Your Lines, Imagined

September 4, 2013 | by Nathaniel Popkin


Watch the closing doors | Photo: Bradley Maule

Watch the closing doors | Photo: Bradley Maule

A few days ago, my daughter, Lena, entering the eighth grade, said she was surprised how little her friends knew their way around the city. “I’m the only one who really knows where we’re going, and I’ve only gotten lost twice,” she said. I wondered if this was typical for a generation–across race, class, and neighborhood origin–that gets driven around by parents; or does it have to do with the enduring neighborhood focus of Philadelphia life? Perhaps until high school kids can’t really know much beyond their own limited territory of home, school, park, etc.

I have another theory about Philadelphia: in the sprawling, flat, and low-slung city there are few vantage points from where you might see beyond. Unlike in Pittsburgh, say, it’s hard to see where it is you might be going. And quite differently from flat New York with its extensive subway system, Philly lacks a graphic representation of its geography; New York kids, I suspect, know their way around according to subway stops. Our extensive bus system is very nearly invisible. You can’t imagine it.

And so we dream of the subway system that might have been (all the while exploring “phantom” stations). Here’s one version, from 1913:

Report of the Transit Commissioner, City of Philadelphia, July 1913 | Image courtesy of Mike Krasulski

Report of the Transit Commissioner, City of Philadelphia, July 1913 | Image courtesy of Mike Krasulski

And we imagine subway lines that might be. One of my favorites is the Fifth Street Subway, which would connect South Philly to the lower Northeast, at Rising Sun. El Bloque de Oro, which Theresa Stigale recently profiled on these pages, to growing South Kensington to an expanded transit hub at Independence Mall to the heart of South Street down to the box stores on Oregon Avenue. The line would serve the tens of thousands of people realistically out of reach of the El and the Broad Street Subway, and connect disparate but vital parts of the city’s core (which would certainly feel both larger and more familiar as a result).

Now tell us yours. Leave a comment here or on Facebook with your dream line. We’ll read through all the ideas and map the best on a 2013 Imaginary Philly Subway Map, which we’ll publish in honor of the second anniversary of the Hidden City Daily, with credits to the dreamers.


About the Author

Nathaniel Popkin Hidden City Daily co-founder Nathaniel Popkin’s latest book is To Reach the Spring: From Complicity to Consciousness in the Age of Eco-Crisis.


  1. Anthony Zul says:

    I\’ve always dreamed of two subway lines. One going up the blvd that would connect to the Broad Street Line, as well as a spur going out toward St. Joe\’s. The second, a line going along Frankford Avenue. Originally I envisioned it beginning at the Frankford Terminal, thereby connecting to the El, and going all the way up Frankford Avenue.

    For the Blvd Line, I imagined it being underground for most of its journey and eventually ending up neat Woodhaven Road. While imagining the Frankford Line extending up to the City Limit.

    1. Sandy Smith says:

      Anthony, that line is the great chimera of Philadelphia transit planning, the Unbuilt Subway that Refuses to Die. You see it on the City Transit Commissioner\’s 1913 map above, where it appears as an elevated (subways on that map are shown by dotted lines). It actually came close to being realized twice: once in the 1950s, when racial fear killed it (Fern Rock station on the Broad Street Line, opened in 1957, was a sop to their fears), and once in the 1970s, when it was up for Federal grant funding along with the Commuter Tunnel, but the outgoing Secretary of Transportation told Mayor Frank Rizzo he could approve only one of the city\’s two applications. We all know which one the mayor chose now.

      Every city and regional planning study of the corridor since 1913 has recommended rapid transit on the Boulevard, and the folks in the Northeast are finally ready for it. So it\’s only natural that the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission is now removing it from its list of options for transit improvements along the Boulevard because of its cost. What else would you expect?

      1. lovetron says:

        DVRPC is quietly doing a study of expanded mass transit service on the Boulevard. I don\’t know if they started the work yet. There was also a quiet study a couple of years ago by a PA-based engineering firm to take a quick look at BRT on the Blvd. I don\’t think this study was ever finalized and released.

  2. Anthony Zul says:

    Another great one, that most people wouldn\’t think about, is the Delaware/Aramingo/Harbison Avenues corridor. They are technically all one road, and putting a line beneath the length of it would connect NE Philly from Bustleton Avenue, near the Cottman/Castor/Bustleton shopping district, all the way down to the big box retail center in South Philly. Intersecting several of the other lines I proposed for the NE in the mean time.

  3. Joseph says:

    A line I\’ve always wanted to see come into existence is a full, true Ridge Avenue Subway, from 8th & Market right out to Roxborough. One of the most difficult things to do in this city is to go diagonally, and one of the other most difficult things is to reliably get from Center City to the Northwest. Given the difficulty/inconvenience of once-an-hour regional rail service up there, a Ridge Avenue subway would connect the Northwest to the rest of the city in an important way.

