Broad Street Line
The Broad Street Line (BSL) (also known as the Broad Street Subway (BSS), Orange Line, or Broad Line) is a rapid transit line operated by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority that runs from Fern Rock Transportation Center in North Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Pattison Avenue in South Philadelphia. The latter station provides access to the stadiums and arenas for the city's major professional sports teams, about a quarter mile away. It is named for Broad Street, the street under which it runs for almost its entire length. The line, which is entirely underground except for the northern terminus at Fern Rock, has four tracks in a local/express configuration from Fern Rock to Walnut-Locust and two tracks from Lombard-South to the southern terminus at Pattison (now known as AT&T Station). The line and its trains are owned by the City of Philadelphia and were leased to SEPTA in 1968 after it assumed operation of the city transit systems. Broad Street Line subway cars bear both the SEPTA logo and the seal of the City of Philadelphia to reflect the split ownership-operation arrangement.
Service on the northern half of the Broad Street Line, between City Hall and Olney Avenue, opened on September 1, 1928. While the original subway tunnel had been finished to just north of the present-day Lombard-South station, service to the Walnut-Locust station did not begin until 1930; the Lombard-South station entered service in 1932. Service from that point south to Snyder Avenue began on September 18, 1938. Service to a new park-and-ride station built next to the Fern Rock shops began in 1956, and the line was extended further south to Pattison Avenue in 1973 to serve the recently completed Sports Complex.
Although the Broad Street Line was originally planned in the 1920s to be a 4-track facility for its entire length (Fern Rock portal to Snyder), the tunnel was built with provision for 4 tracks only from the portal to just north of Lombard-South. At the time of opening, the outer 2 tracks were built along this length, whereas the inner 2 express tracks were built only in two sections, from the Fern Rock portal/shops to just south of Olney, and from Girard to their terminus just north of Lombard South. To close the gaps, the two inner express tracks were laid from Erie to Girard in 1959, and again from Olney to Erie in 1991.
From Lombard-South station south to Snyder, the tunnel was constructed differently – only the eastern half of the line was built. The track currently used for southbound trains is actually the northbound express track. The extension to AT&T Station in 1973 continued this arrangement. Space exists under the western half of Broad Street for the construction of the western half of the tunnel, which would include the remaining 2 tracks and additional island platforms for southbound local and express trains. The resulting infrastructure would match the configuration built in the northern half of the line.
Provisions for flying junctions exist in the tunnels at three locations: north of Olney station, north of Erie station, and between Tasker-Morris and Snyder stations. These were to connect to planned but never built extensions to the north, northeast, northwest and southwest. Tracks were laid in the upper levels of the flying junctions north of Olney and Erie; these have been used over the years to store out-of-service trains and as layover points for express and Ridge Spur trains.
The AT&T Station contains a lower level platform, built to accommodate additional trains for large crowds at sporting events. Seldom used in recent years, these tracks are most often used to store rolling stock and work trains. Two of the Broad Street Subway system's stations have been closed: Spring Garden on the Ridge Spur and Franklin Square on the former Bridge Line, now PATCO Lindenwold Line.
The Broad Street Line is one of only two rapid transit lines in the United States outside of New York City to use separate local and express tracks for a significant length, the other being Chicago's North Side Main Line from Armitage north, used by Purple Line express trains.
A two-track spur of the Broad Street Line, known as the Broad–Ridge Spur, diverges from the main line at Fairmount. Originally known as the Ridge-8th Street Subway, the line follows Ridge Avenue, from which it takes its name, southeastward from the intersection of Broad Street, Ridge and Fairmount Avenues to a two-level junction beneath 8th and Race Streets, where tunnels leading to and from the Benjamin Franklin Bridge to Camden connect to it, then proceeds south under 8th Street. At its southern terminus at 8th and Market streets, passengers may transfer to the Market-Frankford Line and the PATCO Speedline. Ridge Spur service to 8th and Market streets began in 1932; in 1936, the Delaware River Joint Commission (now Delaware River Port Authority, or DRPA) began operating "Bridge Line" service to 8th and Market from Broadway and Mickle Street (now Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard) in Camden, New Jersey, with intermediate stops at Camden City Hall and Franklin Square (now closed).
The Ridge-8th Street subway tunnel continues south under 8th Street from Market to Locust, where it turns west and runs under Locust Street to a terminus at 15th–16th Street station; a two-track tail used for layovers extends from 16th to 18th streets. Though this tunnel was also completed in 1932, it did not open for service until 20 years later; Ridge Spur and Bridge Line trains used it until 1969, when a new DRPA subsidiary, the Port Authority Transit Corporation, began operating the Lindenwold High-Speed Line (PATCO Speedline) through the 8th-Locust subway; at that time, a new single-track terminal for Ridge Spur trains was opened on the upper level of 8th and Market station. The track connection between the Ridge Spur and the 8th-Locust subway has been removed and a gate seals the tunnel opening. The spur was built as a replacement for a planned downtown subway loop that would have run west from the current terminus at 18th, turned north under 19th Street, turned east under Arch Street, and connected to the Broad Street main line at Arch Street; work began on this loop in 1915 but was canceled the following year due to lack of funding.
