pittsfield sections, it could be possible to have one of them go via Crane Ave (it wouldn’t take much longer – if anything, it might be slightly faster) and eliminate the 16 altogether. Essentially no places would lose service, and the extra bus could be used to increase frequency somewhere else.
Nearby and Noteworthy: If you like golf, have I got the route for you.
Final Verdict: 3/10
For a political route that pretty much has to exist to serve the Oak Hill Apartments, I can’t fault the 16 too much. Yes, I gave it a 3, but it’s not an angry 3; it’s a pity 3. The 16 gets a pity 3. Poor 16.
Latest MBTA News: Service Updates
Oof, this might be one of SEPTA’s most beastly City Transit routes. It doesn’t get much crazier than taking a convoluted path from North Philly down into Center City, onward to South Philly, across to the other side of town, and then back up to serve the South Philly malls area. Sure, there are a few routes that may be more insane, but the 7 is a contender regardless!
Things started out ominously, with the northbound trip coming into the 33rd-Dauphin Loop late enough to already have to depart for the southbound behind schedule. We left the loop as quickly as possible, running down Dauphin Street past the Strawberry Mansion High School, some sizable vacant plots of land, and rowhouses of varying structural quality. There was a small mall at the intersection with 29th Street, which we would eventually turn onto, but first we had to do this completely nonsensical jog out to 26th Street.
What extra things did we serve by going out to 26th Street? A few more abandoned lots, a few more rowhouses, and a giant field that, according to Google Street View, is where some of the Strawberry Mansion horses are kept (I didn’t see any on the cold winter’s day I rode the 7). Also, this is all covered by the 39! Anyway…we took Susquehanna Ave to return to 29th Street, turning onto it to follow the 48 and 49.
29th was a major two-way street, but it was still mostly residential, although there was some retail at the intersection with Ridge Ave. Some industry showed up as we crossed the Northeast Corridor, and the rowhouses continued on the other side, still occasionally punctuated by some vacant lots. The lots started to disappear the further south we got, though, and eventually it was just a constant stream of multicolored apartments on both sides of the road.
Girard Ave was the real hotbed of gentrification in this area, with its hipstery restaurants and shops. It also marked the boundary between gentrifying Brewerytown and long-past-gentrified Fairmount, which was mostly well-kept rowhouses, along with corner businesses. We used Pennsylvania Ave, which runs alongside Fairmount Park, to make our way onto Brown Street, continuing through the neighborhood.
We turned onto 23rd Street next, getting a view of Eastern State Penitentiary across a parking lot. Fairmount Ave was a major retail corridor that we crossed before we suddenly stopped at Green Street: buses were detoured onto Green because of utility work, and a 48 had gotten stuck trying to make the turn. The driver put the parking brake on and got out to guide the bus ahead, helping its driver weave its way onto the tiny Green Street. The process took ten (ten!) minutes.
We made it a block down Green before inexplicably stopping again, this time at 22nd. The driver got out and actually chocked the bus, so it seemed we’d be stuck here for a while. He walked down the street and was gone for about eight minutes before coming back – maybe it was to help that 48 make the next turn? Meanwhile, our bus was getting honked at because cars couldn’t pass on the one-lane road. They eventually caught wind of the situation and started backing up to turn off earlier.
The driver finally came back and we continued to 21st, where after crossing Spring Garden Street, the rowhouses turned to modern apartment buildings. We rejoined the regular route as we reached Ben Franklin Parkway, going right by, like, all the museums: the Rodin Museum, the Barnes Foundation, and the Franklin Institute, as well as I-676 (a museum about how to destroy several neighborhoods). Still, 21st Street reverted to rowhouses again until we reached Arch Street and the Regional Rail tracks, where it was Center City skyscraper time.
In this part of Center City, the tall buildings are mostly concentrated on Market and don’t stretch too far to the south or north. We took a right on Market, passing the 22nd Street trolley station, and then we turned onto 23rd Street, where a massive crowd was waiting at the stop. The driver opened both doors. “Folks, I’ve got another 7 about two minutes behind, but you can hop on the back if you want.” We were standing room only as we continued into South Philly.
By the time we got down to Walnut Street, the buildings had reverted back to three-story apartments. The few businesses that did appear were geared toward the local community, like laundromats. We passed beautiful Fitler Square at Pine Street, then at South Street, another small square was surrounded by businesses. And now, we had to do another detour, so we used Greys Ferry Ave to get to 24th Street, a block away from the regular route on 23rd. At least it didn’t involve any impossible turns.
