SEPTA Pattison Avenue Station, And other Broad Street Subway memories
SEPTA Pattison Avenue Station, And other Broad Street Subway memories
Nov 3 2003, 10:42 PM
Joined: 2-July 03
From: Cherry Hill, NJ
Member No.: 11
I did a quick scan of the chat transcript from Sunday night and saw some conversation about the Pattison Station of SEPTAís Broad Street Subway. Old memories were rekindled. When that station was built, I was just out of college and working for PennDOT. The subway project was part of a huge subway expansion proposal that could be the subject of a text in poor (or maybe brilliant) political planning. Although I was not working directly on the subway project (I-95 in central Philadelphia was my beat), I kept up with the subway work as best I could.
Pattison Station is one of the two stops (with Oregon Avenue) on the BSS South Philadelphia extension. This extension was built in the early 1970ís and opened a year or two after the opening of Veteranís Stadium and the Spectrum. This extension from Snyder Avenue (cut and cover subway) was constructed to serve the emerging sports complex with the projection that the new stadiums, along with the existing but little-used JFK Stadium, would be a huge transit market. The four-track, double level construction of Pattison was specifically designed to permit simultaneous boarding of multiple trains and support two minute headways north to Center City.
In the pre-Vet days, both the Phillies (Connie Mack Stadium) and the Eagles (Franklin Field) played in stadiums that were primarily accessed by public transit. Parking was scarce, and at Connie Mack, downright dangerous. Fans were primarily city residents with good access to the trolley and subway system. Neither Connie Mack or Franklin Field were particularly convenient to transit (a good walk from the subways to each), but despite that, the PTC moved thousands for the games. The new Veterans Stadium would be different. The subway would be extended south to Pattison Avenue. The subway would stop just a short walk from home plate and the west end zone, and just across the street from the new Spectrum. At this location, transit would rule. The BSS would be the ideal way to the stadiums.
But, between the time the stadium and the subway extension were planned and the time both opened (the Vet in 1971, and subway in 1973), a lot changed. The largely urban-resident fan base of the teams became more suburban and car oriented. And the site of the Vet, Spectrum, and then JKF Staduim was largely undeveloped and permitted spacious parking and good highway access. The result was that the use of the BSS for sporting events never reached projections. Access to the complex became largely automobile based. The high-capacity passenger handling capability of the Pattison station was not needed or used for most events and, for many years, the station only used the two upper level tracks and single island platform even with sold-out games.
This year is a somewhat unique situation. The Eagles are now nesting at the new Lincoln Financial Field, located just east of the Wachovia Center (76ers and Flyers, and the former site of JFK Stadium). The Phillies new stadium, Citizens Bank Park, will be opening next spring and is now a huge construction site. And the Vet is still standing awaiting its fate with the explosives experts later this winter. With so many acres now consumed by construction, parking at the stadium complex is unusually limited for this football season. That will be resolved next season when the Vet is gone and the old site is paved for parking, but until then, a full house at the Linc creates gridlock and a parking nightmare. So SEPTA has beefed-up service, and reopened the old lower-level platform and tracks for Eagles home games. At least for one year, the old extension is performing as originally designed.
One last piece of trivia, then Iím done. The Pattison South Philly extension was one of two Broad Street Subway expansions planned at the time. The other project was the Northeast extension. It was to run from the Erie Avenue pocket turnback, through Hunting Park in subway, under the median of the Roosevelt Boulevard in subway, and finally up to Rhahn Street at grade in the median of the forthcoming Northeast Freeway. Homes for the freeway had already been condemned and vacated. And, at the huge Sears warehouse and retail complex at Adams Avenue, a multilevel parking garage was built by Sears with portions of a proposed subway station in the sub-basement. The subway was to arrive within two years. That garage basement station was the only portion of the northeast BSS extension ever built.
Two things went sour. First, the city bond issue, proposed to fund both projects, was barely able to fund the South Philly work alone. Since the mayor at the time was Frank Rizzo, a South Philadelphian through and through, this may not have been an accident. The bond passed with citywide support promising improvements in both geographic areas, the South Philly job was done, and then the bank account ran dry. To move to the northeast project, more money would have to be found, and the mid-1970ís were not great economic times. Compounding that, political support for the NE extension ran dry as well. The NIBMYís were alive and well even in the 1970ís and support for both the freeway and the subway evaporated under shouts that both would ruin the neighborhoods. The subway extension and freeway died a quite death.
Years later, in 1995, the now vacated Sears complex was sold to the Rubin Organization, a major Philadelphia developer. Rubin planned a big-box shopping center on the property. Both the Sears warehouse building and the old garage and retail store were cleared from the site. The warehouse was imploded by explosive demolition. At the time, the Sears warehouse was the largest volume building ever demolished by explosives (since eclipsed by the implosion of the King Dome in Seattle). The retail store and garage were demolished conventionally. Like the original subway project, I had a professional interest in this job since the center required relocation of a major high-voltage transmission line that passed between the retail store and warehouse on the right-of-way of the abandoned PRR Oxford Road branch. I was out to the site often, and during the garage demolition saw the old, never used subway station as the wreckers reached grade. The platform and concrete trackbed were structurally complete and ready for the trains and thousands of commuters who never arrived.
A week later it was all gone, covered by rubble fill, and is now a parking lot.
This post has been edited by BillMagee: Nov 4 2003, 07:17 AM
Nov 3 2003, 11:41 PM
Group: Sr. Admin
Joined: 26-June 03
From: Howell, NJ
Member No.: 2
Thank you for clarifying everything about the Broad Street Subway.
OTOL Board Leader
Nov 4 2003, 02:17 AM
Group: Global Moderator
Joined: 25-June 03
From: San Diego CA
Member No.: 1
A fascinating account, particular for this former Philadelphian who was off fighting wars and so on when what you reported was going on. Thanks!
Regards, HaRRy, San Diego
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