    Another spur I would love to see come into existence is the Passyunk Avenue spur off the Broad Street Subway as detailed at http://blogs.phillymag.com/the_philly_post/2013/08/20/secret-septa-ghost-subways-find-them/. It\’s practical; this part of the city is seeing a huge renaissance, with lots of people living here and working in Center City. It would only help the corridor and surrounding neighborhoods.

    Really, I want more ways to make diagonal moves. I wish it were possible to easily get from, say, Old City to Rittenhouse Square, Fairmount to Queen Village, or Point Breeze to Northern Liberties. We have a fairly comprehensive system for getting north to south and east to west in Center City, but I know people who simply drive every day rather than coordinate a two-seat ride to make moves like this.

    (Oh, and I definitely agree about the invisible bus system. I think it\’s quite to the detriment of the system and to riders that there isn\’t an overall, comprehensive map of bus lines that go throughout the city. The lack of ability to simply browse a transit system in order to ponder how you might use it to get to where you\’re going, only hurts us.)

    1. Sandy Smith says:

      Doesn\’t SEPTA still publish its Philadelphia Street and Transit Map? If it doesn\’t, it should dust it off. For $9 (the price when I last purchased one in 2004), there\’s no better detailed map of the city, its public transit network (rail and bus), and its house numbering system (the coordinates are printed on the map, and it used to even explain some of the system\’s quirks, such as how houses are numbered in Fishtown).

      1. Joseph says:

        Oh, I\’m not sure! I was thinking that a PDF or map viewer on their website would be nice. That physical map sounds fascinating though, I\’m going to have to see if it still exists.

          1. Sandy Smith says:

            That\’s the one, Eugene, though the PDF is pretty huge – I can\’t display it in my Chromebook\’s browser, as the page hangs when I load it.

            Sometimes, paper has its advantages.

    2. Alysea says:

      I support the diagonal lines. Thank you Ben Franklin for your perpendicular planning, but I would really appreciate more options when it comes to public transportation in the 21st century.

      A full Ridge Avenue line would be great as it would access Fairmount, Brewerytown, Strawberry Mansion, East Falls, Manayunk and Roxbourough.

      1. Sick Transit says:

        Franklin may have created nearly everything else in Philadelphia except for the Orchestra, but its grid system is actually William Penn\’s doing. Penn was acutely aware of the horrible loss of life and property that occurred less than 2 decades earlier in the Great London Fire of 1666. London\’s crazy-quilt street layout was a major reason the destruction was so great because rescue crews had such difficulty navigating the city. He was also familiar with the work of French mathematician René Descartes, who invented the familiar X-Y grid coordinate system that we all loved in high school. Penn\’s genius was seeing how Decartes\’ theory addressed a practical problem.

        1. Paul Jones says:

          Never forget Thomas Holme, First Surveyor General to Pennsylvania. He drew up the layout for William Penn. The city is founded on a traditional grid system inspired by the classic graeco-roman style of city planning.

  4. Geoff says:

    The idea of a southern loop has been swimming in my head for quite a while. I want a southern trolley/tram (portions of our trolleys are subterranean so that counts right?) loop down Columbus Blvd, across Oregon Ave using the central curbed island, up briefly on 24th near Passyunk and then up 25th under the industrial elevated rail line with one loop connecting with Washington Ave back down to Columbus and one cutting up Grey\’s Ferry and looping back with the Market lines with new cut ins from 21st at the existing West Philly trolleys.

    I\’ll give you more details in a post at my site: thisoldcity.com

    Thanks for putting some fire under my butt to get this idea out there. 🙂

  5. Rob says:

    I have a couple of suggestions/dreams (in no particular order):

    24 hour rail service on subway/el and regional lines
    extend the ridge ave spur all the way up ridge to andorra or some terminus in montgomery county
    better rail service to the river wards – perhaps a subway/el spur that runs from the spring garden station to delaware ave and then up either richmond or aramingo and eventually connects back at the frankford terminal
    along with a 5th street subway, maybe a 22nd street subway to better connect the neighborhoods further away from broad

  6. Jon says:

    The 5th Street one is interesting, and would deserve a complement on the other side of Broad.

    It would start at 21st and Oregon (ish) — or maybe even the Navy Yard — and run roughly up 21st St. through Point Breeze. Up near Grad Hospital, it would cut over to 19th Street, hit Rittenhouse Square and an expanded 19th Street station that would now have an El stop. It would then hit Logan Circle, connect with the proposed Reading viaduct BRT line and bend northwest toward an Art Museum stop. Then up through Fairmount, Brewerytown, Strawberry Mansion and maybe as far north as the Boulevard.