It was still mostly rowhouses along here, but a beautiful, abandoned school building proved to be an interesting sight. A bunch of industry showed up as we approached Washington Ave and took a left, taking the massive road one block in order to rejoin the regular route on 23rd. The row homes came back, along with a few churches and another vibrant park, Wharton Square.
Aside from a few businesses at major intersections, it was pretty much all residential along 23rd Street as the bus slowly emptied out. The nice, dense neighborhood ended abruptly at Passyunk Ave, which we turned onto for a block to get onto 24th Street, running past a suburban shopping plaza and an electric substation. While one of the many plazas around here seems like a relatively logical place to end the route, it just has to keep on going – now it was time to take a left onto Oregon Ave for the crosstown section!
Oregon Ave was a wide road with a median (and a bunch of cars parked in it, of course!) that ran past a ton of shopping plazas and businesses with parking lots. Eventually it did revert to two-story rowhouses and businesses, but they looked really dinky on the five-lane-plus-parking road. We crossed the Broad Street Line at Oregon Station.
Continuing east, the north side of the street was lined with retail, but nearly everything else was residential. The dense mass of buildings broke around 5th Street, where we went by Whitman Plaza, some businesses with parking lots, and a recreation center. As soon as Oregon Ave went under I-95, we entered a vast industrial wasteland. It was now time to return north to serve the South Philadelphia malls, so we turned onto Weccacoe Ave.
Columbus Commons, with its IKEA and Lowe’s, appeared amongst the industry – or the back of Columbus Commons, anyway. Gotta love that grassy stop in the backlot of the IKEA. More shopping plazas abounded as we turned onto Snyder Ave, then Water Street, running next to the elevated I-95. We took this all the way up to Tasker Street before coming back around onto Columbus Boulevard, returning south past, yes, more shopping plazas. We pulled into the Pier 70 shopping center to end the run, and surprisingly, despite all of the stops and detours and the fact that another 7 was directly behind us, we ended up arriving only 17 minutes late!
Route: 7 (Pier 70 to 33rd-Dauphin)
Ridership: The 7 gets nearly 5,000 riders a day, but because it’s sooooooo long, it ends up being only marginally productive. An average of 47 riders per 70-minute trip is okay, but not great. Of course, my cursed ride snagged 77 riders over the course of its duration, but since it was the evening rush, the vast majority of those riders went from Center City to South Philly.
Pros: There’s certainly no denying that the 7 serves a lot. It also deserves praise for being mildly more productive at rush hour than midday, something that many SEPTA routes can’t say. It runs at a decent every 15 minutes during those peak times, while its weekend service is surprisingly decent, with 20-minute headways on both Saturdays and Sundays.
Cons: This route is a BEAST! A MONSTER! And so much of it makes no sense! The entire North Philadelphia section pretty much parallels the much-more-frequent 48 and 49 (minus a few dumb deviations that shouldn’t be there), while the Oregon Ave section pretty much parallels the much-more-frequent G (minus the fact that the G doesn’t go all the way to Pier 70 for whatever reason). So as far as unique sections go, the only place this route really is a necessity is on the north-south South Philly section. Also, the route becomes infrequent really early in the day, especially on weekends, and why is it every 25 minutes weekday middays?? The load profile clearly shows that many of the highest-ridership trips are midday. Could this be the only SEPTA route that runs better service at 8 AM on a Sunday than it does at noon on a Tuesday? What gives?
Nearby and Noteworthy: Well, as far as the route’s actual unique section goes, Fitler Square looks really nice and charming. There are also a number of neat local businesses up and down 22nd Street, which is where the northbound route travels.
Final Verdict: 4/10
Alright, welcome to my radical 3-step proposal to make the 7 less insane:
Step 1: Make the northern terminus 30th Street Station. I know this would be a sacrilegious move, but very few people travelled across Market on my trip (could be different on others?), and that small amount of riders could transfer to the 48 or 49 to continue north.
Step 2: Make the southern terminus Quartermaster Plaza, the main shopping plaza around Passyunk and Oregon. Having the 7 and the G both run down Oregon Ave with uncoordinated schedules isn’t helping anyone (in fact, on Sundays when both routes run every 20 minutes, they’re scheduled to be directly behind each other).
