Now why would Bala, with just ten inbound trains per day, have fully high-level platforms when so many other SEPTA stations are inaccessible? I wonder if someone powerful lives up here…
That high-level platform is mostly unsheltered, playing host to some benches, wastebaskets, information, key readers, and an LED screen. There is one shelter at the end with another bench inside and a “START” button – perhaps it’s for heat, but it didn’t work on the relatively cold day I was here. That thing must get pretty crowded on rainy mornings!
Two sets of stairs and a ramp take passengers off the platform. Three bike racks are provided, so don’t trust the “No bike racks are at this station” on the SEPTA website. There’s parking as well, with a decent 76 spaces that are…free??? Okay, combined with Cynwyd‘s 46 spaces and another 71 at Wynnefield Ave, the Cynwyd Line has a heck of a lot of complimentary parking!
Just because the station has this fancy new high platform doesn’t mean its old low one isn’t used anymore. A level crossing gets passengers across the single track to the west side of the station, where most of the parking is. The old low-level shelter has been repurposed into a waiting area for pick-ups. While the old staircases up to City (Line) Ave are in a sorry state, a new wooden one was built to the east, and the west has an accessible sidewalk along the parking lot approach road.
Ridership: It’s the busiest station on the very unbusy Cynwyd Line, with 126 boardings per day. You know, it’s tough to generate ridership when you only run ten inbound trains a day!
Pros: Hey, other stations need it way more, but I’m always gonna praise a high-level platform! Free parking for cars (and bikes) is nice, too, although again, other stations need it way more..
Cons: This station has a general air of being way overbuilt. Like, when half the Trenton Line (which does indeed run more than ten trains a day) consists of awful shacks that still manage to get more ridership than this place, it makes you wonder why the money ended up here. And despite getting this fancy new platform, Bala still has way too little shelter, and I’m sure the little one gets packed during inclement weather (remember that the vast majority of those 126 daily boardings is split between the five Cynwyd Line morning rush trains).
Nearby and Noteworthy: It’s City Ave. It’s suburban, uninteresting businesses. This is the closest station to a few student-oriented restaurants around Saint Joseph’s University, but you’re probably better off taking a bus or even walking from Overbrook on the Paoli/Thorndale Line.
Final Verdict: 6/10
I’m not as enamored with Bala as I was with Cynwyd. I guess this is an example of the sometimes subjective nature of the blog, since Bala is by most accounts a better station, with more parking and a high-level platform. But it also has no character, provides very little shelter, and still gets super limited service. Maybe if trains through here ran more often, the score would be higher, but that’s probably a non-starter for this tiny, insignificant line.
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