  7. Lari says:

    The rail line that runs underground around 29th and Pennsylvania would be an amazing high speed transit in minutes to City Hall where you could connect with all manner of transportation. Now it can take 30 or 40 minutes for a bus to get past City Hall to the eastern side of the city. Also, I can see University City from my Fairmount house but I sure can\’t get there easily by public trans. Not sure how it can be done but I sure hope someone makes it happen.

    1. Sandy Smith says:

      SEPTA currently owns the unused part of this right-of-way, and the City envisions using it for bus rapid transit; check the transportation recommendations in the Central District Plan. An advocacy group that seeks to turn the abandoned Reading Railroad viaduct into a Philly version of New York\’s High Line has designs on turning it into a park. I prefer the city\’s vision to the Friends of the Rail Park\’s.

      Connecting this line to the existing rapid transit network would be extraordinarily tricky and costly. BRT would allow the city to get a useful service up and running faster and would also offer the possibility of single-seat rides to City Hall from a number of points in North and West Philadelphia via connections to surface streets at either end.

  8. Randall says:

    I always thought there should be a circle line around Center City/University City, running under Spring Garden, Delaware Ave., Washington Ave, 40th Street.

  9. Alex says:

    I\’ve always dreamed of a \’greater Center City loop\’ that would connect Washington Avenue to Penn to 30th Street Station Tto the Art Museum to the Broad Street Line at Fairmount to Northern Liberties to Columbus BLVD and back to Washington Ave.

  10. Eric C says:

    Turn Septa Rt 10 into a spur of the MF line (subway or elevated) and, at 52nd street, construct a bridge/tunnel over the Main Line to the Cynwyd right of way. Re-track, add stations, and extend to a new transit station adjacent to the Ivy Ridge Station on the Norristown Regional rail line.

    Convert one of the Chestnut Hill Regional Rail lines to a spur of the Broad street subway. I think CH West is best for 2 reasons. 1, it runs on the Northeast Corridor and the more we can do to ease congestion through that mess at the zoo the better. 2, it would connect to the Broad Street line in such a way as to make a new North Philadelphia transit hub (with indoor interchange between the BSL, the Trenton line, and all the old Reading Railroad lines) feasible. Going south, run it as an express until Fairmont where it will go down the broad ridge spur to terminate at 8th and Market. Redo that station to include a free transfer to the MFL. Hopefully the new terminus and more frequent trains will draw enough riders to make reopening the Chinatown station feasible.

    If I\’m being totally crazy, I would say extent the above line all the way down to Oregon Ave but I would want to jog it a bit to run under / over 6th street to more efficiently complement the BSL. Maybe make the turn south of Washington square to avoid what happened with the Locust St Subway and Rittenhouse.

    1. Joseph says:

      Oh my god, I never realized there WASN\’T a free interchange between the MFL and the Broad Street Spur. That\’s so lame.

      1. Veillantif says:

        8th/Market appears to be the only metro station in the world where three lines meet, and there\’s no transfer between any of them.

    2. Joseph Heston says:

      Actually the plan was to convert the Chestnut Hill East line into a branch of the B.S.S. and have the Chestnut Hill West line relocated to the Reading Main branch off approximately where the Norristown line branches off.

    3. Sick Transit says:

      There\’s only one little problem with connecting the MF line or any city trolley routes to the Regional Rail system. When those city lines were built over a century ago the PRR and other steam railroads had immense political power. To prevent trolley operators from competing on the same rights-of-way, the railroads forced most surface transit lines to be built with what\’s called the \”Pennsylvania gauge\”. The rails are spaced 5\’ 2.5\” apart versus the standard railroad gauge of 4\’ 8.5\”. That 6\” difference makes it physically impossible for transit equipment to share tracks – it\’s too far apart for wide-tread wheels but too close to lay mixed-gauge rails.

      Rebuilding the trolley and/or subway lines to standard gauge has been looked at on-and-off since the 1950s. It\’s always been found to be economically impossible.

      1. R3 Passenger says:

        The Broad Street Subway, Norristown High Speed Line, and PATCO are the only rapid transit lines in Southeast PA that are Standard Gauge.

        1. Sick Transit says:

          Correct. The BSL was able to escape the steam RR\’s restrictions because it was entirely underground except at Fern Rock, so locomotives couldn\’t use it. The P&W originally had a steam charter and wasn\’t electrified until a few years after operations began. PATCO used what was once the old Bridge Line to enter Philadelphia, and that line was already standard gauge because it connected to the BSL. Plus in any case it was constructed decades after the Penna. gauge mandates were shot down.