Step 3: Use most of the gained resources from shortening the route to make it more frequent. A one-way trip would only take half an hour now, so it would only require maybe five buses tops to operate it every 15 minutes. The route currently uses eight buses middays, so there would be three buses to spare for boosting service on the G and the 49.
Latest SEPTA News: Service Updates
With plenty of time for shenanigans along the way! (filmed before the Longest Bus Ride video)
Alright, the 11 is short and sweet, so let’s just get into it.
This route heads straight west from the ITC, meaning we didn’t have to deal with downtown Pittsfield at all. We made our way straight onto College Way, which turned into the mostly residential West Street. A church and a school showed up along here, but it was mostly houses. Eventually we used Tor Court to deviate up to the Berkshire Medical Center Hillcrest Campus, then it was back to West Street, where the houses were getting further apart and set back further from the road (which now had no sidewalk). Just as the scenery started to change to open fields, we pulled into Berkshire Community College to end our incredibly short trip.
BRTA Route: 11 (Berkshire Community College)
Ridership: This route averaged just 45 riders per day in 2017, meaning a little over four people per round trip. Sure, that round trip only takes 26 minutes, but it’s still quite low.
Pros: I have a soft spot for short routes, and this one serves pretty much all you need to serve that’s along West Street. It has an hourly schedule all day, plus a recently added Saturday service that runs every two hours (although given the low ridership, the infrequent service probably makes sense). Also, late night service is provided in the form of the 11N, which I’m gonna have to review separately because it’s a completely different route…and it wasn’t running yet when I did all of these, so it’ll have to be in the future!
Cons: It’s too bad that the Hillcrest deviation is outbound-only, but that’s probably the best way to serve it in order to keep running times low. This route, like the 4 (since they interline) has an odd point midday where the departure times shift by 15 minutes. Finally, there’s the low ridership – I wonder if there’s ever been talks between the BRTA and BCC to provide free fares for students. I mean, the BRTA apparently provides free transit on your BIRTHDAY, so BCC doesn’t seem that far-fetched…
Nearby and Noteworthy: You’ve got a medical center, a school, and a bunch of houses.
Final Verdict: 6/10
The route effectively serves what it’s supposed to serve, but I think the problem is that people just don’t want to take it. One reason could be that because it’s so tiny, you’re almost guaranteed to have to transfer from somewhere else if you’re going to BCC. Free fares for students could mitigate that and get more people to ride the route – I’d imagine the bulk of its ridership is already BCC students, anyway.
Latest MBTA News: Service Updates
For a relatively simple and relatively short North Philadelphia crosstown, my 54 sure did get packed. I guess we’ll find out at the end if that’s normal or not…
I got on an eastbound bus a few blocks from the end of the route and just stayed on to head westbound again. Even though the intersection of Richmond and Cambria is considered to be the first stop, we looped around to Richmond and Somerset to lay over. The stop was surrounded by dirt from the ongoing I-95 construction, while the highway overhead was the source of a ton of dripping mystery liquid. Great place to hang out!
Once we headed off again down Somerset Street, we immediately entered a real neighborhood after escaping the underbelly of the highway. The street was lined with well-kept rowhouses, along with occasional corner restaurants. Around Aramingo Ave, things took a turn for the industrial, with big scrapyards and abandoned factories appearing everywhere.
The houses came back as we approached the El on Kensington Ave. We turned to run underneath it as a triple-bunch of 54s passed in the other direction (yikes); the road passed a few businesses, a few houses, and a few industrial lots as it went under some train tracks. Once on the other side of the tracks, we turned onto Lehigh Ave, a four-lane road with one of those weird do-whatever-you-want lanes in the middle.
Temple University Hospital occupied a huge tract of land, but even the street’s smaller lots were diverse: there were rowhouses, of course (some with retail), but you also had some apartment developments and a bunch of comparatively newer retail with parking lots out front. Some fast food restaurants and an abandoned supermarket showed up at the intersection with American Street, and a few blocks later, we passed a park opposite an elementary school.
At 5th Street, we passed some fake palm trees radiating from the wonderful Centro Musico, previously seen in our 39 review. A beautifully renovated library appeared at 6th Street, then after a supermarket, we got rowhouses for a stretch (plus some striking churches and cathedrals). Unfortunately, there were also vacant buildings and empty plots of land along here, too.
We crossed Broad Street at North Philadelphia Station, where the driver opened all the doors and it was an absolute free-for-all for the massive crowd of people waiting to get on. There were a few blocks of rowhouses and corner stores from there before we crossed under the Northeast Corridor and went by a park, a modern-looking church, and a grocery store. The rows returned after that, though, with many of them featuring businesses on the ground floors.
