For family weekend, my parents stayed at a hotel from which Race-Vine was the closest station. It was still faster for me to just take the El and walk, but hey – new station review. Let’s do it.
None of Race-Vine’s entrances at Race Street amount to much more than “thing sticking out of the ground.” The intersection has three entrances on its north side: two staircases and an elevator. The stairs to the east were enhanced by a mysterious puddle demarcated by some dirty traffic cones, while the ones to the west were decorated with chipping paint and rotting concrete.
Based on what I had seen on the staircases, I was worried about the elevator, but it was actually decently clean inside! I found it interesting that they made it all glass, since all you can see on the way down is the paint chipping off the elevator shaft, but I’ll take it over no view at all. This is the only elevator at the station, unfortunately, so anyone coming from Vine has to make their way down here.
There’s a direct bus connection here to the 4 and 16, which both run on Broad Street, as well as the southbound 27 from the Plymouth Meeting Mall; the northbound stop gets a shelter. The Vine Street entrance doesn’t get any bus stops, since the buses stop north of the Vine Street Expressway instead. Many of NJT’s Philadelphia routes stop near here, too, with a sign (and only a sign) a block south at Broad and Cherry. Weirdly, on Google Maps, all of these stops are combined into one, and it’s called “Broad St at Cherry St”! That’s very confusing. And very wrong. And just very bad.
Okay, it’s a SEPTA Broad Street Line station in Center City. Will the mezzanine be a normal size, with effective resources to handle large amounts of people? Or will it be way too big, with too much empty space and just two fare machines, despite the fact that this is the Broad Street Line’s primary station for the Pennsylvania Convention Center and thus probably gets a huge surge of one-time riders during conventions who need to use the machines? Uh-oh…I think it’s the latter…
Beyond the faregates, it’s…more empty space! And of course the sign pointing to the southbound still says “AT&T,” but the really sad thing is that that’s not even the worst signage mistake at this station. The elevators are down little ramps for some reason, but again, they were both pretty clean. Although signage to the convention center is decent outside of fare control, it’s practically nonexistent inside of it. So if you’re going to a convention and you just got out of a train, you’re out of luck if you’ve never been here before and don’t know to take the Race Street exit.
Okay, the Vine Street entrances have a lot more class than the Race Street ones. There are two of them, both south of the intersection (since the north side is occupied by the monstrosity known as the Vine Street Expressway), and they are a lot more obvious to passing pedestrians. The staircases coming down from them are cleaner, too. Race-Vine technically “has” bike racks in the form of roadside ones along Broad, but they’re not just for the station and feel more like general-use city racks.
The not-in-fare-control part of the Vine mezzanine is a lot smaller than the Race one, which is both a blessing and a curse. It feels a lot less overwhelming to be in there, but SEPTA also skimped out on amenities, providing just a single fare machine. Plus, on the Saturday morning I was here, there was no cashier manning the booth (maybe there never is), which I guess means that many of the faregates have to be locked up so no one can jump them. Instead, you have to use giant turnstiles with Key readers in front. Once you’re past those, the room is much bigger, and it has nothing in it aside from staircases down to the platforms.
Okay, credit where credit is due, this platform was cleaner than most other SEPTA platforms. The tracks had less trash on them, there was less paint chipping on the walls and ceilings, and there were fewer places that looked like they could collapse at any moment. It wasn’t pleasant by any means, but it was better than most. The station has island platforms for both local and express trains, and there are benches and wastebaskets laid out along the whole thing. Oh, and that signage error I mentioned? There’s a sign that says “Local to Fernrock” as one word. Oof.
Station: Race-Vine (BSL)
Ridership: It’s actually quite low: a little under 3,000 riders per weekday. It’s the fifth least-used station on the Broad Street Line, not including stops on the Broad-Ridge Spur. Why could this be? Well, City Hall is only two blocks south – if you’re going to transfer to the El, you might as well just walk. Plus, to the north is the Vine Street Expressway, effectively a giant void that cuts off much of the neighborhood to the north. Maybe it gets more riders during conventions, but on a daily basis, ridership is light.
Pros: An accessible Broad Street Line station? Yeah, I’ll take it! I also admire the general cleanliness of the station compared to others, both with the elevators and with the platforms (for the most part).
Cons: Okay, so we had everything that was already bad about it, which ranged from small things like sign errors and weird Google Maps bus stop mishaps, to big things like inefficient mezzanines and grimy staircases at the Race Street entrance…but when you also throw in the fact that very few people (less than seven per train. Seven!) use it, it makes it that much worse. Why do express trains stop here again?
Nearby and Noteworthy: It’s the closest stop on the main Broad Street Line to Chinatown, so if you’re coming from South Philadelphia, this is the place to get off. In the other direction, it’s the closest Broad Street Line stop to the Parkway Museums. As for right around the station, you’ve got a few hospitals, the convention center, and (okay, actual cool one) the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. But honestly, for a Center City station, there’s not a ton around here…
Final Verdict: 3/10
I feel inclined to throw it a bone for being accessible. That’s not the case for way too many Broad Street Line stations, so…I’ll give it that. But aside from the issues with the station itself, it’s not good if I’m questioning the existence of something I’m reviewing. It’s 0.2 miles from City Hall, the busiest station on the network, and that plus some other factors really hurts its ridership. At the very least, express trains should skip it; they stop way too frequently in Center City to begin with.
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