SEPTA: Give Philadelphia Back Our 24-Hour Subway Service

25Feb
Photo by Conrad Benner

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This guest post comes to us from Conrad Benner, publisher of Streets Dept, and creator of the viral petition asking SEPTA for 24/7 subway service that scorched across the Philadelphia internet last week.

Last Tuesday I started a petition asking SEPTA to run their Market-Frankford and Broad Street line trains 24/7. (A service, by the way, they offered until the early 1990s.) Within two days the petition received over 1,500 signatures, was shared extensively on social media, and saw articles written about it on Philly Mag, Philebrity, and a number of other local blogs. By the end of the week SEPTA announced it would consider reinstating late-night train service.

My name is Conrad Benner. I’m a Philadelphia-native, photographer, SEPTA rider, and creator of StreetsDept.com. Why did my petition receive the sweeping support of so many Philadelphians so quickly, causing SEPTA to respond with such unprecedented speed? Simple: the service is needed. And it’s needed badly.

Growing up in Philly there have been many situations that have found me forced to take the dreaded “Night Owl,” the bus that supposedly runs throughout the night in place of the actual trains: the monthly late-night inventories I had to work at Old Navy when I was in high school, the gelato shop I worked at for 4 years which stayed opened until 1am on the weekends, and, of course – God forbid – whenever I would go out to drink or eat in a different neighborhood.

9 times out of 10 I would take a cab instead of waiting for the Night Owl. As Philebrity put it, "we wouldn’t wish a Night Owl bus on our worst enemy“ and I agree. The Night Owl buses are beyond deficient. They are almost always extremely late. Which at 3am is 100x more annoying than at 3pm. Many, many people on the petition site commented that they have often waited over 50 minutes for one of the buses. And by the time the Night Owl does show up, they are almost always full to capacity. Standing room only. Again, a number of people attested to this, and it has been my experience too.

Lastly, and most importantly in my opinion, it is entirely much less safe to wait for a Night Owl on a random corner of the city, than to wait on a brightly lit platform with cameras and a SEPTA employee or two in earshot. Again, this opinion is shared by many of the commenters on the petition site.

SEPTA’s announcement that they would consider running the trains until 3am on the weekends this summer for a “test period” is a move in the right direction. Of course, this caters pretty much exclusively to the bar crowd, and ignores the needs of nurses, restaurant employees, and other late-night workers. Nevertheless, if this “test run” is successful, I would hope SEPTA would extend the service to 7 days a week.

Expect a further announcement from SEPTA on the possibility of this “test period” in the coming weeks. No, it is not a definite at the moment.

In the meantime, if you agree that reliable public transportation – day or night – is one of the foundations of a flourishing, prosperous city, then sign and share my petition here.

Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 February 2014 @ 11.23
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