Public Transit in Philadelphia:

Philadelphia's public transit agency, SEPTA, is the 6th largest public transit system in the country. It operates all of the five major types of transit vehicles: regional (commuter) rail trains, "heavy" rapid transit (subway/elevated) trains, light rail vehicles (trolleys), electric trolleybuses and motor buses. It recently added hybrid buses to its fleet.

The most helpful routes are: the Airport SEPTA Regional Rail Line (formerly R1) connecting the airport to Center City; the Phlash tourist bus that operates seasonally providing access to all the main tourist sites; and the Broad Street line serving the stadium area.  As in most major cities, the public buses criss-cross the city in a very confusing manner, but several routes can be useful to tourists.  More details below.  For a complete listing of all routes and schedules as well as current fares, check the SEPTA website.


Two subway/elevated lines service the heart of the city.  The two lines intersect at City Hall (15th street) station for a free connection:

The Market-Frankford Line (the “El” or Blue Line) runs east-west with key stops at 2nd street (Penn's Landing), 5th Street (the Historic District), 11th Street (Convention Center and Reading Terminal Market), 15th Street (City Hall) and 30th Street (connection to Amtrak).  The 11th, 15th, and 30th Street stops all have convenient access to the SEPTA Regional Rail Lines. The 8th Street stop has a convenient connection to the PATCO High Speed Line.

The Broad Street Line (the Subway or Orange Line) runs north-south and will take you from City Hall (15th Street) to the sports arenas at the Pattison Ave stop (Citizens Bank Park, Lincoln Financial Field, and Wachovia Center).

Five trolley (tram) lines also operate in the subway from 13th Street west to the University City area before rising to the surface and fanning out through West Philadelphia.  Free connections to the Market-Frankford Line can be made at 13th, 15th, and 30th Streets; and to the Broad Street Line at 15th Street.  Follow the signs and stay inside the stations to make all free connections.



Over 70 bus routes service the city and surrounding area.  Useful bus routes include: the #38 bus which can take you from Independence Mall to the Franklin Institute and the Art Museum; the #21 bus that can take you West from Penns Landing to University City via Walnut Street and returns East via Chestnut Street; the #44 bus connects Center City to the City Ave hotels and has a stop close to the Barnes Foundation in Merion; the #124 takes you from Center City to the King of Prussia Mall; the #125 also stops in King of Prussia and certain buses continue on to Valley Forge National Park.  Please feel free to inquire on the forum if you have questions regarding buses. 


Phlash Tourist Bus

From May to October each year, the purple Phlash  tourist bus operates in a continuous loop along 27 stops that encompass all of the most popular destinations in Philadelphia, including the historic area, the museum area, the Philadelphia Zoo and Please Touch Museum and more.  Tickets are only $2, or $10 for a day pass, $15 for a day pass for 2 adults and 2 children.  Tickets are discounted if purchased at a Visitor Center.  When in operation, this is a recommended way to easily get around. The One Day Independence Pass ($12.00/individual, $29/Family) is also valid for The Phlash


SEPTA Fares and Pass Deals

Bus, subway and trolley fares are $2.25 per ride in cash, but it's less expensive to buy tokens in packs of 2, 5, or 10 for $1.80 per token. SEPTA offers several passes that may be of use to tourists. The One Day Convenience Pass costs $8 and is valid for 8 trips on bus, trolley or subway on the same day by one person.  The One Day Independence Pass costs $12 for individual, $29 for a family, and provides unlimited rides on all modes of transportation including the Phlash bus, however, it is only valid on Regional Rail after 9:30 a.m. weekdays, but any tiime on weekends. A "family" is defined as, "...up to 5 individuals travelling together, with at least 1 but not more than 2 individuals 18 years or older." If you need to use the Independence Pass to travel to/from New Jersey, the cost is $17 for an individual, and $44 for a family

Seniors ride for free at all times on buses, trolleys, and subways. Prioper ID is required. A U.S. Medicare Card is one of the accepted IDs. Seniors pay $1.00 for Regional Rail, unless traveling to NJ, which is 50% of the weekday fare, which equates to $5.00 from downtown Philadelphia.


Getting from the Airport to Center City 

The easiest and least expensive way to travel from the Philadelphia airport to downtown is via SEPTA Airport Line Regional Rail train.  The on-board fare is $8.00/person weekdays, $7.00/person evenings and weekends.  However tickets bought in advance cost less. You can board a train at several airport terminal stops, and ride the Airport line directly into downtown Philadelphia. The train makes 4 stops: University City (University of Pennsylvania campus), 30th Street Station (connect to AMTRAK, and convenient to Drexel University), Suburban Station (17th & JFK), and Market East (adjacent to the Pennsylvania Convention center and Reading Terminal Market).

If you don't have a ticket in advance, just board the train and pay the ticket taker as he/she comes through the train car. There are two caveats, however: Only cash is accepted, and the $8 fare includes a $1.50 surcharge for on-board payment despite the fact that there is no longer a ticket office or machine at the Airport. If you are travelling to the airport you can avoid the surcharge by buying a ticket at any downtown station. It's more difficult to avoid the surcharge when travelling from the airport. Unless you're already a local resident with access to an opten station, the only option is to order tickets in advance from SEPTA's website which has a 2-4 day turnaround. 

If you are travelling beyond Center City using one of SEPTA's suburban Regional Rail routes, be sure to buy a so-called "via Center City" ticket rather than paying a separate fare for the second leg of your trip.

Seniors pay $1.00 with proper ID, which is required. A U.S. Medicare Card is one of the accepted IDs.  Although the train schedule may look incomprehensible on the website, just remember that the train leaves the airport every 30 minutes, so you shouldn't have to wait too long.  Often, the wait for taxis is even longer than the wait for trains!


Regional Rail

The communities around the city are served by a regional rail network.  SEPTA Regional Rail trains stop at three stations in Center City: 30th Street Station, Suburban Station, and Market East.  The Trenton Regional Rail Line (formerly R7) runs from Center City to Trenton, NJ, where connections are available on New Jersey Transit to NYC.  The Paoli/Thorndale Regional Rail Line (formerly R5) stops in Merion within walking distance of the Barnes Foundation.  Buy your tickets at the train station to avoid on-board service charges.


Waterfront Shuttle to Adventure Aquarium/Battleship New Jersey

A new, low-cost shuttle bus connecting visitors of Philadelphia's historic district to Camden's waterfront is going into operation for the 2009 summer season.  

For $2.00 per person, round trip,  tourists can ride the 20-seat "Waterfront Connection" bus, which leaves the Independence Visitor Center at Sixth and Market Streets, and take a short trip over the Ben Franklin Bridge to the Camden waterfront.

The bus makes stops at the Adventure Aquarium and the Battleship New Jersey.


Public Transit to Longwood Gardens

See this link for directions to get to Longwood Gardens on Public Transit.