Thanks to New Funding, City Hall Station Renovation Is Back on Track [UPDATED]

Photo: Liz Spikol

Photo: Liz Spikol

All SEPTA riders know that City Hall/15th Street Station is, at best, unappetizing. According to Sandy Smith, it is the only station on the Market-Frankford and Broad Street lines that has gone untouched for at least 30 years. Some SEPTA riders may also know that for a while now, the agency has been promising to redo the whole thing.

Well, according to SEPTA, that’ll actually start to happen in the coming years thanks to the November passage of Act 89, the state’s transportation funding bill. Last week SEPTA quietly released its proposed capital budget and program for the coming years, and it includes $146 million between 2015 and 2026 for the project, which had previously been deferred due to lack of funding. The promised improvements: elevators throughout, more open space on the Broad Street Line platforms, new ventilation in re-opened air shafts, new architectural finishes and signage, new fare lines, platforms raised to car door height, redone inter-station corridors, and public art.

In a December presentation of SEPTA’s general capital plans, Deputy General Manager Jeffrey Knueppel said the renovations will be a “signature project” for SEPTA. Design work will begin this year and last until 2017. Construction is scheduled to run from 2015 to 2020.

According to Smith, the project is made especially difficult by the building that stands above the station, which is one of the largest masonry buildings in the world. The thick walls between the local and express platforms on the Broad Street Line support the southwest corner of City Hall, and so are not easily modified to make room for elevators or expanded platforms. Hopefully $150 million is enough to solve that one.

Some work is already underway as a part of the Center City District’s Dilworth Plaza project. The plaza, which is currently scheduled to open at the end of this summer, will feature dramatic new glass stairway head houses to the station, as well as three new elevators.

The proposed capital plan also details two other related, potentially interesting projects: concourse improvements and new real-time arrival information systems. A much-needed $53.5 million will be spent on improvements to the whole Center City concourse network, of which City Hall Station is just a small part. (The vast area under South Broad Street is a very big and empty and desolate part. What is all that space even meant for?)

And $26.5 million will be spent on installing, or beginning to install, “real-time passenger information systems at railroad and transit stations.” Does this mean those neat real-time displays will come to subway stations? A SEPTA spokesman wasn’t sure, and promised to get back to us soon with an answer. We’ll update once we find out.

This plan isn’t quite final—there’s actually a public hearing about it coming up this month—but none of these projects seem likely to change.

For more detailed information about the plan, go here.

Update 8/8/14: A SEPTA spokesman said the agency is indeed planning to install real-time arrival information systems at all subway, el, and trolley stations in the city.

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  • tsarstruck

    To be clear: construction on the 15th Street station part of it will run from 2015-2018, City Hall will be 2018-2020.

    • tsarstruck

      And hey, they’re also devoting $50MM to concourse work around City Hall from 2015-2021:

      Phase I, vertical transportation elements including replacement of the two escalators at 15th St., replacement of an escalator and renovation of an elevator at 8th St.
      Phase II, consists of the narrow corridors that encircle City Hall, as well as several larger connecting corridors adjacent to Suburban Station.
      Phase III, is defined as the Walnut Locust Concourse extending from Chestnut St. to Locust St., and the connecting corridors on Locust St.
      Phase IV, is several smaller areas extending from 8th and Market St. to the Broad Ridge Spur Station.
      Phase V, is the Market St. Station Concourses, including the two corridors connecting City Hall Station to the Market East Station

    • tsarstruck

      More interesting stuff for the city: they’re looking at trolleys that meet ADA requirements (how the heck they’re going to have at-grade entrances on trolleys I’d love to know) as well as considering articulated trolleys (like those extra-long buses) “on some or all of the lines.”

      • Collin Street

        > how the heck they’re going to have at-grade entrances on trolleys I’d love to know

        Pretty easy! In particular, have a look at “Easy access type II”. The floor of a low-floor LRV is only a foot above the ground, you can put platforms in all sorts of places without much disruption.

        • matthew brandley

          thank you for explaining this. The effects of technology is amazing. The new technology in mass transit that people need to update themselves on , not you , is just unreal. So many things have changed over the years.

        • tsarstruck

          Sorry, I should have been more specific: how would they do this without adding platforms?

          • What I’d love to know: How is SEPTA going to shoehorn in the elevators at 19th Street eastbound?

      • kclo3

        Toronto’s new streetcar is the way to go, the system most compatible to SEPTA’s.

  • Not happy with New Gas Tax

    Yes, lets thank our state representatives for raising our gasoline tax for those who don’t use SEPTA. Lets make our gas prices like California. That’s so great for grocery prices. Maybe our rep’s need to think about these issues too. Let’s get some competition for SEPTA. Maybe they can find a way to compete and not rely on everyone who line in PA to pay for their bad business decisions. Lets call our representatives about their bad tax increase decisions or vote them out of office.

    • Northeaster

      Boo hoo we pay for your roads year in and year out.

    • um…

      SEPTA is a public agency, not a private business;

      no large US metro area has either privately run mass transit or competition in same – all the agencies operate at a deficit;

      the transportation funding package supports all 37 mass transit agencies in the Commonwealth – it’s just that SEPTA gets the lion’s share of the transit funding because it carries two of every three mass transit riders in the state;

      that tax hike pays for the roads too, and they’re not in great shape either.

    • I’m playing the world’s smallest violin. Give me a break. Cars are way too cheap as it is given what they cause. Parking is criminally underpriced (at least in Philly) you have to disincentivise some people who think driving is a right and get more people using public transportation.