Two blocks over from Fro Gro, a figure emerges from a dimly lit underground stairwell. It's a scene unfamiliar to too many Penn students—the shops that adorn this side of Market Street, the crowded people walking past. There are some students on campus who don't use the Market–Frankford line at all. I used to be one of them.
I didn’t venture onto SEPTA very much during my first semester here. Learning to navigate a city can be daunting, and at Penn, many find it much easier to simply summon a ride via their phones. Unfortunately, many American cities, especially Philadelphia, have a pretty poor reputation when it comes to public transportation. Even so, buses and railroads form some of a city’s most ancient backbones—Philadelphia’s public transportation, around three centuries old, is the sixth–largest in the country today. In 2017, streetcars and omnibuses have given way to trolleys, trains and buses, most run (quite infamously) by SEPTA.
Although so many of these options are nestled in stations right on campus, using public transport can seem intimidating for the unseasoned SEPTA client. But public transport isn’t a pain; it’s an adventure! Here’s a list of a few places to take note of around campus that could get you out of the Penn bubble in minutes (and save you from a hefty Friday night surcharge):
First, tokens: You can get these (usually for cash only) at CVS on 34th and Walnut, or Frogro on 40th and Walnut. Tokens are $1.80 each, but you can also pay $2.25 when getting on. There are long–term plans to phase out tokens and replace them with SEPTA Key Cards, but until then, it’s always good to have a couple of tokens on hand.
As a classic, no–frills primer, the MFL is your friend to getting anywhere downtown in half the time it’ll take your friend’s Uber to trudge through Philly’s one–ways.
Where to get on? 40th and Market streets, 34th and Market streets.
Where does it go? To Center City, Chinatown, Old City and then up to Fishtown (get off at Girard Station)
37th St Station Trolley (11, 13, 34, 36, 10)
This freshman–friendly stop is right on the other side the Upper Quad.
Where to get on? 37th and Spruce streets
Where does it go? All lines head to City Hall on 13th Street. The other way, they go southwest: 11 and 13 go to Darby TC, 34 goes to 64th and Baltimore, 36 goes to 80th and Eastwick. 10 goes Northwest to 63rd and Malvern.
Westbound Trolley (34)
This trolley is tucked off–campus on Baltimore Avenue. Probably more accessible to those already living off–campus (especially on Spruce).
Where to get on? 40th Street and Baltimore Avenue
Where does it go? From 64th and Baltimore to City Hall on 13th Street.
University City Regional Rail Stop
This little–known station near the Penn Museum goes right to and from the Philadelphia Airport. A good place to know when break rolls around.
Where to get on? 34th and Spruce.
Where does it go? Most importantly, to all terminals of the Philadelphia Airport!
30th Street Station
Resting on the edge of University City, this station is the giant beating heart of all Philadelphian transport. All of the lines mentioned in this article (the Regional Rail, Market Frankford Line, and Trolleys) all stop through 30th Street.
Where to get on? 30th and Market.
Where does it go? Pretty much anywhere, including out of state through non–SEPTA train lines like PATCO and Amtrak. This is also where Megabus and Boltbus leave to places like Washington and New York. A note on the Megabus and Boltbus stops: They are both located outside the station, one street after Market, between 31st and 30th streets.