24hr Weekend Subway Service on SEPTA is Huge

In case you missed it, SEPTA announced yesterday 24-hour subway service (as in actual trains, not busses) on the weekend is here to stay. No, seriously. I’m not kidding. And that’s huge. Earlier in the week, we got the biggest look we’ve had in a long time at the new fare system, which is now confirmed for 2015 for everything except regional rail, which will be 2016. That’s also huge.

I think the events over this week send a clear message: SEPTA hears us, and they’re working on it. From what I’ve seen from SEPTA this year, I think we have an incredible change coming, the first bits of which are already here. Have you seen the new station at Dilworth Park yet? You should, as it’s a preview of what’s to come. It’s also the first, and currently only, place where you can use the new turnstiles we’ll see in 2015. Last week, I was very excited to see a Xerox van outside of 34th Street. And as I suspected, overnight, 34th Street received test equipment for the new fare system. The ticket machine doesn’t look done, but the turnstile is already powered up in test mode.

And that’s a very good sign. Yes, it’s not configured, but the fact that part of the new system could be installed overnight is very important for its success. Every single turnstile on SEPTA is going to be replaced under the new fare system, and there are quite a few of them. There are also a large amount of stations that will be receiving ticket machines for the first time.

Now, to turn back to the subway, just to be clear, NightOwl busses will still run on weekdays (Friday excepted) and on Sunday. We’re not at 24/7 trains yet like some trolley routes, but we’re at a very good first start. Do I think we’ll see 24/7 trains by 2020, the end of SEPTA’s massive catching up program?

No, actually, I don’t. While it’s clear SEPTA is moving quickly on some overdue improvements, I’d be greatly (and pleasantly) surprised if SEPTA fixed all of its shortcomings overnight, or for that matter, the next five years. SEPTA does have some very big changes lined up, and I’m very happy to see Philly transitioning from a public transit system that has fallen behind the times, to one that will be a leader in some areas. That’s going to be a huge change for SEPTA. However, unless I stick around in Philly after graduating from Drexel (which is June of next year by the way), I won’t get to see many of SEPTA’s improvements.

But, what I’ve seen over the last five years that I’ve lived here in Philly has made me very happy with SEPTA. I’ve yet to see any public transit authority be able to roll out sorely needed improvements in the timeframe that, I think, the public wants to see. Not even Melbourne. And SEPTA’s on the fast track to actually beat Melbourne in some parts of the industry. I still miss and love my Melbourne trams, but I sure as hell don’t miss Myki. Spoiler alert: those new turnstiles on SEPTA? They actually work. And while Melbourne may have  sexy new trams, we have sexy new trains. Oh, and we are planning on new trams too anyway.

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