For any Bostonians who have ever ridden the Green Line: you have it good. I was like everyone else, thinking that nothing could be worse than the screechy, unorganized, crazy Green Line. Then I rode the SEPTA Subway-Surface Trolleys. Oh, how wrong I was about Boston’s maligned rail line. Let’s look at perhaps the most distinctive SEPTA trolley station, 37th Street, and find out what makes the trolleys so insane.
We begin with the entrances to the westbound platform. They’re as basic as they could possibly be, although at least they have screens above them. These mostly show ads, but they also display the system status of each trolley line. If service is normal, it says “Normal”. If something is wrong, it says “Alert”. What is the alert? What exactly is going on? Ha! Sorry, you’ll have to find out the details on your own, because the screens tell you nothing.
The other important feature of these entrances (and every subway entrance on the trolleys) is the ubiquitous blue light that signifies that the trolleys are terminating at 40th and Market on Sunday nights. Boston people: it’s like if the Green Line had surface tracks to Back Bay and terminated there. See what I’m getting at when I say the trolleys are crazy? Also of note is that there’s no mezzanine at this station, so the stairs go a longgggg way down directly to the platform.
Remember how I mentioned that 37th Street is SEPTA’s most distinctive trolley station? This is why. It has a fantastic eastbound entrance modelled after the old Peter Witt trolleys that trundled through the UPenn campus at surface level! Now, of course, the trolleys run underground, and the old tracks have been paved over to form the beautiful Locust Walk. As much as I love the Walk, I can’t help but think how awesome it would be if trolleys screeched through campus every few minutes. I might be alone on that one…
The trolley even has an inside! Due to construction around it, it’s hard to get into right now, but you can do it if you wiggle around some dirt and jump up a step. It’s just a few benches and some controls up front, but that’s a darn good novelty for a transit entrance. Due to the construction (probably), there’s some random stuff lying around in the trolley that definitely defeats some of the atmosphere, but I guess it’s as good a place as any to store a random box and some gloves. Right…?
It’s worth talking about the other eastbound entrance, because it’s in a rather sorry state at the moment. Normally, this would be a great exit to get far into Penn’s campus, but because of the construction, all it leads to is a big blue fence. There’s a tiny opening with a miserable excuse of an asphalt path that just…leads back towards the trolley replica entrance. I guess if you want to have a picnic at one of the haphazardly placed tables here, though, this is the entrance for you.
Boy, talk about basic. What have we got on this platform? Two benches, a wastebasket, a phone for emergencies…is that it? No, like, fare machine? That’s not important? How about, I dunno, cell service? I have Verizon, so it works at most SEPTA locations, but apparently not the independent section of the trolley tunnel. Is AT&T any better here?
This is as good a time as any to talk about the process of boarding a westbound trolley in the tunnel. So you’re standing there, right? Let’s say you’re waiting for an 11. So you’re standing there, and suddenly, there’s a headlight. It’s coming closer, but you can’t see the number because the headlight is so bright. Man, this thing is going fast! Closer, closer…it’s an 11! Okay! Flag it down as wildly as possible so you can make it on! Flag harder! Harder! Aw, and there it goes speeding through. Bostonians: the Green Line sucks, but it’s leagues better than these darn trolleys. I rest my case.
Station: 37th Street (Trolleys)
Ridership: There is NO PUBLIC RIDERSHIP INFORMATION FOR ANY OF THE SUBWAY-SURFACE TROLLEY STATIONS. Sure, every insignificant street-running stop on the 101 Suburban Trolley in Media has ridership information, but this rather substantial subway station gets nothing? Makes sense! Well, I’m sure the ridership here is pretty good, though, since this is basically the station for UPenn. This and 36th Street.
Pros: That trolley entrance is great. The other entrances are fine. The platform is…clean? I think I’ve run out of pros.
Cons: Here’s a good question: why are there no fare machines here? Seriously, one on each platform would suffice. I cannot believe that this is a subway station with no fare machines! Having to pay onboard is also a pain, but that’s less easy to solve, since you would need to create makeshift mezzanines at the bottom or top of each entrance staircase. Of course, the ridiculous boarding procedure for westbound trains gets a mention here as well, as it will for every other subway-surface trolley review.
Nearby and Noteworthy: UPenn, baby! Bam! Also, a ton of food trucks are always lined up here on Spruce, so this is a great place to go if you’re looking for that kind of meal.
Final Verdict: 4/10
37th Street Station is basically just a hole in the ground with hardly any amenities, no cell service, and a really stressful way of boarding westbound trains. Normally I would give it a 3, but I’ll throw in an extra point for that awesome streetcar entrance. In other words, this is one of the best subway-surface trolley stations on SEPTA!
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