Many of the buildings or lots were empty, but there were also signs of community investment, such as the second library on the trip, this one super new and modern. As we came alongside a cemetery, an interesting circular school showed up across the street from it. And it was at that point that we turned onto the residential 33rd Street, taking it for a few blocks down to the 33rd-Dauphin Loop.
Route: 54 (Richmond-Cambria to 33rd-Dauphin)
Ridership: The 54 has excellent weekday ridership for a short-for-SEPTA-standards route, with 7,662 average riders (about 51 per trip). It’s also noteworthy that this route has the 4th best farebox recovery on the system, recouping 48% of its expenses with fare revenue. Finally, I have to mention the insane number of people my trip got: 139 over the course of about 50 minutes. The afternoon school rush in Philly is something else!
Pros: Ah, it’s the little things in life – isn’t it lovely how Lehigh Ave is a two-way street, so the route pretty much cuts a straight line across North Philly that’s the same in both directions? Beautiful. You do have the one-way segments on the route’s Port Richmond section, but that’s unavoidable. Adding to the 54’s simplicity, all trips do the exact same thing, barring the first eastbound (which begins at Broad) and a few supplemental school trips. Ridership on this thing is clearly great, representing the importance of Lehigh Ave as a major commercial corridor.
Cons: So given that it’s ridership is so good…what’s up with the schedule? Every 12 minutes at rush hour is fine, but every 16-17 during the day? Every 20 on Saturdays? Every 30 on Sundays??? Don’t get me started on how the route is every 45 minutes by 8:30 PM! Maybe I’m missing something here, but this route seems too important to give it a schedule like that. At least make it every 15 throughout the weekday! And this unfortunately seems like a situation where we can’t even redistribute resources – maybe buses could be taken off the rush to bolster the rest of the day, but it seems like the frequencies they’re running at are necessary at least for the end of school, if my trip is any indication.
Nearby and Noteworthy: Now that I’ve gone by it twice, I really feel like I have to check out Centro Musico. From instruments to CDs, the place just exudes charm and is clearly a neighborhood staple!
Final Verdict: 4/10
That schedule is rough. There are routes far less productive than the 54 that run way more frequently! Getting the weekday schedule to every 15 minutes all day is a start, and then lowering Sunday headways to every 20 is probably step 2. And I get that this is a case where, at least within the route itself, there are no resources to move around. But I can always dream…
Latest SEPTA News: Service Updates
Oh my gosh, what the heck were they thinking with this route and all its inbound-only deviations? “YOU get an inbound-only deviation, and YOU get an inbound-only deviation. EVERYBODY GETS INBOUND-ONLY DEVIATIONS!!!!!!!!” Needless to say, the outbound 4 trip to Hinsdale, a town I had never heard of before this, was much faster than the eventual inbound.
We didn’t have any time to experience Hinsdale because the bus just turned right around when we got out there. There isn’t much to it, though – it’s just a collection of a few buildings with a post office, one restaurant, a bank, and a library that Wikipedia tells me is “a rare early example of French Tudor style imported to North America.” Neat!
We made our way onto Route 8 from downtown, a road which quickly devolved into woods with a few occasional houses as it paralleled the Lake Shore Limited train tracks. The road entered Dalton along this section, and we soon entered civilization: houses showed up along the road, and we passed a middle school and a few scattered, basic businesses. Now, according to the BRTA’s data on Google Maps, the 4 now takes a different inbound deviation from what it did when I rode in summer 2018 (oof, daily reminder of how behind I am), but I’m going to tell you about the one it did on my ride – they’re both meant to serve the same thing.
We stayed on Route 8 up until downtown Dalton, which began with some businesses and an abandoned factory along a river. After that block, we turned up onto North Street, making our first deviation, whose purpose seemed to be to get closer to a small apartment complex. Other than that, it was almost all houses along here, and we used the tiny Franklin and Pleasant Streets to get back to Route 8.
Coming back on the main road, there were a couple of gas stations, a few businesses, and a post office before some municipal buildings showed up further down. Our second deviation involved several more residential streets: it was a loop involving Curtis Ave, High Street, and Park Ave that was meant to serve another small apartment complex. Coming down Park, we passed a school and a cemetery, and the return to Route 8 brought us past houses and forests.
