New elevators for SEPTA’s 30th Street trolley and El station

Big changes are coming to 30th Street Station. The ambitious Schuylkill Yards project will transform the area, and SEPTA has plans to refurbish one of its busiest stations in tandem with that mega-project.

Sometimes even big things have small beginnings. In this case, as SEPTA told the Art Commission on Wednesday, its station at 30th Street that serves the trolley and subway lines—as opposed to regional rail lines housed in the station just to the east—needs new elevators.

The renderings presented at the Art Commission showed the proposed new glass headhouses on Market Street at 31st Street, as the station stretches the entirety of the city block underground from its namesake street.

The new elevators at 31st Street will be under a rail bridge.

The new elevators will extend from the street to the mezzanine, while another will be built from the mezzanine to the Market-Frankford Line. The elevators from the mezzanine to the two trolley lines will remain in place.

“We need to get our elevators finished before we start work in cooperation with Drexel,” said Warren Williams, project manager for SEPTA.

The structures are stainless steel and laminated glass, with a concrete-clad granite curb at the bottom. At its tallest point the new structures will be 21 feet tall. That kind of height is needed because SEPTA wants the elevators to be of the Machine Roomless (MRL)-variety as opposed to hydraulic elevators.

The commission expressed concern that these taller elevator structures would look clumsy under the bridge, especially because the materials will not match the weighty stonework of the older structure.

But commission chairman Alan Greenberger said they should just let the grey-blue vernacular be its own thing and not try to match the coloring of the bridge.

“The truth is you are not likely to find that stone again anyway and certainly not with that patina,” said Greenberger, referring to the timeworn look of the bridge’s base.

The commission granted SEPTA conceptual approval for the elevators.

SEPTA hopes to have the final design of these elevators completed by May of this year and constriction to be completed a year after that. The architectural vernacular for the elevators at 30th Street will be the same as these at 31st Street, though these were not presented to the Art Commission this month.

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