Ready to ride this express route from Plymouth Meeting Mall to Philadelphia? Ready to experience this super fast express ride into the city? Ready to travel down miles of local roads before running “express” on the infamously trafficked I-76? Yeah, that last one describes the 27 pretty well.
We made our way onto Germantown Pike from the Plymouth Meeting Mall, and we went through a complex series of interchanges between I-276 and I-476. We then turned onto Chemical Road, which led us under I-476 again before we performed a deviation into the Metroplex Center. Once we came back onto Chemical Road, it went under I-476 again – this would be our last interaction with that road.
We turned onto Ridge Pike, and after some SUBURBAN BUSINESS MADNESS, it transitioned to houses and apartment complexes…and a few golf courses. We proceeded along like this, slowly picking up passengers. The route also has a short-turn point along here at Church Lane where some trips begin or end their trips to Philly.
At some point we entered Philly, but it sure didn’t feel like it. We did arrive at Andorra and its shopping center soon after that, where we used Port Royal Ave to get onto Henry Ave. Still, there wasn’t much along here – it was basically houses and apartments on one side of the road and Wissahickon Valley Park on the other side. The houses did eventually become duplexes, continuing as we turned onto Leverington Road.
We turned onto Ridge Ave, which was actually an urban street lined with apartments and businesses, but it went back to houses once we took a right onto Lyceum Ave soon after. Again, that didn’t last long; it was urban again when we turned onto Manayunk Ave, although it was almost entirely apartments. We were up on a huge hill above Manayunk proper, so every side street was super steep.
We turned onto Ridge Ave once again, crossing over the Manayunk/Norristown Line tracks and passing Wissahickon Station. Once we got down the hill entirely, it was time for the Wissahickon Transportation Center, although we didn’t actually pull in like we’re technically supposed to. Finally, we made our way onto City Ave, crossing the Schuylkill River, and then it was time to merge onto I-76 for our express section.
In typical I-76 fashion, we went around a practically 90-degree curve, and soon after that was traffic. Darn it! We were stuck in that for a good while as the highway snaked along with the Schuylkill through Fairmount Park. Eventually, we broke out from the park to get a view of the train yards north of 30th Street Station, then we took Exit 344 onto I-676, the Vine Street Expressway.
The Vine Street Expressway is so named because it runs in an open cut underneath Vine Street, and it’s awful, and I hate it. Also, it too was jammed. Luckily, we weren’t on this for too long, as we took the exit onto 15th Street and then turned onto Broad. City Hall loomed ahead as the surrounding buildings got taller and taller.
We curved around City Hall on the surrounding streets before returning to Broad on its Avenue of the Arts section. Going by all of Philly’s major theaters, we proceeded down the wide road. Now, the 27 is interesting because it doesn’t actually end in Center City – it actually travels down Broad down as far south as Washington Ave. But past Walnut, I was the only one on board.
By the time we got to around Locust, the theaters and skyscrapers had simmered down to become smaller businesses and apartments. Interestingly, the route is shown as looping a certain way on the map (via Carpenter, 15th, and Washington), but we ended up looping via Christian, 11th, and Washington instead. Oh well, we made it to Broad and Carpenter either way…the driver seemed pretty surprised that I took the bus down this far.
Route: 27 (Broad-Carpenter – Plymouth Meeting Mall)
RIdership: Although the 27 has a pretty terrible farebox recovery ratio (15%) because of its length, 4,390 passengers per weekday is nothing to sneeze at. That ends up being about 32 people per one-way trip! My Saturday ride was even busier, with 49 passengers in total heading into Center City. Not everyone stayed on for the express (a particularly large amount of people got off at Wissahickon), but it was about a full-seated load heading into Philly.
Pros: The 27 takes a pretty logical path from the northwestern suburbs into the city, serving shopping plazas and dense neighborhoods (eventually) along the way. The route’s schedule is…interesting, but one thing I’ll say about it is that there’s a ton of service at rush hour – every 5-10 minutes or so. This is one of the few SEPTA routes that’s more productive in the peak than it is in the off-peak, so yay, the extra frequency is justified!
Cons: Once you leave rush hour, though, the route gets a lot less frequent. It’s every half hour, kinda, during the day, but the departure times are all over the place, and it’s sorta every 35 minutes on Saturdays, and it’s more or less every hour on Sundays. Granted, I get why the times are so crazy – I assume it has to do with the varying conditions on I-76. And that brings us to our next point: on-time performance! It’s terrible! I-76 is really crazy and unreliable! Basically, according to the numbers, the 27 is late 35% of the time. That’s not good.
Nearby and Noteworthy: This is honestly the fastest route from Center City to Manayunk if you don’t mind walking up or down a steep hill, but other than that, there’s not much. Just some malls.
Final Verdict: 5/10
It’s an unreliable express route that’s super long and should probably run more frequently than it does on weekends, based on the ridership I saw. On the other hand, it takes a really direct path to Center City from the places it serves, and the extra service during the peak is actually warranted. Clearly, there are really good things and really bad things about the 27, so let’s just plop its score right in the middle with a 5.
Latest SEPTA News: Service Updates