Hailing from a town of 3,000 I am what you would call a country bumpkin. When I transferred to Temple a year ago, I was sick of driving so much. Plus, parking can often be costly and near impossible to find. Now, a happily -converted city girl, I have embraced Philly’s public transportation system, SEPTA, enthusiastically.
My first week as a SEPTA rider, I was always lost and in severe need of a tour guide. I had no idea what I was doing and I lived off campus from the beginning, so I needed to learn fast.
Luckily I am a SEPTA queen by now. If you take my advice, you too, will soon master Philly’s smelly, little public transportation system.
The transportation system consists of two subway lines and trolleys and buses. Regional Rail, which are the trains above ground, is also available to get to the suburbs and outskirts of the city. No matter where you are, you can usually catch something somewhere if you walk a couple of blocks. To find stops search street corners for red, white, and blue signs that read SEPTA and list bus route numbers or letters.
Paying your way
Unfortunately, to ride SEPTA you need some sort of payment. Since you cannot get change and it costs $2 a ride, cash should always be your last and most desperate form of payment.
Most people use tokens. Two tokens will cost you $2.60 and are available at most check cashing places, Temple’s school store, Rite Aid, the 7-Eleven on campus and occasionally convenience and grocery stores where you can buy in bulk.
If you are taking two consecutive forms of transportation (i.e. a trolley to the subway) you can buy a transfer from the driver or subway attendant for $0.60 on top of your token or cash. This paper will pay for your ride on the next vehicle.
For the daily SEPTA user, a Transpass is the best payment option. This card is available for a month ($70.00), a week ($18.75), or even a single day ($5.50). Buy them at SEPTA customer service windows, some check cashing places and Temple’s school store.
The express train
The express train can get you to your location faster, though it is not something you want to get on accidentally. Express trains are labeled by the marquee above the windows of the subway car -local means non-express. Aside from the marquee, express trains can also be identified by being in the middle of the tracks with no wall against them on the Broad Street line. The Market Street line only uses A and B express trains. To find out which one to take, look at the map posted on the train platform.
Plan your trip
Check out this site: www.SEPTA.org. Go to “Plan my trip,” enter information about when and where you are going somewhere, and SEPTA will provide various options and time quotes on how to and how long it will take to get somewhere. If need be, you can always ask for help. SEPTA drivers, subway attendants, and locals were my best friends when I first started riding SEPTA. Although Philly’s transportation system can be confusing at first, nothing made me happier than freeing myself from cars. So, enjoy your new city. Explore. Public transportation can be a beautiful thing.
Jessica Pritchard can be reached at jessica.pritchard @temple.edu