We passed an apartment development, and then it was time to enter the mess of malls in northeastern Pittsfield. First we deviated into Berkshire Crossing, a series of strip malls, then we used Merrill Road to serve some more retail with giant parking lots. This took us into an industrial area, where we turned onto Plastics Ave and went by a few factories.
Unlike the 1, which from here travels straight to the Intermodal Transit Center via Dalton Ave, the 4 has some more deviating to do. We curved our way up to the Rose Manor apartment complex, which we actually went into and looped around this time. This is an inbound-only deviation according to the horrendously outdated route map, but apparently outbound buses do now serve it. We headed toward the ITC on the residential Elberon Ave, a block away from the 1’s routing.
As Elberon turned into Springfield, the houses got closer together. We ran along the huge Springside Park before turning onto North Street outside of the Berkshire Medical Center. There were businesses along here, and as we got closer to downtown Pittsfield, the buildings got taller and denser. Finally, we turned into the ITC.
BRTA Route: 4 (Pittsfield/Dalton/Hinsdale)
Ridership: It’s the fourth busiest on the system, with 184 riders per weekday and 90 per Saturday. Given the steep drop from weekday to Saturday, I wonder how much of this route’s ridership is people commuting on weekdays from Hinsdale and Dalton into Pittsfield, whether it be to retail jobs, industrial jobs on Plastics Ave, or…office jobs? Does Pittsfield have any? Probably not many…
Pros: I guess as far as connecting Dalton and Hinsdale to Pittsfield goes, the 4 does about as well as it can do. The route runs hourly on weekdays, a standard schedule.
Cons: Huh, another reason Saturday ridership is so low could be the fact that it’s every two hours. Hmm. It’s also odd how on weekdays, the departure time randomly shifts from being on the :05 to the :20 in the middle of the day. Why? Even if it’s for a lunch break or something, does the BRTA not have enough employees to have someone swing on and allow for consistent departure times? Also, I have to talk about the inbound deviations: while I think that they’re a necessary evil in order to serve the more transit-oriented locations in Dalton, it’s also incredibly inconvenient that they’re inbound only. It probably has to be that way for scheduling purposes, but it’s still annoying for outbound passengers trying to go to those locations – perhaps a (shudder) AM/PM setup would work better, where the deviations become outbound only after noon. Finally, it feels redundant to have this route run a block away from the 1 on its inner portion; if the BRTA wanted to streamline things, they could extend the 16 to Hinsdale and cut the 4 entirely, but Rose Manor would lose service, and for all I know, maybe the houses a block away generate decent ridership anyway.
Nearby and Noteworthy: Neither Dalton nor Hinsdale had downtowns that felt particularly worth visiting, but Dalton is home to the Crane Museum of Papermaking – sounds neat!
Final Verdict: 4/10
This feels like a route that’s confined to never get above maybe a 6. It has so many necessary evils, from needing to serve the apartments in Dalton somehow, to needing some way to get from the mall area into downtown Pittsfield, even if it requires running a block away from the 1. As you can tell from the long Cons section, I think there is plenty of room for improvement here, but even at its best, the 4 will never be a 10/10 route.
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Yeah, yeah, save the comments. I’m, what, six days late? I mean, technically five days, if you count the fact that a 15 trolley ran at, like, 12:30 AM on Saturday, thus allowing SEPTA to claim that they ran that day and service was “officially” ending Sunday. Thanks for that, guys. I’m just glad I got to ride one Friday night, too.
But shall I first back up and explain the 15’s troubled history? Like almost all SEPTA routes, the 15, which runs across Girard Ave and then up into Port Richmond, started out as a trolley before any of us were born. In 1992, along with two other trolley routes, the 15 was “temporarily” turned into a bus; it took 17 years and a lot of political pressure to get the trolleys back, with their return coming in late 2005 (the other two lines are still bus – temporary indeed).
But now, we’re back at a similar juncture: ostensibly due to bridge construction, but also due to deferred maintenance on the 1947 PCC trolleys that run on the line that has led to just four being able to pass inspection, the 15 has been “temporarily” converted to buses. Even though I’m confident that trolleys will return to the line, who knows how long it’ll take – will SEPTA actually bring its PCCs back up to snuff, or will they wait until their trolley modernization project ten years down the line to bring new trolleys to the route? Regardless, this was the last time we’d be seeing SEPTA’s PCCs on the road for at least a while, so some friends and I went out to do final rides in the last week.
