A University City Historic Streetcar Loop

A Proposal Endorsed By
area institutions and organizations

Philadelphia Trolley Coalition
Baltimore Avenue in Bloom
University City Historical Society
Spruce Hill Community Association
Powelton Village Civic Association
Friends of Walnut West Library
Southwest Community Fact Center
Unity Inc.
University of the Sciences in Philadelphia
Baltimore Avenue Business Association
Cedar Park Neighbors
University of Pennsylvania
University City Science Center
Saunders Park Neghbors Association
Presbyterian Medical Center
University of Pennsylvania Medical System
40th Street Area Business Association
University City District
University City Arts League
Delaware Valley Association of Rail Passengers
Squirrel Hill Community Association
list incomplete

old trolley route

1. Background

University City is a vibrant, diverse and densely populated urban neighborhood that is home to three major universities - the University of Pennsylvania (and its medical, nursing, law, dental, veterinary and Wharton Schools), Drexel University, and the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. Its residential areas contain the nation's largest collection of intact Victorian housing stock, with three major National Register Historic Districts - Powelton, Garden Court and the West Philadelphia Streetcar Suburb. All of this, on public transit, only a few minutes from downtown Philadelphia.

University City is also home to other major institutions, including the University City Science Center, major hospitals and heath centers, world-class museums, shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues. Recently, all three universities have made major capital reinvestments in the area: USP and Drexel committed to major campus expansions and Penn to massive investment in commercial, residential and educational improvements. Through the dedicated efforts of the neighborhood's people and institutions, University City is now experiencing a resurgence.

2. The Neighborhood

University City is well served by public transportation for travel to Center City and other neighborhoods. Five Subway-Surface trolleys and one subway provide rapid service, especially to Center City and to the areas west of University City. Bus Routes 21, 30, 31, and 42 provide east-west service, primarily carrying people between the residential area to the west and Center City to the east. Bus Routes 40 and 64 provide north-south service, primarily serving Haddington and South Philadelphia.

However, none of these routes provides convenient, easy-to-use service within the area. Travel from most locations in the neighborhood to another location requires at least two, even three, routes with the attendant inconvenience of changing vehicles. Most of the neighborhood's many amenities are not served by the Subway-Surface trolleys. Attempting to remedy this situation, both Drexel and Penn provide their own private bus service. While noble in intent, the exclusive nature of the private buses has resulted in fewer people on the street and in further separation of the universities and the neighborhood. The lack of useful intra-neighborhood public transportation means that for persons with access to an automobile, driving to other neighborhoods and suburbs is more feasible than patronizing neighborhood establishments.

A complicating factor is the frequent turnover of residents that is characteristic of all university towns. Approximately one quarter of the students are new to the neighborhood every September. The majority of the college students are unfamiliar with public transportation and many of them arrive with at least some fear of urban areas and subways. These factors tend to discourage the students from making full use of what they perceive as 'big, bad, and unsafe' subways and buses.

The University City District's "University City Circulator" ("LUCY") connects the transit hub at 30th Street Station to major employment centers as far west as 38th Street and as far south as the Philadelphia Center for Health Care Sciences with six small, brightly-colored buses, each with 25 to 30 seats, on two routes (one clockwise, one counter-clockwise). Buses run weekdays every ten to twenty minutes beginning at 6:30 in the morning and continuing until 8:00 into the evening, providing a fast and reliable connection for commuter rail passengers and city transit riders alike. Employees of participating institutions and SEPTA pass holders ride free; everyone else pays a special 50¢ SEPTA fare.

Within the area ringed by the proposed route are over 50,000 jobs in education, medicine, science and research, a job base that is already one of the largest concentrations in the Philadelphia region outside Center City and one that promises continued strong growth, but one with severe and growing parking problems. "Lucy" is designed to alleviate such problems by providing a mass transit commuter link among institutions in the eastern half of University City to the 30th Street Station transit hub. As such it addresses a major need, but one distinct from that served by the University City Historic Trolley Loop.

