Girard Avenue Streamliners Return Sunday


Rt 15 trolley - 41st & Parkside Avenue

Rt 15 trolley at 41st & Parkside Avenue | Photo: Mike Szilagyi

After a six-month absence, electric trolleys are set to return to Girard Avenue this Sunday, April 29.

Six months of bus substitution allowed SEPTA to replace several sections of deteriorated track and adjacent pavement. $1.2 million were spent to renew a total of 7,000 linear feet of trolley rail.

When the electric streetcars return on Sunday, it will be on a shortened route. Route 15 trolleys will serve Girard Avenue from 63rd Street to Front Street, continuing to a new turn-back loop at Frankford and Delaware Avenues opposite Sugar House Casino. Diesel buses will continue to serve East Girard Avenue and Richmond Street for the next two to four years until I-95 construction is complete.

Rt 15 trolley at Callowhill Depot, 59th & Callowhill Sts.

Rt 15 trolley at Callowhill Depot, 59th & Callowhill Sts. Trolley built 1947; depot built 1913 | Photo: Mike Szilagyi

If the Girard Avenue streamliners look like classics it’s because they are. Built in 1947, the trolleys were overhauled during the 1980s and then completely rebuilt in 2004. The most notable upgrades are an ADA-compliant wheelchair lift and a real blessing to Philadelphians: air conditioning.

About the author

Mike Szilagyi was born in the Logan neighborhood of Philadelphia, and raised in both Logan and what was the far edge of suburbia near Valley Forge. He found himself deeply intrigued by both the built landscape and by the natural “lay of the land.” Where things really get interesting is the fluid, intricate, multi-layered interface between the two.

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  1. How will the bus subsititution run? Buses from Westmoreland to Front St to serve the el?

  2. Great. Now I have 50% more transfers to get to work. Its bad enough that my 45 minute trip to my job is largely on a urine soaked bus full of kenzos on there way to the methedone clinic…now I have to wait outside of Club Oz and Wonder Years for the slowest mode of mass transportation ever conceived. In Septa’s defense, I can see why something like a trolley would make Girard Ave seem quaint to visitors…otherwise it would look like nothing more but 5 miles of little more than cell phone shops, dollar stores, beauty supply shops, crumbling buildings, and despair. But hey, look, a trolley! Glad this has nothing to do with the casino.

  3. Why were the track replacements necessary? Was this repairs to the recent renovations done a few years back when preparing the road for the trolly, or were these old sections of track?

    Also, the anticipated lifespan of the PCC cars is only another 5 years. While I’m sure SEPTA will continue running these beyond this limit, I look forward to seeing what sort of new options could be implemented. It’d be great to have a low-floor design trolly, however, I am unsure if the current setup can support it, especially the 2 bends going from Girard to Poplar in Brewerytown.

    • The track work on Girard Avenue replaced rails that were in very bad shape. When Girard Avenue was worked on to get ready for trolleys in 2001, the construction budget was cut in half. So only the worst sections of track were replaced at that time. The recent six-month closure did some of the work that should have been done ten years ago.

      In those cases where SEPTA runs diesel buses in the street — especially the supposedly “green” Hybrid diesel buses that are overweight because they have both a diesel engine AND tons of batteries on board — those streets get pounded to dust and SEPTA doesn’t pay a cent for repairs. The city is responsible for those pavement repairs (when they get around it).

  4. I don’t believe the curves are a problem with low-floor design. After all, Boston manages it and their network is similar in size and scope to Philadelphia’s.

  5. It’s amazing that the trolleys are running again, considering how reluctant SEPTA is to run any kind of surface rail at all. Perhaps they can be persuaded (i.e. forced) to run it elsewhere.

  6. It’s great to see the PCC II cars back. Many people don’t see the value of the trolley. They are definitely quieter than the buses and the ride is smoother.

    I think people would appreciate (and ride) them more if SEPTA didn’t insist on having stops at nearly every block. The speed of travel would incrase if the trollies only stopped every other block (or every third block) at fixed stations like the Portland Streetcar. Ridership wouldn’t suffer because stations would be in close proximity, and in fact would probably improve ridership because new/potential riders would find it easier to know where the trolley stopped.

    Just my opinion

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