And this ride, the one I took pictures for, was on Thursday night. My friend and I waited at 63rd-Girard for a while for an actual trolley to show up (it was majority buses), and when one finally did come, it turned out it was going out of service. Luckily, another pulled in soon after, and we hopped on to head east. The route starts out in a bit of an industrial area, but rowhouses abound, too.
At Haverford Ave, we joined up with the westbound line (the route ends in a loop) at a crazy intersection with a bunch of tracks going every which way. Rowhouses were everywhere as we continued down Girard, picking someone up at pretty much every block. Some businesses appeared on the corners, while a park and a cemetery broke up the constant stream of two-story buildings.
Outside of a striking Checkers (and some other suburban-feeling businesses), we proceeded through the fun part of the route where it joins the 10 on Lancaster Ave for about 150 feet before turning back onto Girard. We passed a few schools before crossing the Pennsylvania Main Line, after which the tracks moved to the center of the road. While it’s nice that there are proper ADA stations here, even if they’re still just platforms with nothing on them, it’s bizarre to me that they’re still spaced a block apart so you’re still stopping all the time. Also, cars drive in the center lanes even when they’re not supposed to, and the lanes often double as left-turn lanes, slowing trolleys down when cars have to wait in front at green lights to turn.
Also, on my Friday night ride, we got to experience the fun of loading a wheelchair passenger along this section. While it’s great that SEPTA’s PCCs are wheelchair accessible (unlike the system’s other, newer trolleys, ironically enough), the wheelchair lift process takes forever. The driver has to make multiple trips to and from their seat to the back door to rig the thing up properly. We timed it out: it’s about a three-minute process.
Soon after passing the fantastically-titled School of the Future, we went by the parking garage for the Philadelphia Zoo, which was lit up in a vibrant blue color at night. I appreciate that for the 15’s zoo stop, they did actually give it a shelter with a little bit of vibrancy, probably for the three tourists per year who actually take the 15 to get here. As we crossed under the Northeast Corridor, a beautiful zoo-themed mural adorned the bridge.
Immediately after the zoo, we crossed I-76 and the Schuylkill River, offering a fantastic view of Center City. It’s also one of the few places on the 15 trolley that has enough of a nonstop section that it can get to a similar speed to the surrounding cars. We ran through the edge of Fairmount Park before re-entering rowhouse-land, this time amongst the breweries and cafes of gentrifying Brewerytown.
One of my favorite parts of the 15 came next: the bit where the tracks split into two one-way sections to make their way around Girard College. It’s just a blast when the trolley unexpectedly squeals its way around this tight turn onto the tiny one-way 26th Street. Granted, the westbound route uses two-way roads the whole time, so this 26th Street routing is technically unnecessary, but who cares, it’s neat! We took 26th for a block before another screechy turn onto Poplar Street.
We merged onto College Ave as we passed the sprawling and fancy Girard College campus, which I recently discovered isn’t actually a college, but an elementary/high school. College Ave turned back into Girard Ave, running past a few more specialty schools, as well as many more rowhouses and apartments. Pretty much everyone on the trolley got off at Broad Street, presumably to get on the Broad Street Line, but it was far enough past the evening rush that few people got on to continue east.
Some fringe Temple University buildings showed up here, but at this point, the businesses on Girard got rather austere and suburban-feeling (just like the neighborhood of single-family houses directly south of us). 9th Street was home to the elevated Regional Rail viaduct carrying the SEPTA Main Line, then as Girard narrowed a bit, it became lined with rowhouse structures again (often with businesses on the first floor). It didn’t take long for some big modern apartment buildings to start showing up, signifying that we were entering Fishtown.
Front Street was where the Girard El station was, but the trolley was empty enough that it didn’t make much of an impact on ridership. Girard Ave curved northeast, but just after that, we turned onto Frankford Ave to head to the 15’s temporary loop – because of the ongoing I-95 construction in Port Richmond, the 15 has been relegated to a terminus at Frankford-Delaware for years. The road took us past several bars, under I-95, and past The Fillmore before we pulled into the Frankford-Delaware Loop.
Time for an intermission to review the loop! Yeah, I mean, as far as loops go, it’s…okay. There’s a shelter, some wastebaskets, and some bike racks. Its proximity to the casino gives it great ridership at certain times, but it can be dead at other times. And it has two major problems: first of all, no Key machine, which would be nice to have; and second of all, the route 15 map provided here doesn’t even show it as serving this loop, but rather as going all the way to Port Richmond! C’mon, SEPTA. The 25 and the 43 go by here too, but they just have signs. Overall: 5/10.