Currently the spur operates Mondays through Saturdays from 6 am to 9 pm, running two-car trains on shortened platforms. This is down from five-car trains operated from the line opening through the 1970s, on full-length platforms. In recent years trains operated on a 24-hour schedule, as well as stopping at the Spring Garden Street station during peak hours. Spring Garden Street station was later closed for safety reasons and low ridership. Safety concerns also jeopardized the Chinatown station, but community concerns kept it open during peak hours with increased police patrols.
The first set of rail cars for the Broad Street subway was built in 1927–28 by the J.G. Brill Company. The Pressed Steel Car Company supplied an additional set in 1938. The first set has had the second longest lifespan of any subway car in Philadelphia, after that of the Market Street cars built for what ultimately became the Market–Frankford Line. Although the line was a host for the UMTA's State of the Art Car program, real replacements for the Broad Street cars did not come until 1982, when SEPTA introduced new "B-IV" cars built by Kawasaki. The B-IVs are currently the only cars operating the line, though a small number of historic cars can be seen in the yard at Fern Rock.
Four different types of trains run along the Broad Street Line:
- Local (L) – trains show white marker lights; stops at all stations
- Express (E) – trains show green marker lights; stops at select stations between Fern Rock and Walnut-Locust
- Broad-Ridge Spur (R) – trains show yellow marker lights; features service via Ridge Ave to 8th & Market from Monday-Saturday
- Special (S) – trains show blue marker lights; features service from all express stations to AT&T Station for sporting and entertainment events
The Kawasaki B-IV cars feature multi-panel signs to indicate the origin point, destination, and type of service. One sign is mounted on each side of a car, set just inside a window to make it visible from both the interior and exterior. A similar, smaller sign is mounted over car-end doors when cab equipment is present; this sign is only visible from the exterior. These signs were a significant improvement over earlier rolling stock which completely lacked such signage.
Each sign consists of a set of 12 panels arranged in 4 rows of 3 columns each (a 3 x 4 grid). Each panel can be illuminated by an incandescent light bulb. As shown above, the upper three rows indicate station names while the bottom row indicates type of service. Trains normally light three panels: two station names (origin and destination) and a type of service (local, express, or special). Only significant stations are represented in the grid.
In 1982, following delivery of the first significant number of B-IV cars, SEPTA assigned these cars to the restoration of express service. The signs were lit to show "OLNEY" "WALNUT" "EXPRESS". In early 1983, with more B-IV cars arriving and placed into local service, signs showed "FERN ROCK" "PATTISON" "LOCAL". After delivery of the last cars, Broad-Ridge Spur trains showed "ERIE" "8th-MARKET" (rush hour) or "GIRARD" "8th-MARKET" (off-peak and weekends). Special trains showed "FERN ROCK" "PATTISON" "SPECIAL" "EXPRESS". Subsequent changes to express and Broad-Ridge Spur service patterns led to the current signage: express trains show "FERN ROCK" "WALNUT" "EXPRESS" and Broad-Ridge trains show "OLNEY" "8th-MARKET" "EXPRESS" (weekdays) and "FERN ROCK" "8th-MARKET" "EXPRESS" (weekends). In 2010, with the renaming of the terminal, all signs were updated with "AT&T" in place of "PATTISON".
A local trip along the entire line takes about 35 minutes. Trains run from approximately 5:00 am to 1:00 am, and a bus service replaces the subway throughout the night, stopping at the same locations as the subway trains.
|Service||Start Time||End Time|
|Northbound train||5:02 am||12:55 am|
|Southbound train||5:00 am||12:41 am|
|Northbound Night Owl bus||12:20 am||5:36 am|
|Southbound Night Owl bus||12:09 am||5:35 am|
|Northbound Broad-Ridge Spur (M-F)||5:45 am||9:15 pm|
|Southbound Broad-Ridge Spur (M-F)||5:25 am||8:48 pm|
|Northbound Broad-Ridge Spur (Sat)||6:38 am||9:22 pm|
|Southbound Broad-Ridge Spur (Sat)||6:15 am||9:02 pm|
All stations are located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Stations along the Broad-Ridge Spur itself are shaded in gray.
|Fern Rock Transportation Center||L E R S|
|Olney Transportation Center||L E R S|
|Erie||L E R S|
|North Philadelphia||L R|
|Cecil B. Moore
|Girard||L E R S||
|Spring Garden||L E S|
|L E S|
|City Hall||L E S||
Avenue of the Arts
|L E S||
Sports & Entertainment Complex
- September 1, 1928: Original section of subway opens from City Hall to Olney Avenue. Fare is 15 cents (equal to $2.06 today).
