Upcoming changes to two of the major bus routes through Roxborough and Manayunk are being greeted with a wait-and-see attitude by area residents — particularly senior citizens — who met with SEPTA officials Monday night.
Beginning June 19, the Route 35 loop will undergo a major transformation, no longer climbing the steep Fountain Street hill and instead using Domino Lane as a connection to Ridge Avenue and the several bus routes with stops there. As a result, the Route 61 will end its hourly trips west on Ridge Avenue to the Summit Avenue bus loop, and will instead turn around at the so-called “Container loop” off Flat Rock Road.
The changes are necessary as SEPTA retires the 30-foot long, 96-inch wide “El Dorado” buses now at the end of their lifespan and replaces them with 40-foot long, 102-inch wide buses that cannot negotiate the narrow streets and tight turns of the current 35 bus route.
As a result, the bus will no longer make stops on Cresson, Fountain or Silverwood streets, and the drivers will take a 10-minute rest break at Ridge and Domino rather than at Leverington Avenue, as they do now.
SEPTA officials outlined the plans during a community meeting Monday night at the Kendrick Recreation Center. Steve D’Antonio, service planning manager for the transit agency, said the altered schedule would be considered “experimental” at first and could be fine-tuned based on feedback from riders, but would be subject to a formal public hearing within a year.
Re-routing the bus off Fountain Street and out of narrow Manayunk streets would also keep the 35 in service more often during inclement weather and allow it to get back into service more quickly, D’Antonio said.
In past years, changes to the 35 — which has had historically low ridership and a below-average financial return for SEPTA — were met with resistance or concern from neighborhood residents.
At this point, neighbors said, SEPTA seems to have little choice.
Eric Saunders, who lives in the 300 block of Hermitage Street, said he felt the current 35 loop route was limited. So while the new route might mean a longer ride, he’s willing to give it a try.
“Having the connection to the Wissahickon Transfer Center will be helpful because it really can get you to a lot of different places,” he said.
In response to questions about the potential impact on elderly residents who use the 35 as a way to reach doctors offices, banks and stores on Ridge Avenue, D’Antonio pointed out that the new route would actually provide access to more shopping, as it would now reach both the Ivy Ridge Shopping Center and the Brown’s Shop-Rite. However, removing the stops on Cresson and Silverwood streets would mean some riders would have farther to walk — in some cases up to four blocks to and from Main Street — to get to a stop.
“We recognize that this will be a hardship on them but we simply can’t operate these buses on these streets,” he said.
Contact Amy Z. Quinn at email@example.com