The road ahead, transportation predictions for 2014

Newly arrived 2014 is going to be a big year for Philadelphia’s transportation scene. Multiple works-in-progress, each of which have been a long time coming, will be completed. Each stands to have a big impact on how Philadelphians and visitors alike traverse the city.

By this summer, SEPTA plans to have its new smartcard payment system installed on all buses, trolleys and subways. Around that same time, the city hopes to have the first phase of a bike share system up and rolling, and that will include those new bikes.

Thanks to the Schuylkill River Boardwalk, scheduled to open in September, bike share cyclists and others will be able to cruise further south along the Schuylkill River Trail. If walking is more your speed, you may be happy to know that the construction around City Hall’s Dilworth Plaza will also be completed this coming fall. The new Dilworth Plaza will reopen the shortcuts through City Hall and provide a completely transformed public space. 

Unfortunately all of these projects are scheduled for completion in the summer and fall, so we have to wait a few more months. 

SEPTA smartcards

We have heard it before, but hopefully this time it is true. SEPTA will begin replacing tokens with a smartcard payment system this year.

SEPTA is in the midst of building its New Payment Technology (NPT) system. Instead of using tokens, passengers will be able to pay for bus, subway and trolley rides with smartcards or phones equipped with NFC chips.

In October 2012, SEPTA said NPT would be in place on subways, buses and trolleys in September 2013. This past summer, SEPTA gave an adjusted timeline, which promises to have half of the NPT equipment installed on buses, trolleys and subways in the spring of 2014. By the summer of 2014, SEPTA expects to have NPT installed on all buses, trolleys and subways. Installing NPT on regional rail will be a longer process, and the timeline for that is still being determined. 

Bike sharing

Just as Philly is one of the last cities in the country to use tokens on its transit system, Philly is one of the last major cities in the country without a bike share system. This is about to change too.

Bike sharing is on its way to Philly. When it’s fully implemented, the system will have between 150 and 200 stations where between 1,000 and 1,500 bicycles will be docked. The large, upright bicycles will be available for short-term rental so that users may take short trips from station to station. Bicycle stations will be installed in Philly’s central core – from Center City to West Philly and Temple University to the Navy Yard. If the city has its way, a soon-to-be-selected firm will have a first phase of bike sharing up and running by this fall. That initial phase will include between 50 and 70 stations. 

Schuylkill River Boardwalk

Today the Schuylkill River Trail is an off-road bicycle and pedestrian trail that runs along the Schuykill River until it dead ends just south of Locust Street. In 2014 though, the Schuylkill River Trail will grow to include an off-land portion that will carry the trail over the river from its current terminus to the South Street Bridge. The boardwalk of sorts will measure 2,000-feet-long and 15-feet-wide. It will stick out 50-feet from the shore and connect to a 460-foot ramp up to the deck of the South Street Bridge. 

The boardwalk is crucial to plans to extend the Schuylkill River Trail south because in this section between Locust Street and South Street, there is not enough room between the railroad tracks and river to build the trail on land. To keep the trail moving south, the Schuylkill River Development Corporation spearheaded this project to build the trail in the river, bypassing the bottleneck problem. 

Dilworth Plaza

Remember when you used to be able to walk through City Hall, rather than around it? If all goes according to plan you’ll be able to do that again this fall. 

Center City District has undertaken the feat of transforming the outdated, multi-level concrete landscape that used to stand just to the west of City Hall into a modern landscape that appeals to pedestrians passing through and those who might want to linger in the space. The new, level plaza will have a cafe, large lawn, tree groves, programmable water feature and space for 400 benches or chairs. The $55 million project will also makeover the gateways into the subway concourses below. While this work was originally supposed to be complete in the summer of 2014, Center City District has pushed the completion date back into fall 2014. 

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal