‘We’re ready when you’re ready’: SEPTA invites riders to return as Philly reopens

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney speaks from behind a podium

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney speaks at the official opening of the refurbished Independence subway stop at 5th and Market streets. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Philadelphia and SEPTA officials on Tuesday celebrated what they called “the reopening of the city” and invited riders to return after more than a year of shutdowns and restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Mayor Jim Kenney was on hand to mark the occasion as the city plans to lift its Safer-At-Home restrictions on Wednesday. That means restaurants, bars, and gyms will be able to operate at full capacity and attendance limits will no longer be mandated by the city.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney (right) joins SEPTA officials and state and local leaders to cut the ribbon officially opening the refurbished Independence subway stop
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney (right) joins SEPTA officials and state and local leaders to cut the ribbon officially opening the refurbished Independence subway stop at 5th and Market streets. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Mask mandates and the 11 p.m. last call for dining is still in effect, but could end as soon as June 11.

“Even though we lost a lot of people and we’ve lost a lot of time and it’s been a period of sadness, I do believe that we can appreciate even more what’s coming and what we have to look forward to,” said Kenney.

The event also comes as SEPTA lifts capacity limits on its vehicles and invites riders back onto the system. Masks are still required, though.

SEPTA General Manager Leslie Richards speaks to reporters
SEPTA General Manager Leslie Richards speaks to reporters about the official opening of the refurbished Independence subway stop at 5th and Market streets. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Last year, the transit authority capped passengers on buses to a maximum of 20 people, or 30 on the double-length articulated buses. Trolley capacity maxed out at 25 customers, and the Norristown High Speed Line at 30.

But as new COVID-19 cases in the city decrease and ridership creeps back up toward pre-pandemic numbers — it is currently reported to be at about 40% — the authority is inviting riders back.

“We just want to let everybody know we’re ready when you’re ready,” said SEPTA General Manager Leslie Richards. “It’s beautiful weather, there’s a lot of history to be seen, a lot of nature to be enjoyed, and please take SEPTA and come out and enjoy it.”

SEPTA Board Chairman Pat Deon speaks from behind a podium
SEPTA Board Chairman Pat Deon speaks at the official opening of the refurbished Independence subway stop at 5th and Market streets. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

The authority also celebrated the official grand opening of 5th Street Station on the Market-Frankford Line. The cleaned, updated station features an exhibit from artist Tom Judd that features historic images from the city.

“Today has certainly been a long time coming in many different ways,” said Richards.

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