          We\’re almost as bad as Australia, with major rail systems isolated from each other due to ancient political decisions.

  11. Vin says:

    I\’ve always imagined subway lines along 5th Street and 20th Street with stops matching the Broad Street line and surface trolleys along major east-west streets (Fairmount, Spring Garden, Washington)

  12. Zack says:

    This probably makes more sense as a light rail/trolley option (probably mostly above ground), but I think better connection between Southwest Philly and South Philly has some very interesting merits. The two are separated by a river and the gasworks, but you\’d think they\’re in different countries based on the amount of interaction they seem to have with one another. I think there is a line that could do wonders for both in terms of connecting them to one another as well as connecting them better to the Western Suburbs. So here\’s my (far-too-ambitious) proposed line:

    The train or trolley departs from underutilized 63rd Street Station (perhaps even running over to 69th street on existing or parallel tracks, connecting the line to a major hub in order to help assure bidirectional usefulness without a transfer) and runs south along Cobbs Creek to 58th Street where it shares a stop with a new (and much-needed) extra station on the Airport Regional Rail line. It then crosses the river on Passyunk and runs along Oregon Avenue to Columbus, with transfers hopefully to a Passyunk Ave. trolley, the BSL, and (also hopefully) a Columbus Ave. light rail line or subway. (Potentially it could also connect to a PATCO line crossing the Whitman bridge on its way to Turnersville or something like that, though I don\’t feel very confident in my knowledge of where South Jersey could best benefit from enhanced transit options.)

  13. Joseph says:

    Oh, this is more administrative than anything, but: Figure out a proper design guide for the naming and signing of the lines that exist. For instance, the Market-Frankford Line, in addition to being written like that, can be the \”Market Frankford Line\”, the \”MFL\”, or the \”Blue Line\”. The Broad Street Subway can be that, the Broad Street Line, the \”BSS\” (confusingly), or the \”Orange Line\”. The Broad Street Spur can also be the \”Ridge Avenue Subway\”, the \”Ridge Avenue Spur\”, or the \”BSS\”. Not only all of this, but using colored lights and a matrix panel to denote express trains, special trains, etc, doesn\’t help anyone who isn\’t a transit nerd or who\’s used to the system.

    Nothing confuses people quite like big city transit systems, and nothing compounds that confusion like inconsistent naming. Hell, the announcement for connections on Patco can even be this inconsistent. SEPTA should come up with a consistent, canonical naming scheme and stick with it every single place it can (which includes, say, their Google GTFS data, where I\’m told to take the \”MFL\” or \”BSS\”; Google Maps should absolutely use the full name, because people unfamiliar with the system won\’t know what that acronym means, and it doesn\’t show up on signs outside the stations).

    1. Sandy Smith says:

      The colors as names are used internally by SEPTA even now, but a previous effort on the agency\’s part to get ordinary Philadelphians to adopt them flopped, hence the persistence of the older traditional names. The widespread use of \”El\” to refer to the Market-Frankford Line even when in subway further confuses newcomers and out-of-towners.

      Over on another blog, I have a campaign going on to urge SEPTA to restore the R-number designations to the Regional Rail system on the very grounds you argue for a standard, simple nomenclature for rail transit here.

  14. Jasomm says:

    Stoked to see you guys calling out for ideas on this, and to see the many submissions.

    So here goes my pitch; which is a collection of multi-modal ideas that play off each other for a result that is actually feasibly accomplished. E.g. this is a pie-in-the-sky uber-rail-network that could never be done. It is something that is almost entirely build on existing proposals, with targeted augmentations to make everything work better together, and add key features that have not been proposed officially, but have been discussed or studied by the City, DVRPC, or other entities.

    Franklin Square Interchange:
    – Reroute lanes to keep highway traffic off of city streets.
    – The exception to this is I-95 traffic routing to I-676 east. (as is the case now)
    – Franklin Square is expanded, and the Round House is repurposed as part of Independence Mall (museum, gallery, tourist, ect.)
    – N 7th St through the square is abandoned, N 8th St becomes 2-ways between Cherry St. and Spring Garden, and Vine St. (westbound) is continuous from Old City to B.F. Pkwy.

    City Line Elevated Park:
    – The Reading Viaduct is repurposed as a high-line park. And rather than using the below ground rail ROW for an East-West segment of the park, an elevated linear park is build in three segments.
    -The City line segment begins by the Reading Viaduct and has other access points at Broad St., Matthias Baldwin Park, the Rodin Museum, and then tapers to ground level by Eakins oval.
    -“The Great Wall of Chinatown” as I call it, bridges the Reading viaduct section across 676 and Vine St., and has turns east towards Franklin Square with a thin section of elevated trail above an Asian aesthetic masonry wall.
    -The Old City section is build alongside the new elevated ramp from 676W-I-95, then travels along the existing embankments to front street, and then to a Race Street access point.
    – including a trail loop inside Franklin Square that is exactly 1/2mile around, this creates a perfect 5k (3.1mi) uninterrupted route from Kelly Dr/Sedgely Rd to Race St/Delaware Ave. without crossing a single street.

    Patco Center City Loop
    – Using the existing City line ROW, existing at-grade ROW along the Schuylkill, and sharing enhanced rail lines with the Ridge-line spur, Patco can complete a loop through Center City that finally connects the Art Museum and 30th St Station with the rest of Center City and Old City.
    – As part of the Franklin Square expansion, the old station is refurbished and connected to the Septa Chinatown Station
    – After crossing the BFB from NJ, Patco now takes a counter-clockwise loop around the city, beginning and ending with a stop at Franklin Sq. before heading back to NJ. A Clockwise loop serves the city without ever crossing the bridge.
    – New stations are added at Franklin Sq, Broad/Noble, 18th-19th, Eakins Oval, Market/JFK (access to 30th St. Station), and 21st-22nd/Locust.

    Regional Rail Plan
    New lines include:
    – Glassboro-Camden line NJ (planned)
    – Joint Base/Mt.Holly-Camden line NJ (old proposal)(below-grade through Moorestown)
    – Delaware Ave light Rail line: serving the Navy Yard en lieu of a Broad Street Line extention (free transfers) and connecting to the Girard Ave Trolly and Market-Frankfort station in No.Liberties.
    – Roosevelt Blvd elevated line (proposed)
    – Market-Frankfort line extension to connect to Roosevelt Blvd line
    – “CLASS” Closed Loop Airport Subway Service: A tram line that connects all gates, parking, and car rentals to a transfer station with Septa, Amtrak, and eventually High-Speed intercity rail service.
    -South Philly Street Car: loops along Washington Ave to 25th St. Elevated rail to Snyder Ave. for connections to the Delaware Ave light rail and Broad Street Line.

    To explore these (and my DC-Philly-NYC high-speed rail alignment) all in more detail go here:
    (turn off labels, and turn on satellite view for best viewing)

    1. Joseph says:

      <3 PATCO loop <3

      1. Jasomm says:

        Needs less than 1 mile of new tunnel!
        Everything else is there to be used. but engineering the switches, and building the stations are no small thing.

    2. Yo says:

      The loop idea is very cool. One comment about it though. I have no way to prove this, but based on my personal experience over the years, I think people who live in South Jersey generally frequent the areas near the southern part of the loop much more often than the areas in the northern part. Basically, I am guessing that this part offers access to more amenities than the northern part (you have a quick walk to relatively distant places like South St for example). By having a ccw loop, it increases the amount of time it takes to get to these places. I do realize that a clockwise loop would be difficult to implement based on the need for trains to switch sides on the tracks multiple times, so maybe I’m being greedy here, but every minute matters, especially for a commute!

  15. Brian says:

    The rapidly growing Penn/CHOP medical complex along Civic Center Boulevard (which ought to be renamed now that there\’s no Civic Center) sorely needs a line, perhaps a spur connecting to MFL. This could connect to a line from Jersey crossing the Walt Whitman that Zack suggests above; that\’s another badly needed line that could serve growing areas in southern Camden, Gloucester and Salem counties. Such lines have been proposed in the past, perhaps running along the right-of-ways of routes 42 and 55.

    As a Jersey commuter (as you might have guessed), I would also like to see the existing PATCO line extended past 15th-16th Street, at least to University City.

    1. Joseph says:

      Yes to all of this.

    2. Sick Transit says:

      Back in the 70s (those wonderful days of gas lines and rationing) there were proposals to extend PATCO under Locust Street out to Cobbs Creek, where it would pick up the old PRR Cardington branch and hook into the P&W at Upper Darby.

      It would have been mechanically feasible because PATCO\’s operating characteristics were derived from those used on the P&W. Gauges and signalling are compatible and clearances are close enough that equipment could interoperate. Today the Cardington ROW is gone and while you _can_ go from Norristown to New Jersey by rail it takes 3 separate lines.

  16. Brandon says:

    In addition to the 22nd Street Subway and 5th Street Subway that others have mentioned, I would like to see the Locust Street Subway Tunnel utilized for a line that would run under Locust in Center City (adding a stop at 22nd to interchange with the new 22nd Street Subway), stop at the University City RR station, and then run under Spruce through West Philly (stopping at 37th, 40th, 44th, 48th, 52nd, and 58th). It would then turn north and stop at 63rd (under the El or come out of the ground and join the El), before terminating at 69th Street.

