SEPTA's 49th Street Station
Jul 9th, 2011, by Alex Zorach
This photo shows the 49th Street SEPTA station, located in West Philadelphia at the intersection of Chester Ave. and 49th street. The station is served by SEPTA's Media/Elywn regional rail line, and also intersects the Route 13 trolley and Route 64 bus.
This is not a terribly useful station. The regional rail line that serves the station does not run very frequently, two trains are spaced 15 minutes apart but most are 20-30 minutes apart even during rush hour, and at night these thin out to 1 hour spacings. The line is just a hair faster than the local subway-surface trolley routes: 13-15 minutes to Suburban station, whereas the trolley takes about 17-18 minutes to reach its nearby end station at 13th and Market. The extra 3-4 minutes is well worth the flexibility of not having to check a schedule and being able to catch the frequently-running trolleys. If SEPTA could speed up this line, it might be a more viable way to get downtown. Currently, few people use this station and it is considered a flag stop -- you must flag the train down for it to stop, or for riders, notify the conductor if you wish to get off at this station.
I think it would be cool if this train station could become a hub for transit-oriented development. The area around it is not completely run down, but it is not exactly thriving either. There are some sort of marginally-existing businesses located around the area, and the housing is nicer walking in some directions from this station than others. If there were more frequent train service to this stop, and if it got to and from center city just a hair faster, this station might become a draw for the neighborhood. It would help, however, if SEPTA could speed up the service to this station. The tracks from this station are a direct 3-mile shot to the downtown, and the train stops only twice before suburban station, Market East is the fourth stop. The trip to suburban station could be made in under 10 minutes, assuming modest 30mph average speed and 1 minute station stops. If you ride these trains, you will realize that the station stops are often longer, and the average speed in the city is often much slower.