- April 20, 1930: Extended service from City Hall to South Street.
- December 21, 1932: Open Ridge Avenue Spur, service Girard Avenue to 8th and Market Streets
- September 18, 1938: Extended south from South Street to Snyder Avenue.
- August 8, 1943: Ridge Avenue Spur through-routed with Bridge Line to Camden, New Jersey evenings and Sundays.
- February 15, 1953: Discontinued evening and Sunday through service to Camden, all Ridge Avenue Spur trains run to 8th and Market only.
- September 13, 1953: Evening and Sunday through service to Camden resumed.
- September 9, 1956: Extended north from Olney to Fern Rock (over existing tracks to Fern Rock shops).
- September 28, 1959: Weekday and Saturday daytime express service begins following installation of second pair of tracks north to Erie, Ridge Avenue Spur trains extended from Girard to Erie Monday to Saturday daytime.
- 1965: Discontinued express service except Monday-Friday rush periods.
- 1967: Roosevelt Boulevard subway station built at Adams Avenue in anticipation of extending the subway along Roosevelt Boulevard.
- August 27, 1968: Locust Street-Camden tracks separated from BSL to form PATCO Line. Ridge Avenue south terminal now at a new station at 8th and Market Streets
- April 8, 1973: Subway extended from Snyder Avenue to Pattison Avenue sports complex.
- September 5, 1976: Discontinue Sunday service on Ridge Avenue Spur.
- November 19, 1979: Discontinue express service due to a lack of serviceable cars.
- February 15, 1981: Suspend Ridge Avenue Spur service, due to interference with construction.
- January 3, 1983: Resume Monday-Friday express service, Olney to Walnut/Locust.
- September 6, 1983: Resume Ridge Avenue Spur service.
- 1991: Express Tracks extended from Erie to Olney. Broad Ridge Spur Spring Garden Station closes. Olney Terminal rebuilds.
- March 12, 1992: Fern Rock is expanded with a pedestrian walkway to Regional Rail Lines.
- October 31, 2008: Single day ridership record of 404,000 passengers occurs during Phillies World Series Parade event.
- 2010: Pattison Station name changed to AT&T Station.
Proposed Roosevelt Boulevard extension
Both the City of Philadelphia and SEPTA have studied extending the Broad Street Line along Roosevelt Boulevard, in order to serve a growing population in the northeast section of the city. The city government's archives contain a survey report, prepared in 1948, discussing a need for an extension of the Broad Street line from Erie Avenue to the vicinity of Pennypack Circle (see Roosevelt Boulevard). Subway car destination signage even included station and terminus names for major streets along Roosevelt Boulevard such as Rhawn Street, in the newer "South Broad" cars. An expansion into another part of the City could better use the capacity of the four-track trunk line.
In 1964, the city proposed a nine-mile (14 km), $94 million extension of the Broad Street line along Roosevelt Blvd. in conjunction with a new Northeast Expressway to be built by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. Development was limited to the building of one subway station by Sears, Roebuck and Company in 1967, at its complex on Roosevelt Boulevard at Adams Avenue, at the cost of $1 million, in anticipation of future service. This station was destroyed when the facility was demolished in October 1994. Ultimately the Northeast Expressway was never built, due to lack of funds, and the subway extension remained a paper concept.
On September 10, 1999, SEPTA filed a Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the Northeast Extension with the EPA. In December 2001, the Philadelphia City Planning Commission supported extending the Broad Street Line along Roosevelt Blvd. to Bustleton Avenue, where it would be joined by the Market-Frankford Line, extended from its Frankford terminal.(now the rebuilt Frankford Transportation Center). The estimated cost had ballooned to $3.4 billion.
Currently, the Broad Street Line terminates southbound at AT&T Station at Pattison Ave and three major stadiums. With the redevelopment of the Philadelphia Naval Yard directly to the south, a Health Impact Assessment report PDF was issued in March, 2012 to determine if extending the line to the Naval Yard would be a viable option for commuters. It determined that extending the line to the Naval Yard would more than halve the number of private cars commuting back and forth, with the remainder taking the proposed subway line and/or using a bicycle sidepath. The HIA recommends making an extension of the Broad Street Line a priority. It remains to be seen how Philadelphia city government will act on these findings.
- SEPTA 2013 Annual Service Plan
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: The Broad Street Subway
- Student Voices: Phila. threatens to seize subways from SEPTA
- SEPTA history
- Stations of the Broad Street Subway
- World.nycsubway.org: Philadelphia: SEPTA Broad Street Subway
- City archive on BSS
- Phillyroads.com BSS article
- Secrets Beneath the Streets
- Notice of intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Broad Street Line.|
- Broad Street Line on SEPTA website
- World.nycsubway.org: Philadelphia: SEPTA Broad Street Subway
- Website advocating expansion of Broad Street Subway via Roosevelt Boulevard
- Broad Street Line TU