40th Street is a station of transition. For example, it’s the last underground stop on the Market-Frankford Line before it goes onto its elevated structure further west. It also marks the point where the tall college buildings of University City turn to the row houses of West Philadelphia proper. Finally, 40th Street is a big personal transition for me: this is my first SEPTA review. Why did I choose this specific station to start out with? Well…it’s the easiest and most convenient one for me to get to from my dorm. Yeah.
I’ve seen enough SEPTA entrances during my limited time in Philly to know that these are awesome. There are four entrances to this station on the four corners of Market and 40th, and they all have this sleek, modern style. The staircases are like waves beckoning riders underground to the trains, while the elevators are…well, they’re normal elevators, but that’s fine.
Before we head underground, though, let’s talk about the surface stops here, of which there are three: two on Market, and one on 40th. They’re all just signs with, as far as I can tell, no directional signage from within the station. Heck, I didn’t even notice that there’s a stop on 40th when I was here! Also, aside from the routes here that get signage at their stops (the 30, the 40, and the Market-Frankford Owl), this is also the terminus for Trolley routes on Sunday nights when they get diverted from their tunnel. Any information about that anywhere? Nah!
So, back to the main station. The staircases would be normal staircases were it not for an elegant “40” mosaic as they round a corner. Nice touch. As for the elevators, there are two of them, diagonally across the intersection from each other. They’re glass and they don’t smell that bad, so aside from their weird, hard-to-push buttons, I like ’em!
When we arrive at the mezzanines (separate ones for each direction, so you can’t cross over), we find something that I am going to constantly harp on SEPTA about in my station reviews: they use the space terribly. The mezzanines are long and spacious, but there are only fare gates and machines on one end of them. That means that when you’re coming in from, say, the southeast corner of the intersection, you have to walk all the way across the station just to get in! I wouldn’t be complaining about this so much if there wasn’t so much space to use. Why not add some fare machines on the east side and convert those exit-only turnstiles into gates?
Things get much better on the platform. This is a clean station, and even though a lot of the infrastructure like the ceiling is painted black, it doesn’t feel dingy. There are a bunch of benches and plenty of wastebaskets all along the station. Huge fans were set up on either end of the platform to make it a little cooler, an amenity that I’m sure is needed. There were a few quirks, like the brown liquid gushing out onto the tracks from a pipe, or the fact that the platform is about two full car-lengths longer than the average train, but it was great other than those minor issues!
Station: 40th Street (MFL)
Ridership: This stop gets above-average ridership for the El (that’s what practically everyone calls the MFL, since it spends a lot of its route elevated – it’s a heck of a lot easier to say), with about 5,731 passengers per weekday. I was here in the evening rush, and it seemed to lean more towards local riders than commuters coming from UPenn and its various institutions around the station – that might change once school really kicks into gear next week.
Pros: This is just a nice station to wait at. The platform is clean, it has a ton of benches all along it, and there are gigantic fans to keep the place as cool as possible (which isn’t that cool, but they’re trying). The whole thing feels modern but it also has character, especially with the beautiful staircase entrances.
Cons: It mostly comes down to that darn mezzanine! That extra time spent walking over to the fare gates adds up, and there’s a ton of room to put new ones in. The bus stops are also super basic (I know SEPTA doesn’t have a lot of shelters in the city, but this is a major rail transfer! Come on!) and signage to them is practically nonexistent. Heck, the trolley signage is literally nonexistent!
Nearby and Noteworthy: As I walked to the station along 40th Street, I was fascinated by the storefronts; there are a ton of restaurants here, mostly geared towards college students.
Final Verdict: 7/10
Yes, I really am giving this rather nice station a 7. I know what the rest of SEPTA is like. I know what I’m up against. I’m prepared to give low scores if I have to (and a lot of the time, I will have to). What can I say? 40th Street is good, but it’s not that good. Is it better than most SEPTA rapid transit stations? Absolutely. But I have standards. I’m sticking to my guns. It’s a 7, and if I can’t find a single station that’s worthy of an 8 or higher, then so be it. Happy to be here, SEPTA!
Latest SEPTA News: Service Updates