Ah…that part of the El where it runs along the highway for a bit. And it stops at quite possibly my least favorite station on the line, Spring Garden. Ugh, I can hear the rushing cars just thinking about it…
Right in the middle of I-95, Spring Garden’s platform is a miserable place to wait. There are your typical platform amenities, but the architecture is austere and the cars on the four-lane highway are just awful. Also, it gets invaded by spiders every summer, so…that’s something to watch out for.
Alright, as far as ways to get out of here, we’ll first tackle the exit-only staircase. It’s pretty dank, but it gets the job done, and a ton of people use it whenever a train comes in. The staircase was designed pretty well for bus connections, too: it’s on the north side of the station, where the only bus that drops off is the westbound 43. Everything else stops on the south side, meaning most bus riders will be dropped off on the same side of the street as the actual entrance.
The station entrances are beneath the giant I-95 bridge. The beautiful light fixtures help to make the place more lively (although it’s still pretty unpleasant to be there), and while there aren’t any benches for connecting buses (there should be, there’s room), at least the bridge provides a makeshift shelter. The 43 cuts straight across Spring Garden Street, while the 25 deviates here on its north-south journey, picking up next to the station entrance in both directions. I’m sure almost all of the passengers on westbound 43s jaywalk across the road when they get dropped off on the opposite side, though.
The entrance to the station features a narrow staircase and a narrower escalator (the latter only being able to fit one person). There’s no elevator, making this one of just three MFL stations that’s not accessible. And since Spring Garden is squashed between two sides of a highway, it’s not gonna be getting one anytime soon.
Once you get up to the top, you’re in the most cramped mezzanine on the SEPTA system. Usually they go for giant mezzanines with too few faregates, but this time they’ve got a tiny mezzanine with too few faregates! Three are right up front, while a fourth secret one requires snaking around to the side of the cashier’s booth. Good luck paying your fares, by the way: you’ll have to wait in line behind the one fare machine.
Station: Spring Garden (MFL)
Ridership: Spring Garden gets less ridership than its neighbors, probably because half its coverage area is taken up by highway! Still, 3,275 riders per weekday does beat out many stations further up the line. Once you get past the highway, there are dense apartments and businesses, so people are coming from somewhere.
Pros: Aspects of the station are…competent. The platform has shelter, as does the bus section. The lights underneath the bridge are nice.
Cons: Spring Garden is squashed and dank. The entrance and mezzanine are too small, while the platform suffers from being surrounded by thousands of cars per day. It’s really satisfying to speed past traffic on the train, but I’m sure the fume situation at Spring Garden is rough when things are really blocked up.
Nearby and Noteworthy: Fantastic restaurants and shops line nearby 2nd Street, including this bowling alley, which I almost went to once with some friends before we found out it was full. One day I’ll try it out – it’s pretty cheap bowling!
Final Verdict: 2/10
Definitely the worst that the Market-Frankford Line has to offer. It’s cramped, it’s dingy (despite the light fixtures), and it’s surrounded by an awful highway. Luckily this is the only station in Philly like this – imagine how miserable it would be to have to review every station on, I dunno, the Green Line in LA.
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In Chicago, several of the CTA lines run in the highway medians like this. The stations are usually a bit better, but they still have all the loud cars.