Proposal: Bring Amtrak Trains to Center City

There’s already a tunnel to 30th Street Station, so why not?


It’s the easiest thing in the world to board an Amtrak train in Philly and be in New York barely an hour later. Would it be an even better process if Philadelphians could board that train in Center City?

Bob Previdi thinks so. A transit expert — and former spokesman for retired Council President Anna Verna — Previdi points out in an opinion piece for Philadelphia Business Journal there’s already a tunnel from 30th Street Station to Suburban and Market Street stations used by SEPTA. Just let a couple of Amtrak trains per hour use that tunnel, he says, and the results might be startling:

Having Amtrak operating in the Center City Tunnel would not only be good for business and tourism, it could also make the housing stock of Philadelphia and its suburbs more commutable to NYC. Most people in Philadelphia do not understand just how bad commuting distances are in in NYC and what opportunities there are to attract home buyers. For example, 14,000 cars a day park at the Long Island Rail Road’s Ronkonkoma Station in Suffolk County to take one hour and 20 minute train ride to/from Penn Station each way! Combine the long trek with a New York State tax rate of nearly 9 percent and even with the high monthly ticket fee of Amtrak we can still promote living in Pennsylvania as a real value.

Previdi adds: “The only issue now is can we get organized to take full advantage of what this tunnel can do for us. The rehabilitation of Dilworth Plaza can only help if we rally around what this project is intending to achieve, and that is making the heart of our city an attractive place to be.”

Previously: Ed Rendell Backing 300 MPH Bullet Train
Previously: Amtrak Plan Could Transform Market East

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  • Passenger

    This is unnecessary and would only result in slower trains and longer trip times on the NEC. Not to mention more costs for Amtrak that could be better spent on other projects.

  • Tax Man

    PA does not have reciprocity with NY. Therefore, if you live in PA, and work in NY, you pay NY taxes.

    • DTurner

      But you would pay PA sales tax and property taxes (assuming that the property does not have an abatement).

  • citywide

    why even listen to anyone who worked for, never mind the talking head behind, anna verna. This is the woman who not only didn’t believe in progress, she would have been glad for Philly to back a few decades.
    You got to wonder why this idea gets any ink at all. The tunnel apparently is crowded the way it is—some people want to add more tracks—with commuter trains, never mind trying to figure out how to get Amtrak trains into the mix.
    I would bet that Mr. Previdi never rides SEPTA trains, never mind Amtrak

  • Danielzinho

    this is such a non-issue. how lazy do you have to be to put this much effort into avoiding a 10 minute walk or 5 minute train ride to 30th Street to catch Amtrak?

  • Tom Livingston

    Ridiculous. We need to speed up the trains, not slow them down.

  • PhillySean

    For .00000000000001% of the cost of this hare brained scheme Septa and Amtrak could change some schedules, signage and or departure boards to make it easier to identify the next train headed from Center City to 30th Street and vice versa.
    They do have a sign at 30th Street Station identifying the next train to center city, but I wouldn’t expect someone unfamiliar with the station to notice it.

  • DTurner

    It kind of feels like a non-issue. For around the same cost, SEPTA could rehabilitate the tunnel at 30th to the El and trolleys to give commuters a more direct connection.

    The only way it would make sense is if this was only used for Keystone and Pennsylvanian service, which could go straight through 30th to the west and would not require the current delay at 30th.

    • Unlikely they would rebuild the underground passage between 30th Street Station and the SEPTA station because of concerns of terrorism. The perception some have is that would become a target. Also, there would likely be concerns similar to why it was closed in the 1980s.

  • butt

    I think a bigger issue is not having a direct NJTRANSIT train from New York to Philadelphia. The infrastructure is there; the trains would use the same track line as Amtrak. And, it would cost commuters way less planning and money to use NJTRANSIT.

    • I don’t think AMTRAK would allow that because NJ TRANSIT and SEPTA have to use AMTRAK’s tracks between 30th Street and Penn Station on the Northeast Corridor, tracks that AMTRAK actually owns.

      Best bet would be for 1-2 AMTRAK trains per hour that would originate at Market East Station and stop at Suburban Station before continuing to 30th Street (SEPTA platform) and then Penn Station with most likely a stop in Trenton before then perhaps continuing to Boston. The people who work in New York would almost make up the entire audience willing to pay for this service (especially if they work in the vicinity of Penn Station in Midtown or work on Wall Street and can get the PATH Trains at Newark), especially if they can save on both state taxes and housing costs that would easily more than offset the cost of riding on AMTRAK between New York and Philly.