    I actually made a map awhile back with a bunch of different lines I\’d like to see, including my Locust Street Subway and some others mentioned here:


  17. Brandon says:

    Additionally, here is an incomplete map of regional rail extensions and new stops I\’d like to see….


    1. Rob says:

      No Swampoodle Connection? And why does the Newtown Line terminate at Churchville? One would think the line north of Bethayres would be easier to revive since it doesn\’t involve the Bryn Athyn NIMBYs and the rail trail.

    2. Brian says:

      Great map! I especially like the extended Wilmington line, as well as the new PATCO lines for Mt. Holly and Glassboro (which really ought to extend as far south as Vineland).

  18. Brian says:

    It\’s not a \”line\” per se, but it seems like there\’s a money-making opportunity for the city or someone else to operate an electric tram line along the underground concourse under Locust, Broad and Market streets. Such a service would be a great time-saver at rush hour.

  19. Niel McDowell says:

    Variant of what\’s already here…

    Use existing RR elevated tracks in Manayunk, bring the line down through East Falls then (somehow) underground down 33rd St past the park, connect w/ the City Branch cut, all the way into CC proper, then as a tube tunnel strike southeast at least as far as South St/Queen Village – maybe head on deeper into South Philly.

    Stops in greater CC could include:

    Fairmount/Art Museum
    Rodin Museum
    Community College
    City Hall
    Wash West
    South St/Queen Village

    Living in Fairmount, this, naturally, appeals a lot to me.

    1. Rob says:

      As an alternative, I would envision the City Branch connecting with the Broad-Ridge Spur, then running straight down 8th or across a completed Loop. Integrates both an unused and underused right-of-way.

  20. Jasomm says:

    side note on transfers… why cant EZPass just create a key-chain dongle that lets you access and transfer between any train line (or bus, trolly, fairy, street car, etc)? Someone They would need the censors installed everywhere, and have contracts with all the transit authorities, but It seems like an obvious solution.

  21. Mike says:

    It seems that we CC loop-minded folks have varying ideas for the route and stops, but nevertheless, the idea is solid. My loop would go river to river under South Street, follow the Schuylkill from the South Street Bridge to the Art Museum, back toward the Delaware either by going under or above Girard (or under Spring Garden), then joining the MFL tracks to Market St but splitting there and finishing the loop at 2nd and South Sts.

    Think of all the neighborhoods finally connected. Think of the effect on tourism, jobs, etc.

  22. Phil says:

    I like to imagine a Passyunk Ave. light rail system. The avenue would be closed to vehicular traffic between Broad and 5th, removing the noise of and pollution of engines from charms of the Passyunk Square, Bella Vista and Queen Village sections of the street. At 5th it would ride northward to Market -connecting to the El – and loop around to 8th – connecting to PATCO and the Ridge Spur – where it would head south again. Tourists from all over the world would gawk at this line as it silently curled passed Indy Hall and the Liberty Bell.

    West of Broad it would go over the P\’Yunk Ave. bridge and eventually link with the airport via Eastwick.

  23. Chad says:

    I\’ve thought of a 5th Street line, too, but I\’d rather see it run subway surface; that way it could be used to resurrect many of the North Philly trolleys. One failure of the subway plans of a century ago was that they prioritized undeveloped areas within the city limits over developed areas and parts of Delaware County that are just as urban as the Northeast. As far as pairing this on the west side of town goes, maybe a Ridge to 22nd to Chestnut Hill East subway would be good. Also, using the Parkway for a light rail subway would work. It could connect to Spring Garden, 29th, Girard/Parkside (via Pennsylvania) then run south under 19th. After that, not sure where I\’d run it.

    More trackless trolley routes to replace diesel buses. In Center City, South Philly, and other ares plagued with double parking, these will be easier to operate. Also better for bicycles. If street space can be taken for light rail right of way that\’s a different story.

    I\’d like to see regional rail lines fare gated to provide PATCO-esque service to the inner suburbs and a consistent express service to more distant areas. The Bryn Mawr line could extend a few extra stops to Radnor, where there appears to be room to construct a flyover to turn trains around. Similar service could be added to Chester (with a flyover at PPL Park so all the lots around there could be used for a park and ride) and Cornwells Heights. Local stops on these rail lines were closed decades ago, but could be reopened with this dual express and local service in place. Whatever flyovers and other infrastructure would be needed to eliminate conflicts with Amtrak and the express commuter rail would be cheaper than all new subways. PATCO would be better off running under the Delaware to connect with these lines. And then the tracks on the Ben Franklin Bridge could run light rail service into Camden. the PATCO trains are too full to pick up passengers there currently.

