South Philadelphia residents, hear that? It’s the roar of SEPTA buses operating in place of trackless trolleys eight years after SEPTA removed them from service.
In 2003, SEPTA replaced the trackless trolleys with buses on the Routes 29 and 79 due to construction detours and the need for new trolleys, but it has kept the buses in South Philadelphia while adding the trolleys in the Northeast. Residents want the trolleys back and have refused to let the issue die.
“I just finished writing a letter to Mayor Nutter,” said Susan Patrone, former president of the Passyunk Square Civic Association, who has been front and center on the fight. “The [trolleys are] quiet, they’re not diesel dependent. They’re just as important to the landscape as our buildings.”
The Clean Air Council and transit advocacy groups like the Delaware Valley Citizens Transportation Committee have also called for restoration of the trolleys. SEPTA admits that trolleys could save money in the long run, but has said it would cost about $50 million for the two routes, including the purchase of 23 vehicles and improvements to equipment and substations.
“It’s not a situation where we’ve ruled it out or said that we’d never go back to trackless, but it has been a number of years since we made the switch to buses there, and it’s a funding issue,” said SEPTA spokesman Andrew Busch.
The Route 79 has been extended to Pier 70 Shopping Center on Columbus Boulevard, which would require additional infrastructure, Busch said.