The rare short SEPTA route! With only a 23-minute running time, the 73 offers a quick connection between Frankford, the neighborhoods of Bridesburg and Port Richmond, and the 15 trolley…er, 15B bus. Hopefully we get trolley service to Port Richmond again…someday…

The bus boarding at Frankford.

We headed straight onto Bridge Street from Frankford Transportation Center, running through a local neighborhood full of rowhouses and little corner shops. Some other points of interest included a small elementary school and a cemetery. It was a nice straight local route…until soon after we crossed Torresdale Ave.

Some diverse housing stock close to Frankford.

The “Shoppes at Wissinoming” is a recently-built shopping plaza with a ShopRite supermarket in it. SEPTA thought it would be a good idea to have this nice, short, local route deviate in there. Nooooooo! This deviation saves people a five-minute walk…by adding three minutes to everyone else’s trip, because that’s how long the deviation takes! I’m sorry, I know the ShopRite is important, but this does not seem worth it to me.

Coming out of the Shoppes.

Continuing on the main route, we ran under the Northeast Corridor and Bridesburg Station, then we passed below I-95 two blocks later. It was industrial as we crossed a small creek and entered Bridesburg proper, where we turned onto the dense, residential Thompson Street. Businesses and churches showed up between the rowhouses.

A funny little five-way intersection.

We joined the 25 and J by taking a left onto Orthodox Street, then we turned onto Richmond Street along a cluster of businesses. This street ran past a cemetery, an elementary school, some industrial buildings, and a ton of rowhouses before crossing beneath the Betsy Ross Bridge. The brief “South Florida block” of Philly, with its single-story houses, came between Frankford Creek and I-95, before the 25 turned off onto Castor Ave and we had Richmond Street to ourselves.

A nice view of the Betsy Ross Bridge through a field.

Besides a few small blocks of rowhouses, this section of Richmond Street was pretty industrial. Wherever there weren’t factories, warehouses, or auto shops, though, houses were packed in. Once we hit Westmoreland Street and its currently gutted loop, we headed under I-95 to pull up to the temporary stop.

A 73 with a…*sniff*…15B in the background.
Also, here’s a bus at Bridesburg.

Route: 73 (Richmond-Westmoreland to Frankford Transportation Center)

Ridership: Keeping in mind that this route is short, its average weekday ridership of 2,422 people isn’t bad. It averages to a little under 20 riders per trip, which is great when the trip only takes about 20 minutes to begin with.

Pros: This is the kind of route you don’t often see on SEPTA: a short subway feeder that serves a few neighborhoods and that’s about it. It’s the kind of route that I really like, since you can run better service with fewer buses, and on-time performance is typically better. Indeed, the 73 has an 87% on-time rate – not bad for a mixed-traffic bus – and it operates at a respectable every 20 minutes on weekdays. At rush hour that increases to every 16-17 minutes, and the route even runs overnight, with hourly service seven days a week.

Cons: At every half hour, evening and weekend service could be improved. Maybe that could be done by taking off some service at rush hour: the 73 has one of the biggest productivity losses at rush hour, despite the scheduled trip time barely being longer than midday, so the culprit is likely less busy buses. The load profile seems to confirm this, showing that aside from the route’s school trips (which pack ’em in), buses very rarely get more than twenty riders at once – I would take a bus off from rush hours to keep the headway at every 20 minutes, then put it on Saturdays to increase those frequencies to every 20 as well.

There are a couple of other concerns as well. First of all, I don’t think the Shoppes at Wissinoming deviation is worth it, especially when the route is so short – should 15% of the running time really be dedicated to looping around a parking lot? Also, I don’t understand why it splits into two one-way segments in Bridesburg – the southbound runs on Thompson while the northbound runs on Richmond. Richmond is wide enough to handle buses travelling in both directions. Even though Thompson serves more, is it really worth it when the bus that runs down it only takes you in one direction? The two streets are a three minute walk apart, anyway.

Nearby and Noteworthy: Port Richmond and Bridesburg are both great neighborhoods to find a local corner restaurant or bar, often Polish or Irish.

Final Verdict: 5/10
Argh, I’m torn. The 73’s short length is really appealing, especially when it serves neighborhoods that are dense enough to generate pretty good ridership. The weekday schedule isn’t bad, too, and it’s fantastic that SEPTA gives this route owl service. But man, there’s a lot of stuff wrong with this thing! They’re easy to fix, though: make rush hour service every 20 minutes and use the resources to improve the Saturday schedule; eliminate the Wissinoming deviation; and run two-way service on Richmond Street. Bam, you’ve got a solid 7/10 or maybe even 8/10 route.

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