Advanced tips for how to get in and out of Center City during the SEPTApocalypse: Paoli-Thorndale Line

After two days of travel woes due to the Silverliner V crisis, some patterns have been established in terms of where the worst delays are, and how best to avoid them.  This series will be a listing of the best strategies to avoid the worst.

These will all assume an origin or destination in or beyond Center City Philadelphia. Directions will be for inbound travel, and will be reversible unless noted.  There will be some assumption made that money is available to exchange for time and/or comfort.

Outer Main Line

Amtrak’s Keystone Service is already the best bet from Paoli, Exton, or Downingtown, but if you are within walking distance of Malvern, Whitford, or Thorndale, you can use SEPTA for local travel to an Amtrak station, and catch America’s Railroad for the trip in.  This is actually best for outbound trips in the evening, which are exhibiting greater peakiness of crowding and delays.

West Chester residents used to driving to Exton to catch the train there might want to instead take the 104 bus from Downtown West Chester to 69th Street.

Middle Main Line

Daylesford, Devon, and Berwyn riders might consider a wrong-way trip to Paoli to pick up Amtrak there.  Otherwise, riders from east of Paoli and west of the Blue Route should consider taking the train to Radnor or Villanova, getting off there, and walking to the NHSL stations of the same names.  Take the NHSL in from there to 69th Street for the El into Center City.

Inner Main Line

As surface transit options proliferate with proximity to Philadelphia, the optimal alternative changes rapidly.  For Bryn Mawr and Haverford, I would suggest the 20 minute walk to the NHSL.  At Ardmore, Amtrak is making extra stops, but I recommend the 103 bus to Ardmore Junction instead, fulfilling its traditional role from its origin as a Red Arrow trolley.  In Narberth, the 44 bus to Center City  is likely the best.  And in Overbrook, the walk to 63rd and Malvern for the 10 trolley is far better than fighting through the crowds on the train.

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Wednesday morning service disrupted on PATCO and SEPTA after storm

The violent thunderstorm that swept over Greater Philadelphia Tuesday evening, disrupting all modes of travel during the evening rush, has apparently let the magic smoke out of at least six area rail lines. The most serious outage is PATCO, which is entirely without electric power and does not expect restoration until after the morning rush.

New Jersey Transit buses will have three extra burdens this morning, since in addition to cross-honoring PATCO fares and contending with detours around storm-damaged roads, they will be carrying passengers from the Atlantic City line, which also remains suspended. NJT has, in its usual inimitable way, been less communicative about what is wrong with the ACRL and when they expect it to be fixed. The only statement that affirmatively said that service would remain bustituted through the morning was a tweeted @-reply:

And on the PA side of the river, SEPTA is reporting that the Media/Elwyn and Fox Chase Lines are out entirely, the Paoli/Thorndale Line is out west of Malvern, and the Norristown High Speed Line will be suspended between Norristown and Radnor. The NHSL outage is the only one that has been definitively stated that it will last through the morning. Also, bus routes may be on detour due to debris. As usual, the most up-to-date information can be found on SEPTA’s eye-bleedingly designed system status page.

The US Open is in town, and so is a lot of water

The big to-do in Philadelphia this week is the 2013 US Open, back at the Merion Golf Club for the first time since 1981. The Main Line neighborhoods are thoroughly disrupted, with Ardmore Ave., Haverford Road, and College Ave. all completely closed to traffic, and hordes of spectators descending on any real estate available for hire (including, for the official hospitality and media structures, much of the Haverford College campus). SEPTA is expecting crowding on the NHSL and Paoli lines usually only seen during the Flower Show or similar events, only instead of having the throughput of Market East Station and Center City to work with, the destinations are Ardmore Ave. on the NHSL, and Rosemont on the Paoli Line. Ardmore Ave., the preferred alternative right on the doorstep of the Merion Golf Club, has seen a major renovation in preparation for the expected crowds, including a platform lengthening to accommodate two two-car trains in the station at the same time. Rosemont station is a staging point for shuttle buses connecting Paoli Line riders, and extra trains will be added to the schedule later this week.

Unfortunately, this big party has already hit a snag in its first day: the weather. We’ve seen a lot of rain in the last four days, and the ground is saturated. Not only are the US Open officials preparing backup plans in case the 11th, 12th, and 4th greens get flooded out, SEPTA is having stormwater management problems of its own, diverting passengers from Ardmore Ave. to Haverford stations due to flooding. Not exactly the best foot forward, but the rain is not under the control of either SEPTA or the USPGA. I’ll be keeping an eye out for further rainouts, both SEPTA- and golf-related, but for real-time updates, the best bet is still SEPTA’s Twitter stream.