3. The Proposed Service

The proposed University City Historic Streetcar Loop is designed to provide frequent, daily and late night, intra-neighborhood public transportation. It is designed to move students, faculty, residents, visitors and others between off-campus housing and the universities, while simultaneously providing environmentally friendly neighborhood transportation to schools, stores, medical facilities, entertainment venues and its many other amenities. The goal is a distinctive, imaginative service that captures the spirit of the neighborhood and entices institutional, residential and visiting populations to use, patronize and enjoy the area's expanded and renewed commercial and institutional venues.

Making use of the extensive network of existing, active track, streetcars will travel in one direction in a loop through the neighborhood. Passengers will be able to board at any location on the loop and leave at any other location further around the loop. The trolleys would operate from about seven in the morning until after midnight. During most of this period, there would be a trolley approximately every fifteen minutes.

The proposed route approximates a figure eight on its side. It stretches from Powelton Village to the Baltimore Avenue end of the 52nd Street Business District, passing through the hearts of the University of Pennsylvania and the University of the Sciences campuses, the area's major commercial districts and highlights and serves some of the best preserved of the area's distinctive Victorian residential neighborhoods.

Map of proposed trolley route

Service will begin early in the morning to serve persons traveling to work in the area and commuting to distant jobs. Continuing through the day, the route will carry university, public and private school students to their classes, then people to stores and medical appointments. In the afternoon, the trolleys will carry everyone home. Evening service will provide service for the restaurants, cultural venues and nightlife, for evening study activities, and, of course, for persons working second shift jobs.

For the first time in the area's history, aboveground trolley service will connect the disparate parts of University City on a north/south, east/west diagonal, supplementing the east/west Center City/Western suburbs links established when the area was principally a "bedroom community." It will tie Powelton to the other portions of University City; allow workers, residents and visitors to access the now-separated commercial/entertainment zones and provide alternatives to the automobile and repeated attempts to locate available parking for those attending programs at venues like the Sundance Theatre, International House, Annenberg and dining at the area's international restaurant locations.

In addition to connections with each of the five Subway-Surface lines, the Market-Frankfort Subway and the R3 Rail line at 49th Street Station, the loop passes within one block of the following:

The Inn at Penn
The Gables
The Carriage House
Sheraton University City
International House

Art Galleries, Exhibits, and Cultural Centers
Arthur Ross Gallery
Burrison Gallery
Community Education Center
Esther M. Klein Gallery
Gwendolyn Bye Dance Center
International House
M. Samson Center for the History of Pharmacy
Star Harbor Citizens Center
University City Arts League

Banks and Financial Institutions
Commerce Bank
Philadelphia Federal Credit Union
United Bank

Banquet and Conference Centers
Drexel University
First District Plaza
International House

Bookstores and Libraries
University of Pennsylvania Bookstore
Penn Book Center
House of Our Own
Walnut West Library
University of Pennsylvania Library

Churches and Synagogues
46th Street Baptist
Beulah Tabernacle
Calvary United Methodist
Chestnut Street Baptist
Christian Science
Church of the Redeemer
Elmwood Community
First Episcopal District AME
God's Rescue Mission
Greater Enon Baptist
Hickman Temple AME
Hillel at Penn
Imani Temple
Latter Day Saints
Lubavitch Center
Mount Ephraim Christian
Penn Newman Center
People's Baptist
St. Agatha & St. James
St. Francis de Sales
St. Joseph's Baptist
Tabernacle United
University Lutheran
Wayland Memorial
Woodland Presbyterian

Commercial Districts
Baltimore Avenue
40th Street and Hamilton Square
Lancaster Avenue
Sansom Common
Sansom Street
Moravian Shops

Community Gardens and Parks
Cedar Park
Cedar Point Park
Clark Park
Green Thumb Gardens
Saunders Park
Squirrel Hill Gardens
Martin Gardens
Warrington Gardens

Daycare and Nurseries
Community Education Center After School
Drew School Headstart
Elmwood Community Get Set
Hickman Temple Daycare
Infant Friendship Center
Little Folks Care Center
Parent Infant Center
Peake's Little Angels
Philadelphia Montessori School
St. Mary's Nursery
The Consortium Preschool
Westside Community Daycare
Wilson School Headstart

