Philly’s Ghost Line

If you build it, will they run? Not in Philadelphia, apparently. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports on 3,000 feet of brand new streetcar track and wires on a historic transit street, Germantown Avenue, that’s likely to just gather rust, despite the strong desire of neighbors for streetcars. What’s up? Well, the transit agency, SEPTA, which “temporarily” took trolleys off the street in 1992, says buses are better, never mind what residents think, never mind the $3 million in state funds to put down new tracks and wires at the residents’ request as part of a street overhaul.  This is, as Yogi would say, “deja vu all over again.” SEPTA dragged its feet for years when residents on Girard Avenue demanded that the 15-line there be restored to PCCs. Editorial comment: all San Franciscans who complain about Muni, take a field trip and see SEPTA.

Comments: 4

  1. One of the locals (a railfan from Philly) told me that SEPTA really means “Sneakily Eliminating Public Transit All-over”. When I first visited SEPTA country in 1971 there were streetcars all over the town, 1912 Pennsy MU’s running on the Paoli Local, a veritable railway museum on the Red Arrow lines, PATCO rapid transit to New Jersey and even electric freight operation on PRR/Penn Central. Since then it’s been mostly downhill, except for the suburban electric underground station downtown. At least their baseball team did OK this year.

  2. i agree, there are systems a lot worse than muni. but that’s not the reason why people are complaining about muni, it’s about the leadership of muni they’re always complaining about, not the streetcars. (well, except for our version of the 15)

  3. I think an analogy can be made between this and the E-line:
    The tracks are there, platforms are there, but Muni won’t cough up the dough to actually buy the streetcars.

  4. I don’t believe that the residents who may have been asking for streetcars are also passengers. For the most part the transit passengers don’t care whether it’s a bus or streetcar, they just want something that moves. My impression is that the residents who asked for restored streetcar tracks do indeed want it for the quaint esthetics of their neighborhood, Chestnut Hill, but that those folks at that end of the line do not, and never have, ridden the line very much, certainly not as much as residents of other neighborhoods on the Germantown Ave line.
    I’m also unaware of any resident effort to have the streetcars restored to Girard Ave. My understanding is that was a city government executive decision, not a grass roots neighborhood drive.

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