SEPTA’s Trolley Situation in West Philly Is Getting Real Ugly
Planned maintenance and a sinkhole are currently disrupting commutes for nearly 50,000 daily riders.
If you’re a SEPTA rider who lives in West Philly and works in Center City, chances are you’ve been dealing with a hellacious commute lately. Four of the five trolley lines servicing those two neighborhoods aren’t fully functioning at the moment, thanks to a cruel convergence of planned maintenance and one freak service disruption.
The situation has led some transit-watchers to call on SEPTA to take some drastic action — including declaring an emergency to make all transfers free.
Dear @SEPTA_SOCIAL : you’ve got a multi-part mess going on in west Philly, some unexpected, some by design. The current fixes are a bandaid, but especially if the 34 is out of commission for an extended period, we need a better solution. Hope this fodder can be useful. https://t.co/VBPnNvhLNI
— Jonas Maciunas (@JonasMcivitas) June 6, 2019
In any case, with these various disruptions and diversions, you’d better get used to taking the bus. Here’s a breakdown of the trolley route issues.
Average daily ridership: 12,562
Reason for delay: Sinkhole in the street.
Service disruption: From 40th Street to 61st Street.
This trolley route, along the commercial corridor of Baltimore Avenue, is the sole unexpected disruption of the bunch. A sinkhole is the culprit. It may look small in the photo below, but as SEPTA announced on Monday, the hole extends a full 20 feet, “virtually undermining the entire street.”
As of Friday, the hole had widened considerably:
In the meantime… shuttle buses will be running from the 40th Street portal to 61st and Baltimore. SEPTA says the delays will last “until further notice.” We just hope the buses don’t end up like this.
— Clifton Salas (@CSalas98) May 10, 2019
Average daily ridership: 11,163
Reason for delay: Track repairs
Service disruption: From 33rd and Market to 63rd and Malvern Avenue
It’s easier to forgive a service disruption for planned repairs — inconvenience aside, it’s nice to know SEPTA is investing in its infrastructure. (Especially now that it’s got a full budget again.) But unlike the annual “Trolley Blitz” that takes place in the middle of the night in the Center City tunnel, this project has been disrupting service all day since it began in May, and it will continue to do so until its completion on July 20th.
In the meantime… a shuttle bus runs the length of the disrupted area.
Routes 11 and 36
Average daily ridership: 12,952 (Route 11) and 12,856 (Route 36)
Reason for delay: Bridge construction at 47th and Woodland Avenue
Service disruption: From 40th Street portal to 49th and Woodland Avenue
This ongoing construction project has been underway since 2018 to replace the Woodland Avenue bridge, which was built in the 1920s. The transit agency says work should be completed by this summer.
In the meantime… If you’re a Route 11 commuter, you’re surely used to the diversion by now: From 40th to 49th streets, trolleys run along Chester Avenue instead of Woodland. Then they return to Woodland for the rest of their westbound route. The same goes for Route 36, which also temporarily diverts along Chester. In addition, there’s a bus service available along Woodland Avenue between the 40th Street portal and the bridge.
For all SEPTA-related delays or service changes, consult the agency’s real-time system status viewer, which will give you all of the depressing news in one convenient place.