SEPTA GM Joe Casey and the Phanatic welcoming passengers on board the Broad Street Line subway.
It’s April and shouts of “Play Ball!” can be heard across the country. Nothing beats the thrill of going to the ballpark to see your team pull off a big win — until you get stuck in a major traffic jam after the game.
As someone who frequently travels to ballparks throughout the U.S., — and prefers not to have to rent a car — one of the first features I explore when planning a trip is accessibility to the park via public transportation. In cities like San Francisco and Washington, D.C., trains leave you just steps from the game. And, all teams now list mass transportation options — for better or worse — on their websites.
While public transit is becoming the way to get to a game because many new ballparks are being constructed in crowded city neighborhoods with little parking, taking a bus or “catching the sub” has been the most convenient and cost-effective method of traveling to a game in Philadelphia for decades.
AT&T Station, the last stop on Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority's (SEPTA) Broad Street Line subway, is located in the heart of South Philadelphia’s Sports Complex — where the famed Spectrum and Veterans Stadium once stood and is now the home of Citizens Bank Park, Wells Fargo Center, Lincoln Financial Field and Xfinity Live entertainment center. The subway is a just an 11-minute ride from Center City (or eight minutes on a game-night Sports Express special), taking fans to within just a short walk to their venue. In fact, when the Temple University men’s basketball team played Duke at the Wells Fargo Center, head coach Fran Dunphy lead his team on a Broad Street Line ride from the school’s North Philadelphia campus and walked to the arena (was it a coincidence that the Owls defeated the Blue Devils that night?).
In 2011, fans made an average of 7,400 trips on the Broad Street Line to and from the ballpark each game day — a total of nearly 600,000 trips during the 81-game regular season. That’s thousands of people being in their seats in time for the first pitch because they are not stuck in pre-game traffic or having to leave at the seventh-inning stretch because they are afraid of being trapped in the parking lot even after the game is long over.
“The Phillies attract more than 43,000 fans every night. Add to that almost 20,000 people attending a hockey or basketball playoff game at the same time and road construction projects and you have traffic gridlock at the Sports Complex,” said SEPTA GM Joseph Casey. “However, our customers are well on their way home while their fellow fans are just merging onto the highway or crossing the bridge to New Jersey.”
And in Philadelphia, public transportation isn’t just convenient for people who live within the city’s boundaries. The Broad Street Line is accessible from a number of other SEPTA services, including the Market-Frankford Line, Regional Rail, and bus and trolley routes. South Jersey residents can also access the Broad Street Line from the Port Authority Transit Connection high-speed line.
The Phillie Phanatic leading passengers to SEPTA’s Phillies Express.
SEPTA’s convenience to the ballpark has earned a fan in the Phillie Phanatic. The big green guy joined the agency to celebrate Opening Night of the 2012 season with a party at the Broad Street Line’s Walnut-Locust Station and a ride on the specially decorated Phillies Express train to the ballpark. If the Phanatic could talk, he would tell fans to take mass transit to the game. And fans, regardless of their team allegiance, should listen.
As an experienced designer of streetcar systems, one question I am frequently asked is, "Can a streetcar _____?" The blanks are usually filled with design challenges, such as "turn left from a curb lane", or "go under a low clearance underpass" or "operate at higher speeds and frequencies." More often than not, the answer is YES! Modern streetcar systems, such as those operating in Seattle, Tucson, and Atlanta, are modeled after European trams that are designed to fit within tight, complex, and built-out urban environments. The unique combination of vehicle's size coupled with the ability to operate in the same lanes as automobiles, trucks, and buses allow designers to create safe, efficient solutions to nearly every design challenge that arises.
At the Denton County (Texas) Transportation Authority (DCTA), we’re constantly looking for unique ways to engage with passengers, generate brand awareness and increase ridership. This year with Valentine’s Day being on a Saturday, we saw a great opportunity to launch a campaign in which passengers could ride DCTA’s A-train commuter rail and Connect Bus for free on Valentine’s Day all day by saying “Be Mine” to the agency’s rail and bus operators. With low-trending ridership in February, we needed to find a way to increase ridership and brand awareness within Denton County and surrounding cities. Launching the Valentine’s Day promotion definitely would help us achieve this.
Seeing a canine passenger on mass transit is not uncommon, but the reasons why a dog might catch the train or hop a bus are varied (remember Eclipse, the Seattle Lab mix that uses the bus, often on her own, to get to the dog park?). Most public transit pooches are working —as K-9 officers or service animals. In the Philadelphia region, other animals — in approved carriers only—are permitted to ride the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s buses, trains and trolleys. However, a new pilot program underway by SEPTA allows registered therapy dogs volunteering at two Philadelphia hospitals to use two designated bus routes to travel to their sites.
To be sure, there is no substitute for offering high-quality bus or rail transit service, but many transit agencies skimp when it comes to marketing, outreach, and education and, as a result, the public often has no idea how good the service may actually be. Buses also have an image problem in many communities, which proper marketing could help address. Witness the huge sums spent by automakers in crafting the image of their automobiles.
The Uber website proudly states that, “Uber is evolving the way the world moves. By seamlessly connecting riders to drivers through our apps, we make cities more accessible, opening up more possibilities for riders and more business for drivers. From our founding in 2009 to our launches in over 200 cities today, Uber's rapidly expanding global presence continues to bring people and their cities closer.” Such hype is common on corporate websites, but when the braggadocio is backed up by an article in the Wall Street Journal that discloses a valuation of $41 billion their ambitious words take on relevance.