Good news for residents of North Philadelphia this week: After several months of track work, a streetcar is once again running along Girard Avenue.
For nearly a century, beginning in 1895, an electric trolley ran along this east-west corridor just north of Center City (previously, horse-drawn carts traversed the same route). In 1992, the city’s regional transit authority, SEPTA, replaced Trolley Route 15 with a bus line, citing mounting infrastructure maintenance and repair costs. Thirteen years later, however, the agency decided to restore the streetcar line, investing $56 million into modernizing the aged infrastructure.
The announcement wasn’t met with universal approval. Many wondered why SEPTA didn’t just extend rail service, as a number of areas in both the city and its surrounding suburbs lack access to subway or interurban rail lines. Predictably, there were also spats in certain neighborhoods over what the resorted service would mean for on-street parking.
However, the streetcar’s reinstatement in September 2005 did spur ongoing development in Philly neighborhoods like Northern Liberties, Port Richmond and Next American City’s current home of Brewerytown. (Even two years ago, some Philadelphians would have balked at our plans to move here. Today, we can barely afford a daily lunch at the coffee shop across the street.)
Last fall, service on Trolley Route 15 was once again suspended for construction, costing an additional $1.2 million in improvements. Commuters, meanwhile, had to revert back to bus service.
This week, the trolley came back. A quick call to SEPTA revealed that service has not been restored along the entire corridor, however, and those looking for a ride beyond Frankford Avenue, east of which the trolley turns northeast, will have to transfer to a bus.