I rode the 46 on a weekday and loved it. Hopefully the weekend frequency won’t drag it down in the end…
The 46 is a really short, simple crosstown that runs pretty much straight up 60th Street in West Philadelphia. It does start on 58th, though, and we ran down that street for a block before taking a left onto Washington Ave. It was all rowhouses, and they continued even as we turned onto the wider 60th Street.
A few businesses started to show up along 60th eventually, mostly small markets, restaurants, and salons. Although a few abandoned lots and industrial buildings showed up around Locust Street, it was generally dense apartments with businesses on the first floor. We got some really cool multicolored buildings as we approached the 60th Street El station, where lots of people got off and lots more got on.
Can you solve the mystery of what lay north of Market on 60th? I’m sure you can: more rowhouses! A few businesses and abandoned plots of land broke things up, but once again, it was pretty consistent. We ran within a block of SEPTA’s Callowhill Depot, and soon after that we crossed the 15 trolley at Girard Ave.
The scenery was similar north of Girard. We crossed the 10 trolley at Landsdowne Ave, and north of there, it seemed like there were more patches of street trees. Taking a left onto leafy Columbia Ave and running down it for a block, the brick rowhouses suddenly turned to stone duplexes. We took this as far as 63rd, where we joined up with the 10 trolley along the street lined with more duplexes and even a few single-family homes. One final turn onto Malvern Ave led us to the 63rd-Malvern Loop.
While we’re at it, let’s review the 63rd-Malvern Loop. I’ve always been a fan of this one: there’s a substantial shelter at one end, while two fare machines are located next to the employee-only bathrooms (not that any signs tell you they’re employee-only). Some beautifully outdated maps outline where the routes from here go: the 10 and the 46 use the loop itself, while the 65, 105, and G stop around it. The main problems here are a lack of signage to those three routes that don’t serve the loop itself, and also the annoyance of having to walk out into the loop to board the 10 – the tracks are far from the sidewalk. Other than that, though, it’s not bad. 7/10.
Route: 46 (58th-Baltimore to 63rd-Malvern)
Ridership: The route gets 4,945 riders on the average weekday, but since it’s so short, that’s honestly quite good! My ride got 29 riders, for example, but remember that the route only takes 20 minutes end-to-end – that’s almost 1.5 riders per minute. It’s for that reason that this is one of SEPTA’s most productive routes.
Pros: The 46 is just beautiful. It’s super short, but it gets a ton of riders because it feeds not only into the El in the middle, but also into trolley lines on both of its ends (the 10 at the northern terminus and the 34 at the southern) – there are ridership anchors on both sides of the route. It serves dense residential areas on a straight, two-way, and easy-to-follow route, with just two patterns: the main one, and a variant on the last few trips that ends at 60th and Landsdowne, perhaps to keep the frequency at half-hourly with just one bus.
The schedule is fantastic for the most part, too. On weekdays, it’s every fifteen minutes for most of the day, with service every six to eight minutes at rush hour. And that peak service is actually useful: peak productivity is slightly higher than midday productivity, a rarity for SEPTA! The Saturday schedule is pretty good as well, with buses running at a decent every 20 minutes from 7 AM to 7 PM. While the route isn’t an owl, it has a 5 AM to 2 AM service span, and I don’t think it really needs owl service anyway – most of the routes it intersects with run all night, so most of what the 46 serves has some form of owl service already.
Cons: I really want to unabashedly love this route, because it is so good. But every half hour during the evening and on Sundays? Aw man, how can you do this to me, SEPTA? That Sunday schedule, especially…if they were able to throw one more bus on that, it could be every 20 minutes and I could give this thing a 9. What would be keeping it from a 10? The stop spacing. Yeah, it’s SEPTA, they always have really close stops, but it’s still a problem regardless.
Nearby and Noteworthy: I should note that I am not a water ice person (many people have a fit when they find out about the extent of sweet things I don’t like), but Siddiq’s Water Ice seems to be a real gem for those who are!
Final Verdict: 6/10
That Sunday service…I don’t feel that I can comfortably give this a higher score because of it. This is pretty much in the same boat as the 79, which actually has slightly better frequencies on Saturdays, and higher ridership than this route. But both this and the 46 are great buses, and while they both have bad half-hourly Sunday service, they’re fantastic on the other days of the week. That’s one thing you need to have a good service, though: decent frequency seven days a week. Sorry, 46.
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