But we cannot simply end our 15 review at Frankford-Delaware! For now we must transition to the 15B, which runs from the Girard El station to Richmond-Westmoreland in Port Richmond! And no, I don’t think SEPTA is actually calling it that anymore, since now both legs of the 15 are bus. Except it does appear to be called that on System Status. Uhh…I dunno, let’s just go ride it.
It was Saturday afternoon that some different friends and I took the 15B. We had ridden the normal 15 to Frankford-Delaware and walked up to the 15B’s first stop after the El station, a center median stop at Girard and Frankford. Having made its little loop from Front Street to get onto Girard Ave, the bus rounded the corner from Frankford…onto the far right lane, skipping the median. We had to flag it down, cross in front, and board in the middle of the street!
Now, if you thought the bus skipping the center median was bad, just wait until you see how ambiguous the route of the 15B is. You’ve got the routing shown on the paper schedule, the routing in GTFS (which is used by apps like Google Maps and Transit), and then there’s the routing we actually took: AND NONE OF THEM ARE THE SAME. The System Status shows no detours, and I don’t think there was one on Saturday, either! But okay…the three routes at least start the same, by running down Girard past various businesses and apartments.
The discrepancies began as we approached I-95 when, instead of taking the ramp to Aramingo Ave like what the paper schedule and GTFS say we do, we stayed on Girard, running through the complete and utter wasteland of highway construction. BUT: as it turns out, the route we took is currently the only way of getting to Aramingo. Soooo…maybe SEPTA should update its maps? Especially the GTFS one, which isn’t difficult to do? Especially when this this routing does actually skip some stops on Aramingo? This ramp closure seems relatively long-term, so…might be a good idea…
We used Cumberland Street to get onto Aramingo Ave, but by that point, had we been following the GTFS data, we’d be on Thompson Street! Instead we stuck to the paper schedule, going up the wide Aramingo and passing suburban businesses on both sides. A park and some rowhouses showed up before we went under railroad tracks, and it was all rowhouses on the other side (plus corner businesses).
We took a right onto Allegheny Ave eventually, still following the paper schedule map. This road was a lot busier than Aramingo, with some big churches, a ton of businesses, and a park. And hey, once we got to the intersection with Thompson Street, we were back to following the GTFS routing, too! We turned onto Richmond Street, but now we had to stray from all the maps: because of the ongoing construction at the loop, buses make a big circle via Westmoreland Street, Bath Street, and Allegheny Ave that runs through an industrial area. We got off at the intersection of Allegheny and Richmond.
Route: 15 (63rd-Girard to Richmond-Westmoreland)
Ridership: It’s interesting how the 15 and the 15B actually serve very different purposes. The 15, with its 5,450 average weekday riders, acts not only as a crosstown route, but also as a Girard local bus, with a lot of people taking it for short trips. While the 15B does get local riders, its primary purpose is to be a feeder line, bringing people from Port Richmond to the El and getting 3,250 people per day. The 15 does get higher ridership, but the 15B ends up being much more productive given its significantly shorter length: the 15 averages about 28 passengers per trip over its roughly 50-minute runtime, while the 15B gets about 17 people per trip over the course of 18 minutes. The 15’s low-ish ridership actually surprised me – you’d think a frequent trolley route along such a dense street would get more people!
Pros: We’ll be talking bus versus trolley later, so these are just the pros and cons for the route itself. As far as pros go, it’s fantastic that this is just a route straight across Girard, and the 15B works well as a feeder, too. These things are frequent, as well: they both operate at least every 15 minutes seven days a week (!), with service every ten minutes at rush hour. Even at night, they run at least every 20 minutes until 11 PM on weekdays and 10:40 PM on Saturdays (Sundays it’s only until 8:20 PM, alas), plus there’s half-hourly Owl service! For any SEPTA route, that’s a great schedule.