    Broad Street subway extension wise, in a perfect world I\’d rather see it run under Wyoming and Castor Avenues than the Boulevard. Those are streets you can actually walk on. Also, the Ogontz Avenue line. I think the Chestnut Hill East line would be more useful than Chestnut Hill West because it\’s closer to North Philly and communities along it tend to be more densely built, but if we\’re gating the rail system and improving frequency that could benefit both lines. Swampoodle Connection is needed and would massively improve operations on the Connecting Railway.

    Then, being a Delco native, I think inner suburbs need to be a priority. Not building giant park and ride facilities in the expensive sticks. I\’d like to see the Ardmore, Newtown Square (West Chester is unnecessary) and Willow Grove trolleys resurrected, especially since their rights of way are largely intact. These would have the added benefit of providing faster service to suburban jobs. Also extending the Sharon Hill and Eastwick trolleys all the way to the airport would be great. Ideally in a private right of way trunk that could serve as a trunk for any trolley/light rail routes nearby. Also, light rail from 69th Street to Wissahickon Station to improve access to the City Ave corridor. This could also operate as a trunk to extend a couple choice city trolleys that come close to the area, like the 10 and the 15. I\’d also run a line across Fairmount Park via the Strawberry Mansion Bridge to connect a local North Philly transit line into this; direct access to places with jobs from North Philly would be way important. Lehigh would probably be best for this.

    1. Brian says:

      Re. light rail service across the Ben Franklin… wasn\’t a train running end to end of the Ben Franklin Bridge part of the original plan when it was first built? The end points of the bridge contain train stations that were never used. Today, though, it might be more practical to create a light rail line that simply runs between 8th and Market and the Broadway station in Camden.

      I like the idea of a PATCO tunnel, but running across the Walt Whitman might be cheaper.

      1. Chad says:

        Yes, the Ben was originally built to hold both trolleys and subway trains. There are stations in the abutments and a shell of a station right at Franklin Square. I\’d rather see local transit service integrated into the city transit system as this would improve Camden\’s mobility in the region more.

        As for the tunnel vs. bridge rail service, I doubt that it\’s feasible to run trains over the Walt. Trains are heavy, and they\’re prematurely aging the Ben\’s structure already. And that bridge has much bigger stiffening trusses than the Walt. A tunnel would save money by extending the bridge\’s life, and allow the subway tracks to be modified to handle trolleys, which would be lighter and less damaging to the bridge. The Walt is pretty far out of the way; it could work for old rail lines that head south from Gloucester City, but is a less direct route in. And the nearest rapid transit to connect it to is Broad Street, so you\’d want to complete the South Broad Street Subway express tracks to provide capacity for commuter service, so that would be expensive too for inferior service. Of course, any tunnel for rapid transit is a better use of money than the enormously expensive Amtrak proposal that will carry a tiny fraction of the passengers.

  24. Steve S. says:

    Well, this is the idea to end all ideas:


  25. Jasomm says:

    Here\’s one I left off my original post (because it is a little more \’out-there.\’

    Q: The Patco Center City Loop serves all the main tourist destinations, but how are you supposed to get to the Zoo?

    A: The Fairmount Gondola!… Just take Patco to Eakins Oval, walk less than 1/2 mile around the Mueseum, and ride the Gondola straight to the zoo with views of Boathouse Row, U-City, and Center City from the air


    1. Kathy says:

      Wow – love reading these plans. My only two continuing transit desires are much simpler – an El stop at 20th and Market; and extension of the Broad Street line to the Navy Yard. I\’d love to be able to get to the Navy Yard on transit – it\’s probably possible now, but not practical. And yes, I know one can transfer from the El to the trolley to get to 19th Street, but a 20th St. El stop would be so great for us terminally lazy folks.

  26. Michael S says:

    The real reason for public transit is efficient transport of individuals. I take the rail system whenever I can but the transfers to other modes is almost non existent. Most if not all the of the proposed systems do not take in the costs and use of the systems. Using the airline model for pricing. Greyhound has made a profit by keeping pricing low and has increased use against in face of competition having cut pricing. Bolt and Mega share an outside spot near the U of Pa with no access to any facilities. They turn a profit with minimalist approach and almost no outside help. Septa and Amtrak trains run with empty cars multiple times across tracks that are unused most of the time.
    The city\’s planning arm has repeatedly done future studies based on bad data. They built a new 1/2 billion Convention Center expansion that is hardly used and is now an urban desert. They put a stadium in a area that is a ghost town a majority of the time. Then they ponder the reasons why a casino should not have access to the 4 million people who do frequent that area. Yet, despite all of this to have simple system that allows the lights to be synchronized is largely defective. The future holds great promise with driver less cars and car share plans that can be implemented without any costly changes. Hopefully, Google or Toyota et al can force the change.

