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SEPTA buses: 6 things to know about the proposed route changes

Editor’s Note: This story was updated on Jan. 25, 2023

SEPTA’s bus routes are getting a complete overhaul throughout the city, including Kensington, and the transit agency is asking for feedback from riders in the neighborhood.

SEPTA Forward’s Bus Revolution project is aiming to make the network of bus routes more reliable and easier to navigate. In October 2022, SEPTA shared its proposed changes to the system after almost two years of analysis and community outreach. 

“One of the key [guiding principles] was that we wanted to make our service easier to use and understand,” said Daniel Nemiroff, manager of SEPTA’s planning programs and the Bus Revolution project. “People that use the system know it, but for people who are not familiar with the system, it’s extremely difficult for them to understand where routes go, when they’re going.”

Nemiroff added that one of the goals of the project is to simplify and streamline the system. He said some issues with existing routes include many sharp turns, which can cause buses to get stuck, especially on narrow streets with parked cars.

According to the SEPTA Bus Revolution Executive Summary, bus routes in North Philadelphia have a high ridership and are among the most productive within SEPTA’s network. However, some of the main challenges in this area are slow speeds and poor reliability. 

Since October 2022, the transit agency has been conducting community meetings to help develop the proposed changes into a final proposal. On Dec. 13, 2022, SEPTA  hosted a virtual meeting for the River Wards neighborhoods and is planning an in-person meeting for early 2023.  

So far, some of the changes have received strong criticism from the public and City Council, which led the Council’s Committee on Transportation and Public Utilities to hold a hearing on Jan. 23, 2023, about the Bus Revolution plan. SEPTA officials say the agency will continue to gather public input over the coming months.

SEPTA also hosted a Winter Transit Talk on Jan. 23, 2023, to discuss findings from its fall engagement events. The transit agency said it would update the Bus Revolution materials with more detailed information on individual routes. 

Here are some key changes in the Kensington area and how to let SEPTA know how you feel about them. Buckle up, and for more information, visit the Bus Revolution website

  1. Routes 3 & 5 would merge into Route 517.

Route 3 and Route 5 would be combined and renumbered Route 517. The new route would have endpoints at Frankford Transportation Center (FTC) and the 33rd & Cecil B. Moore Loop. From FTC, the 517 would take the 5’s current course down Frankford Avenue before turning on Cecil B. Moore Avenue, completing the 3’s existing route westward down Cecil B. Moore Avenue. 

For the Kensington area, this change would suspend the 3’s service under the Market-Frankford Line along Front Street and Kensington Avenue. The train would pick up the lost service between Frankford Transportation Center and Berks Station. 

Additionally, the 5’s service south of Cecil B. Moore Avenue will be the responsibility of proposed routes 550 and 556, respectively. 

Although bus ridership on the 3 is higher than the 5, the merger’s goal is to increase ridership along Frankford Avenue. 

Route 517 expected max wait time: 10 minutes. 

  1. Route 89 would be eliminated in place of new routes.

According to SEPTA, Route 89 has one of the lowest riderships out of all the current bus routes. The route takes several twists and turns, which goes against the Bus Revolution’s proposal of streamlined routes. Under the proposal, the 89’s stops can be done by other bus routes, such as the proposed Routes 527 and 556. 

The existing Route 53 would be extended and renumbered Route 527. The 53’s current course takes Hunting Park Avenue, which passes SEPTA’s Hunting Park and Erie stations on the Broad Street Line, before going up Wayne Avenue through the Germantown neighborhood and back. Under the new Route 527, the service would extend through Hunting Park Avenue to connect the line to Port Richmond. While the 89’s journey down Aramingo Avenue would be eliminated, the new 527 will pass through the neighborhood and still intersect with Aramingo Avenue on its course. 

Route 527 expected max wait time: 15 minutes

The new Route 556 would take over and streamline some of the 89’s route south of Roosevelt Boulevard, cutting through Harrowgate and Juniata Park along G Street and Kensington Avenue. More on the new 556 below. 

Route 556 expected max wait time: 30 minutes

  1. The 57’s northbound route is being reimagined.

According to Nemiroff, the project manager, SEPTA’s study found a higher ridership on the southern part of Route 57, from East Market Street down to South Philly. The study noted its parallel northbound and southbound service to Route 47. To prevent the duplicate services, Route 57 would be split up into different routes. Nemroff said the proposed changes to Route 57 are complicated and will need to be reevaluated. 

As mentioned above, the proposed Route 556 will cover a portion of the Kensington area along G Street. This new service would replace the 57’s North Philly service. The route will also overlap with some of the 57’s current service in Norris Square on 3rd and 4th streets, before veering off toward Penn’s Landing. 

Route 556 expected max wait time: 30 minutes

Other proposed changes include Route 520, which would provide service between SEPTA’s York-Dauphin Station on the Market-Frankford Line to Fern Rock Transportation Center. This new route would cover or parallel most of the 57’s existing route in North Philly. 

Route 520 expected max wait time: 15 minutes

If you’re going southbound, there is also Route 550, which will cover the 57’s southern route past Spring Garden Street. 

Route 550 expected max wait time: 15 minutes

  1. Routes 25 and 73 would have combined service with each other and other routes.

The proposed Route 522 would combine portions of the 25 and 73. The new 522 route would include some of the 25’s current route on Aramingo Avenue between Castor and Girard avenues. Nemiroff said more people prefer riding the 25 over the 89 on Aramingo Avenue, another example of other bus routes being able to take over sections of the 89. 

To go northbound and southbound through Fishtown, Route 522 will no longer pass through Memphis and Cedar streets and instead divert to Aramingo Avenue. This change is because the 25 tended to get stuck on those narrow streets and, operationally, the new route will help the bus move faster and more reliably.  

The new 522’s objective is to provide more frequent service through Fishtown, Richmond, Juniata, and Frankford. 

Route 522 expected max wait time: 15 minutes.

The proposed Route 556 also merges parts of the existing 25 and 57 routes.

Route 556 expected max wait time: 30 minutes

  1. Route 60 would have minimal changes and a new number.

While some routes are expected to receive drastic changes, Route 60 will be renumbered to Route 523 and will mostly stay the same along Allegheny Avenue. The service’s end points will be extended to the Wissahickon Transportation Center and have an earlier cutoff at Richmond and Westmoreland streets in Port Richmond. The direct service to the Sanitation Center at 3901 N. Delaware Ave. will be dropped. 

Route 60 expected max wait time: 10 minutes. 

  1. It’s not too late to let your voice be heard.

SEPTA is hosting an open house for the River Wards to discuss the changes on Feb. 8, 2023. The event will be located at Cione Recreation Center at 2600 Aramingo Ave. from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. 

Moving forward, SEPTA officials will release a calendar of spring engagement events in mid-late February with events beginning in mid-late March.

Lastly, SEPTA’s proposed bus routes aren’t set in stone. Once approved sometime next year, implementation of the changes isn’t expected until 2024. Riders can still share their feedback by emailing, calling 267-291-6045, or visiting the Bus Revolution website.

Editors: Christopher Malo, Zari Tarazona / Designer: Siani Colón