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.

west philly trolley

Image via SEPTA/Youtube

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.

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.

Route 34

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.

Route 10

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.