  27. Pennified says:

    I\’d be happy just to have a stop on the Market St. Line somewhere between 34th and 40th. Maybe 37th and Market? There\’s a lot of wide concrete sidewalks there, why not make it more convenient to get to the \”heart\” of Penn\’s campus, rather than just the eastern and western edges of it? Of course, I\’ll be long dead before that ever happened!

  28. SZ says:

    I find nothing admiral about New York\’s landmark stylized subway map that forever disconnected it from geographical reality. The current one is a fair compromise. A map is a tool to graphically advise people. A graphic artwork is meant to redirect people.
    That said, with only two subway lines, there is no need here for fancy graphics. But we do need a sensible overhaul of the bus routes, so they make sense, and actually connect neighborhoods to Center City and Center City to the Parkway.
    We have to think about the distant future of this city. Many thousands will be moving here from New York in the coming years, moreso as the shorelines begin to flood too often. Well, maybe not those people, but this the ideal place for urbanites who can afford to commute via Amtrak but cannot afford Manhattan housing.
    In any case, much growth is projected for the city. And if it is inevitable that ocean levels will rise significantly, we should already be thinking about the 22nd century city. This is the ONLY major city on the east coast that will not be flooded by the ocean. Perhaps enough of New Jersey might be flooded we would be granted an ocean view and some salt air? So it would seem inevitable for this to become a much-more populous city.
    We have some very real limitations to confront: narrow streets except for Market Street, only two subway lines, only two and two halves freeways (95, 76, Vine St. and part of the Boulevard), inconveniently placed commuter trains, and indirect bus routes. We have very slow traffic movement. That has to be addressed. We need more freight rail as well, most likely.
    The freight rail lines need to be separated and upgraded. We need to keep lands designated for industry and transportation. If most old industrial buildings are converted to housing, then new areas must be designated for future buildings, with rail access, etc. We need more mass transit, but we must also accept that there will be many more people and many more cars of some kind. The existing freeways may need double-decking and other remedies to move people along. Some streets will likely need to be widened. In some areas, if housing is very derelict, perhaps the blocks between two streets can be emptied and a boulevard created. Something needs to parallel Broad Street going north I would think.
    Something also needs to parallel or supplement Market Street going west.
    I would love to see the trolleys extended to Olde City under Market Street.

  29. Bob M says:

    Years ago when Sears on the Blvd expanded, a station was constructed under the building. This station was built due to the proposed construction of a subway under the Blvd. There was also talk of putting a mono-rail along the Bl

  30. keith says:

    How about the PATCO Glassboro extension gets a spur tunnel under the river to the Navy Yard, the terminal of the BSL, and the airport?

    1. MDS Chill says:

      Geoff, i really like the idea of a 25th St streetcar.

  31. Rail SJ says:

    If we are going to fantasize, let’s extend the Broad Street Subway south from Pattison (yes, I said Pattison) under the Delaware River and Red Bank Avenue to a new Woodbury Transportation Center located on the site currently occupied by the CVS Pharmacy at the corner of Red Bank Avenue and Broad Street. Interchange would be possible with NJT bus routes 401, 402, a rerouted 408, 410, 412, 455 and 463, and the proposed Camden – Glassboro Diesel Light Rail Line. New stations at League Island (former name for Navy Yard), Red Bank (adjacent to waterfront), I-295 Park and Ride (located at site of Red Bank Run apartment complex) and Woodbury T.C.

    Another concept to consider is a loop rail line using standard railroad equipment (i.e. Silverliner 5) on the following route:

    1) along the Northeast Corridor from 30th Street station to Frankford Junction – new stations at Zoo, Ridge Avenue, and Front Street
    2) Frankford Junction to Westmont via the route used by the NJT Atlantic City Rail Line
    3) from Westmont to Gloucester City via open cut (trench) and tunnel along the route of the formerly proposed Westville Cutoff – new stations in Westmont adjacent to PATCO, White Horse Pike, Black Horse Pike, and Broadway/Gloucester City.
    4) from Gloucester City to South Philadelphia via underwater tunnel
    5) along the railroad right of way adjacent to the south side of I-95 – new station at the Stadium Complex.
    6) via underwater tunnel beneath the Schuylkill River and then joining the CSX rail right-of-way along the west bank of the Schuylkill River.
    7) along the CSX rail right-of-way to the intersection with the SEPTA Airport Line right-of-way
    8) along the SEPTA Airport Line and Northeast Corridor to 30th Street Station.

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