The trolley secrets of the Ben Franklin Bridge

One of the coolest views from public transit, in my book, is the view from PATCO as you cross the Ben Franklin Bridge.  (Second place?  Perhaps the unexpectedly sublime view of Tinicum Nature Reserve as you take the R1 into the airport.)

But what about the view of public transit inside the Ben Franklin Bridge?

The Courier-Post takes its readers inside the Bridge to explore the public transit infrastructure inside.

The most surprising stop on the tour, though, is the cavernous chamber beneath the lightning bolt sculpture near the foot of the bridge in Philadelphia.

The shadowy space, bigger than a football field, was designed as a trolley transfer station – but never saw that use.

Read more here.

ACES no more

Remember when the ACES train, that ferries travelers from NYC to Atlantic City (via Philadelphia, naturally) caught fire?

You might be the only one.

Astute readers and riders will recall that ACES was the direct shot train that took gamblers (and others?) from NYC to Atlantic City that was created in February 2009.

Well, last week, the plug was pulled on the old ACES train.  For a full break down of why ACES never quite made it, check out this thoughtful first-person account from Newsworks.

(image credit.)

Baby born on PATH train this morning

On the PATH Train

This morning on the PATH train steaming into Manhattan.  I found this very endearing:

The husband said that with guidance from another woman on the train he was able to deliver the baby at just about 10 a.m. Fellow riders offered encouragement, and the couple said one little girl offered her jacket to keep the baby warm.

PATH officials turned the train into an express, bypassing most stops so that it would get to its final stop, 33rd Street in midtown Manhattan, as soon as possible. Emergency services personnel met the train and took the family to the hospital.

Reminds me of Christmas 2007.

 (image credit: flickr user cubby_t_bear)

Across the River: More Google Transit

Good news for everyone going in and out of Jersey regularly. PATCO schedules have returned to Google Transit.

That means that you can effectively plan trips throughout the region now that SEPTA, NJ Transit, and PATCO are all available.

Smartphone users with GPS will certainly benefit the most from this.

Now, if we could just get BusView running on more routes and on mobile devices, we’d really be on to something.

Across the River: Things Are Looking Grim

There’s no good news for rail coming out of our neighbors to the east, who have two projects in the pipeline that will have a large impact on the Delaware Valley.

The first, and most directly affecting Philadelphia, is the Glassboro-Camden Rail Line. DRPA has announced they want nothing to do with it:

But future spending on the line remains uncertain because of the state’s financial problems, and several DRPA board members questioned the wisdom of using DRPA money for a line that the agency won’t build or run.

The funding questions on the proposed South Jersey light-rail line came a day after the Christie administration indefinitely suspended about 100 other state-funded road and rail projects.

With a Republican in command, the state coffers empty, and lots of NIMBYs who moved next to railroad tracks never expecting trains to run on them, the future of this line is looking grim.

Not mentioned is the fate of DRPA’s proposed Market Street/Delaware Avenue trolley.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the state, Governor Christie is re-evaluating the cost of the 8 billion dollar dead-end tunnel to Macy’s basement, which would free up space in Penn Station. But, a bad plan is a bad plan:

Gov. Christie says unless he has assurances the rail line from Monstrosity by the Turnpike to Macy’s basement is affordable, he will pull the plug. Go ahead, governor. Pull away. The $8.7 billion estimate is a joke. Always was.

If the line can’t be made to go where Amtrak, the other trains and the subways are, Penn Station, kill it.

With the two big regional transit expansion projects on the chopping block, our neighbors to the south will just have to keep plugging up Route 42 every morning for the time being, while commuters headed to New York City need to be content with the Penn Station caverns for a while longer.

Meanwhile, here in Southeastern PA, when it comes to rail expansion SEPTA continues to demonstrate the old adage that if you never expect, you will never be disappointed.

Update: The tunnel is dead.

Across the River: Smokin’ ACES

An ACES Train caught fire just west of Trenton on Saturday on its way back to New York City. The burning diesel locomotive took down about 1400 feet of wire and suspended Amtrak Northeast Regional, Acela Express, and SEPTA R7 service for several hours. Three people were taken to the hospital with minor injuries.

Federal Funding Possible for New DRPA Rail Projects

There’s a policy change happening at the Federal Transit Administration, and it could mean new funding opportunities for DRPA’s expansions in Center City and South Jersey.

Under funding guidelines enacted during the Bush administration, neither of these projects would have met FTA metrics for cost-effectiveness as measured by reductions in commuting time or new riders attracted. But at yesterday’s Transportation Research Board meeting in Washington, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that the Obama administration will revise the guidelines to weigh other factors more heavily.

The projects include a streetcar system that would operate from a reopened Franklin Square Station down Delaware Avenue, as well as a spur along Market Street to City Hall Station. The other project is a new branch of the PATCO Speedline connecting to Rowan University, Glassboro, and eventually Millville. The latter line last saw commuter service in 1971.

Update: Jay from Garden State Smart Growth was nice enough to write in with some information on why this may not be as exciting as it seems on the sufrace.

I spoke with the DRPA last week about this issue (the possibility of federal funds being used for the extension now that the rules have changed) and frankly they didn’t seem that excited about it (I had the same reaction you did to the news of the rule change). Their view was “sure these new criteria are better for our project, but they’re also better for a lot of projects, and don’t necessarily give us a better shot of getting funds, which haven’t really increased as a result”.

Not to say that its still not a noteworthy change, but it may not be enough to secure the financing of the project. A much bigger issue is whether NJ will get their act together in refunding the Transportation Trust Fund, which will be necessary for any future transportation spending (including the $500 million that was ‘committed’ to this project by Corzine). Christie has repeatedly opposed raising new revenue for the fund, and his transition team suggested cutting the PATCO project entirely as a way to save money.

Finally, the DRPA person I spoke to indicated they were operating under the assumption that the line would not be constructed all at once, but rather they would try to do the Camden to Woodbury leg first, and do the leg to Glassboro when they get the money. Which sucks, because I used to live in Glassboro and think it would be awesome.