Health, Medical, Dental and Eye Care
Amos Green Optics
Community Health Center 3
Eric Holt Optical
Mercy Wellness Center
New Ralston House Nursing Home
Penn Dental Group
Park Pleasant Nursing Home
Pennsylvania Optometrics
Philadelphia Elwyn Institutes
Presbyterian-U of P Medical Center
U of Penn Dental Care Center
Ronald McDonald House
Scheie Eye Institute
The Consortium
University Square Health Care Practice
University City Center for Eye Care
Veteran's Comfort House

Food Markets
Drexelbrook Food Center
Firehouse Farmers Market
Mariposa Co-Op
House of Spices
Fu Wah Grocery
Baltimore African
Amigo African
The freshgrocer

Government Offices, Special
Services and Police Stations

US Post Office (University City)
Social Security Office
State Representative James Roebuck
State Senator Hardy Williams
US Representative Chaka Fattah
16th District Police Station
Squirrel Hill Substation
University City Police Substation
Cedar Park Mini Station
University City District
Southwest Community Fact Center

Daily Pennsylvanian
University City Review
Center City Review

Research Institutions
Global Interdependence
Institute for Scientific Information
IVY Research Labs
Monell Chemical Senses Center
Science Watch
University City Science Center

Most of University City's rich mix of American and ethnic cuisines - Ethiopian/Eritrean, Thai, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, French, Middle Eastern, Indian, Mexican, Soul Food - are along the loop.

Center for Literacy
Crusaders for Christ Learning Center
Drew Elementary
HMS School
IHM Literacy & GED Center
Proposed Penn Assisted K-8
Powel Elementary
Jubilee Philadelphia Community
St Francis de Sales
Spruce Hill Christian
University City High School
University City New School
University Test Preparation Services
University of Pennsylvania
University of the Sciences in Philadelphia
Wilson Elementary

Theaters, Cinemas, Video Rentals
Annenberg Center for Performing Arts
Cinemagic 3 at Penn
International House
Iron Gate Theatre
Sundance Theatre
Video Library
West City Video

4. Construction Cost

University City is blessed with the densest remaining network of trolley track in the nation. This track currently serves two purposes. First, the track on Lancaster, Baltimore, Chester and Woodland Avenues is used by five Subway-Surface lines to Center City. Second, the track on other streets forms the access route for Route 10 trolleys between Elmwood Depot at 73rd and Elmwood and Lancaster Avenue. Therefore, the University City Loop is a bargain because nearly all the track is already in place. Only three short sections of track and one end-of-line loop need to be built, a relatively minor expense.

The five sections of new track required are as follows: 45th Street, from Woodland Avenue to Chester Avenue 38th Street, from Filbert Street to Lancaster Avenue 36th and Walnut Streets, from 36th and Ludlow to 38th and Walnut An end-of-line loop on Baltimore Avenue between 52nd and 53rd Streets

In addition to track, more trolley cars are required to operate the proposed University City Historic Streetcar Loop. Approximately forty-five minutes is required for each trolley to complete a circuit of the Loop. Provision of reliable service requires the addition of "layover" time that enables recovery from delays. Therefore, planning is on the basis of each trolley making one loop an hour. Thus, one trolley provides service every 60 minutes, two trolleys every 30 minutes, three trolleys every 20 minutes, four trolleys every 15 minutes, five trolleys every 12 minutes, and so forth.

Four cars are required to provide the proposed fifteen-minute frequency. Provision of distinctive cars will give the Loop a distinctive neighborhood character and clearly distinguish it from the through service to Center City. A combination of rehabilitated vintage cars and spare, available Kawasaki LRVs, now being used on the Subway-Surface line, could enable service to begin as soon as track is constructed.

5. Connections to 30th Street and Center City.

The University City Historic Streetcar could immediately have a direct, seamless connection to SEPTA mass transit facilities at 30th Street and those in Center City by means of the SEPTA Route 10 Subway-Surface “portal” at 36th and Ludlow. The “loop” could, on occasion or on regular intervals or on a regular basis, be extended underground to these destinations using
this track. It would thus bring those entering or using the SEPTA system downtown and at 30th Street into University City and its special attractions while providing alternative means for riders in University City to access center city and 30th Street destinations.