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.
The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s Regional (commuter) Rail system was inherited from the Pennsylvania and Reading Railroads and the infrastructure in many sections of the system has been serving the Philadelphia area for more than 100 years. Fifteen years ago, overhead catenary system (OCS) failures were a common occurrence on SEPTA Regional Rail, a result of fatigue cracks and wear. The all too common OCS failures were frustrating for SEPTA customers who occasionally found it difficult to depend on train service for their travels and for SEPTA, whose crews were constantly working to repair and maintain the system.
London is one of the grand cities of the world and in the midst of the cycling revolution. Led by the city’s transport organization – Transport for London, but supported by more fundamental changes in the city’s society, economy and perceptions of lifestyle and mobility, cycling is “on a roll”!
Tech-enabled ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft already appear to be acting as a complement to public transit. Uber analyzed its Los Angeles trip data to in this light. Over the course of a month, Uber found that 22 percent of trips taken near Metro stations took place during rush hour (between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday). This data could be telling us that people are using Uber like they might use bikeshare, as a last-mile and first-mile connection to transit.
Driverless cars have been in the news for quite some time. Last September, I speculated in PC 360, an insurance trade magazine, that insurance premiums for autos could decrease by as much as 40% over the next five years as autonomous cars made travel much safer. I increased my estimate to a 75% decrease in insurance premiums by extending the timeline to 15 years. When I wrote those two articles, I remember thinking how much of a personal paradigm shift was needed to accept a driverless car as safe. Now, it appears that driverless buses are in the near future as well.
What do transit authorities like SEPTA, MBTA, MTA and BART have in common other than transporting thousands, even millions of riders every day? All were recently ranked as four of the U.S.’s 500 “Best Employers” by Forbes magazine.
SEPTA, MBTA, MTA and BART were among 25 organizations included in Forbes’ “Transportation & Logistics” category, along with Southwest Airlines, Amtrak, CSX, Union Pacific and Greyhound. In fact, SEPTA (#33) and MBTA (#49) placed higher than Apple (#55) and SEPTA was the highest ranked company in Pennsylvania.