The Ardmore Avenue stop on the Norristown High Speed Line. On a normal day, that stop has a ridership of about 100. During the Open, it was 10,000, which is the normal daily ridership for the entire Norristown High Speed Line.
How does a town handle a daily influx of 25,000 spectators — double its population — all headed to the USGA’s 2013 U.S. Open? With streets surrounding the venue closed to traffic and no on-site parking, Ardmore, Penn. — a suburb of Philadelphia and home of Merion Golf Club, had a major ally to help move the masses — the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA).
Fortunately, Ardmore and the course are easily accessible by public transportation. Merion Golf Club is nestled alongside SEPTA’s Norristown High Speed Line (NHSL) — the Ardmore Avenue Station is adjacent to the course’s 12th hole (entrance gate 3 for the U.S. Open). On a normal day, the stop has approximately 100 customers. During the championship rounds of the Open, that total grew to 10,000 passengers a day, or roughly the regular daily ridership total of the entire 22-stop NHSL.
Spectators and volunteers were also able to take SEPTA’s Paoli/Thorndale Regional Rail Line to the Open, disembarking at Rosemont Station and boarding free shuttle buses for a 10-minute ride to the links. Rosemont, which has a daily ridership of 340 commuters, was the transit hub for 5,000 people during each of the tournament’s final rounds.
“There were 25,000 tickets per day and we carried more than half of those ticketholders to Merion,” said SEPTA Assistant GM of Operations Ron Hopkins. “The USGA also had a remote parking/shuttle bus system in place for spectators, but it was clear as the tournament progressed that the proximity of SEPTA stops and the ease of making connections to the golf course via public transportation were vital in getting the public and volunteers to and from the venue.”
Given Merion Golf Club’s location in a residential neighborhood, the USGA knew it would need to rely on SEPTA and worked with the agency for over a year in advance of the tournament.
“We had consistent contact with USGA representatives throughout the planning stages and during the tournament,” said SEPTA Chief Officer of Surface Transportation Mike Liberi. “In addition to offering expanded schedules to accommodate the thousands of golf enthusiasts and our regular customers, we also collaborated with the USGA on the construction of a temporary pedestrian bridge over the NHSL tracks that would bring Regional Rail passengers from the shuttle bus drop-off to the course.” SEPTA employee ambassadors were positioned at the agency’s key transit centers and stations to direct passengers unfamiliar with the system to their trains.
Service preparation also needed to include weather contingency plans — although no one was anticipating the torrential rain and severe thunderstorms that hit at the beginning of the championship round’s first day.
“When the USGA closed the gates to spectators because of the lightning, we were able to keep the public on our trains and take them to our stations where they waited for the all clear,” said Hopkins.
The 2013 Open is an example of how public transit can be used as an asset for venues attempting to attract large events — sporting, entertainment, political or otherwise — to their facilities. Such events not only have a financial impact, but often also introduce public transit to new audiences.
“The U.S. Open brought over $100 million to the local economy and allowed us to showcase our multi-modal system,” said SEPTA GM Joseph Casey. “Hopefully the success at Merion will draw similar events to the Greater Philadelphia Region and the SEPTA service area.” RELATED: "Preparing Rail Service for Special Events
In case you missed it...
Read our METRO blog, "Is the future of transit free?"
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.
As the world changes with the rapid advancement of connected devices and technologies, so must the transportation industry. In a business area where change is sluggish, DOTs across the country must adapt quickly to the evolving technologies that are going to impact their operations and budget. There are at least three technologies that will have immense impact over the next two decades on how we travel and how state transportation departments react to provide mobility — connectedness, big data and automation.
Around the world, artwork of all forms adorns transportation centers, stations and bus shelters. While many of these statues, paintings, mosaics and sculptures are permanently installed as part of a station’s architecture, transportation organizations can use their spaces for art exhibitions that not only make transit hubs more aesthetically pleasing for commuters, but also inspire budding artists. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) recently partnered with two organizations to showcase the artistic talent of youth from the Greater Philadelphia region and around the world.