Philadelphia passengers see PATCO improvements

In 2012, PATCO saw its ridership numbers climb to 10.6 million, its highest level since 1999. The service brought more than 4.5 million passengers to its four Philadelphia stations, including 1.8 million riders to the 15th-16th & Locust Street station and 1.73 million riders to the 8th & Market Street station. 

“We’re really promoting riding PATCO,” said John Rink, PATCO’s general manager. “We see a lot of people off-peak, going to the city.”

As PATCO continues to promote its service to and from Philadelphia, passengers in the city will see elevator and escalator improvements, a total train car overhaul and alignment with SEPTA’s New Payment Technology, which is expected later this year.  

Elevators at 9th-10th & Locust Street Station

Elevator work is underway at PATCO’s 9th-10th & Locust Street station and is expected to wrap up in June. The $4-million project will bring new hydraulic elevators to this station and PATCO’s Ferry Avenue Station in Camden. 

Rink said the project was prompted, in part, because of the need for handicapped accessibility given the station’s proximity to Jefferson University Hospital. He said the construction should not disrupt passengers as it is fairly well confined to the area the elevators are being built, both at concourse level and at street level. 

In the next two or three years, PATCO has plans to install elevators at its 12th-13th & Locust Station. Once that project is complete, all of Philadelphia’s PATCO stations will be accessible by elevator. 

Escalators, new trains and smartcards 

Rink said the next big project passengers in Philadelphia will see is escalator replacement at 12th-13th & Locust Street and 15th-16th & Locust Street stations. 

Early construction on those projects could be seen late this year as the contractors are already doing some of the preliminary work. During construction the platforms will be open to all passengers. 

Beginning this summer, passengers will start to notice PATCO’s complete train fleet overhaul. Twenty-six cars are currently being serviced and tested. In late June or early July PATCO will start swapping out old cars for overhauled cars, six at a time. As the replacement begins, the number of trains in service will remain the same. 

The complete $194 million project, DRPA and PATCO’s largest capital project to date, is set to be complete by 2016. The train car overhaul, designed by LTK Engineering Services, is being carried out by Alstom in Hornell, New York.

PATCO is also working with SEPTA to make sure the New Payment Technology system is compatible with PATCO’s existing open-fare system, which uses the contactless FREEDOM Card. Rink said ideally PATCO customers will be able to use one card on both systems. 

“As they move forward we’ll be working with them to make sure our systems integrate,” he said. 

Construction complete on Philadelphia concourses

Last year PATCO completed the Philadelphia Concourse Improvements project, which brought new and improved lighting, artwork, fresh paint and new epoxy floor finish to the Philadelphia stations. 

“Everyone was blown away by the transformation,” Rink said. 

He said the project turned the once dull concourses into an eye pleasing space. 

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About the author

Christine Fisher, Transportation reporter

From 2012-2014 Christine covered transportation, writing about everything from pedestrian concerns to bicycle infrastructure, bridges, trail networks, public transit and more. Her favorite assignments sent her bushwhacking through Philadelphia’s yet-to-be-cleared bike trails, catching a glimpse of SEPTA’s inner workings or pounding the pavement to find out what pedestrians really think. Christine also covered community news for Eyes on the Street, where her work ranged from food sovereignty to public art and urban greening. She first joined PlanPhilly in fall 2011 as an intern through a partnership with Temple University’s Philadelphia Neighborhoods website. 

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