Cons: Hoo boy. I really don’t know where to begin, especially given the new problems that have arisen with this new bus operation. Well, since I’ve complained about it enough, let’s start with the various routings SEPTA claims the 15B does: what the heck??? The fact that there’s even a discrepancy at all between various official SEPTA outputs is alarming, and it’s even worse that none of them are right. But no, it gets even worse than that: I don’t know what’s going on in SEPTA’s GTFS department, but I guess they decided that since both legs of the 15 are bus now, there’s no need to give them separate designations anymore. So…um…
WHAT IS THIS??? NO!!!!!!!!! For some reason, SEPTA’s GTFS feed now shows the 15 as one continuous route that deviates to Frankford-Delaware! This is completely inaccurate and misleading. If it’s any consolation, the times at least match up with the schedule, and the 15B is coordinated enough with the 15 that there aren’t any weird time jumps in here or anything, but still: these are operated as two separate routes. And not only that, the 15B boards on Front Street underneath the El. But if you look up directions involving that transfer, Google Maps is gonna tell you to board on Girard, because that’s what this fake continuous route does! They need to change this right away, and I wonder how many people have already been misled by it.
This also brings us to the other major problem with the 15’s new bus operation: SEPTA didn’t change the schedule at all. The first issue with this is that the buses travel faster than the trolleys (sorry, trolley fans, but it’s true – we’ll discuss this more later), meaning that vehicles are likely going to be early with this new schedule. Not only that, but SEPTA totally missed an opportunity here to streamline the ride for everyone. As much as I rag on about the incorrect GTFS feed, that’s closer to the ideal situation than what we have. Instead of running two separate 15s that are now both buses (because, you know, that’s not at all confusing, especially given the fact that operators will sign the bus for whatever they want; I’ve seen eastbound vehicles signed as Frankford-Delaware, Front-Girard, Richmond-Westmoreland, and even Richmond-Cumberland, which the 15 never even terminates at), they could’ve combined the two routes and given everyone a one-seat ride again. They would save vehicles from not having to have layovers at both Front-Girard and Frankford-Delaware, and combined with the lower running times from running buses, they could’ve created a schedule that provides more frequent service with the same number of vehicles.
Sigh…anything else? Oh, the stops are too close. As usual. And I find that hilarious, because the center median stops actually required infrastructure to build, and SEPTA still put one every block. Classic.
Nearby and Noteworthy: Girard has a ton of businesses along its entire length. From soul food places in West Philly, to cafes and breweries in Brewerytown, to fast food places around Broad, to the many bars and restaurants of Fishtown, to pubs and ethnic eateries in Port Richmond, there’s pretty much stuff anywhere along here! Also, if it was still running trolleys, I’d say the route itself is nearby and noteworthy, but…no, you’re just getting a bus now.
Final Verdict: 4/10
Look, if you had asked me to review this prior to the bus implementation, I probably would’ve given it a 7. It’s a direct route with a much-better-than-average schedule whose only pitfalls are the standard SEPTA problems: too many stops, mediocre Sunday service (although again, it’s much better than other routes), and the bunching problems that come with running a long-ish route down a busy street. But the way they handled this new bus routing drags the route down so much, from missed scheduling opportunities to confusing routings to completely incorrect GTFS, that I had to lower the score by a lot.
But now, it’s time for the part where I get cancelled: should the 15 be a trolley or a bus? Look, the PCCs are beautiful pieces of machinery. The architectural details, the sounds they make, the fact that they look really good in photos…I love these things as much as anyone. But they lose a lot of their luster when SEPTA treats them like buses, when they should be treated like trains. A trolley like this will only work if it’s separated from traffic; as it stands, the trolley lane often doubles as the left turn lane, so trolleys would get stuck at green lights waiting for cars in front of them to turn left. The bus can just go around them. Not to mention other problems like having to go slowly around curves, the stairs people have to climb up to get on board, and the incredibly long wheelchair process. It also doesn’t help that the trolley routing in Port Richmond stays (and will continue to stay, despite the opportunity to change the route) on Richmond Street, which sticks next to I-95 and the no man’s land around it. It’s more direct than the bus, but it’s barely serving anything.
Am I saying that the 15 shouldn’t be a trolley? No, not necessarily. But in order for a trolley to work, SEPTA needs to take major steps to ensure that they can move down the street with decent speed. This includes not only restricting the existing median portions to trolleys only, but also giving the trolleys their own lane along the rest of the route; consolidating stops so the vehicles can gain more speed between them; getting new, modern trolleys with level boarding (sorry, PCCs); and ideally changing the route in Port Richmond, although we’re past the point of no return on that one. And making the route more traversable by trolleys allows the benefits of trolleys to shine – not only do they look and feel great, but they also have higher capacities than buses. But if SEPTA doesn’t want to make the necessary changes…then I’m okay with the 15 staying a bus forever.
So with that totally-not-controversial message in mind, here are more PCC photos!!!
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