Philadelphia Reevaluates Regional Rail Route Structure, Dismissing Through-Running

» The advantages made possible with the opening of a downtown tunnel in the 1980s will be passed over if SEPTA officials get their way.

When it opened the Center City Commuter Connection in 1984, Philadelphia had produced an interconnected regional rail system few other American cities could boast of. By digging a tunnel 1.7 miles between the former Pennsylvania Railroad’s Suburban Station and the tracks of the former Reading Railroad, regional transit authority SEPTA created a unified rail system spanning the entire Philadelphia region.

Unlike most U.S. commuter systems, Philadelphia could offer its riders through-service from one part of the metropolitan area to the next and stops at multiple stations downtown. Trains wouldn’t have to turn around at the center-city terminus, clearing up space for redevelopment and speeding up travel times. New uniformly numbered lines operated from one suburban

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Philadelphia Selects Waterfront Transit Alignment

» New link proposed between City Hall and the waterfront — but how will trains traverse the T-shaped corridor?

Philadelphia has some of the biggest unmet transit needs in the country, but its transit planners have frequently been unable to expand core capacity by adding fixed-guideway service to major routes. SEPTA, bogged down in the maintenance and repair of its decades-old subways and subway-surface light rail lines, has been unable to find the funds or political will to build new projects; its last attempt, the Roosevelt Boulevard subway extension, went down in flames.

But the Delaware River Port Authority, which runs the PATCO Speedline between Philadelphia and New Jersey, has big ambitions for the city and for the last year and a half has been contemplating making a major investment in a new light rail line along the Delaware River. It would act as a stimulus for increased development

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Learning from the Keystone Corridor

» We can expect modest jumps in ridership after investing in relatively minor rail line upgrades.

In 2006, Amtrak and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation completed work on improvements to the Keystone Corridor, which runs 104 miles from Philadelphia to Harrisburg. The $145 million project increased top speeds to 110 mph and allowed for full electric operation, making it possible to run trains reliably from New York’s Penn Station. The line now offers 14 weekday round trips between Harrisburg and Philadelphia and 1h35 trip times between the city centers on express trains (compared with two hours previously), with local routes making the journey in up to 1h55. The improvements on the Keystone demonstrate the small gains that can be garnered from making rail services more time competitive.

The upgrades to the route have allowed Amtrak to increase passenger totals significantly over the past two years. Though Keystone ridership has been on

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After 10 Years, SEPTA Completes Renovations of Market Street El

» West Philadelphia’s century-old elevated heavy rail line is brand new again.

Over the past ten years, Philadelphia’s Market Street has been a complete mess between 46th and 69th Streets, where the ancient elevated transit line and its associated stations have been completely replaced with a new structure. Last week, after $740 million in work, the full corridor reopened to service with six new stations along two miles of renovated track.

The project, undertaken on the Market Street end of the Market-Frankford Elevated by Philadelphia’s SEPTA transit agency, was essential to ensure a state of good repair. It is complete six years after work finished on a $500 million refurbishment of the Frankford side of the corridor, which was merged with the Market Street route in 1922. The unified line, which now benefits from automatic train control and 220 new train cars, has the city’s highest ridership,

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New Philadelphia Light Rail Project Would Extend Rail to Waterfront

Line would run from City Hall along the surface of Market Street north to Penn Treaty Park and south to Pier 70.

The Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA), which runs the PATCO service from suburban New Jersey into Center City Philadelphia, will pursue the construction of a surface light rail line along Market Street with connections to new waterfront service. The project would be the city’s first serious transit expansion in years, though it currently lacks the funds to build the project. The line would cost more than $1 billion to build and be finished in ten years.

DRPA’s involvement in the project reflects on SEPTA‘s inability to produce significant transit expansions in the Philadelphia region, which is desperately in need of new services. The waterfront orientation of the project is a justification for DRPA, but the truth is that these new lines, which will act

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The Site / The Fight

  • by Yonah Freemark
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