SEPTA plans on buying new streetcars that resemble these modern cars in Portland, Ore.

SEPTA plans on buying new streetcars that resemble these modern cars in Portland, Ore.

Daily Dose is a new feature for in which we will discuss interesting news from around the city and more every day. 

A Philadelphia Magazine online story about SEPTA’s plans to overhaul its trolley system contained a mention of Germantown Avenue’s long defunct Route 23 line:

SEPTA is still considering reopening the old 23 trolley route—which ran between Chestnut Hill and South Philadelphia via Germantown Avenue and 11th and 12th Streets—perhaps in a truncated form. Otherwise, the routes and lines should stay the same, according to Comati.

That information came from an interview the magazine conducted with Byron Comati, SEPTA’s director of strategic planning and analysis. In that interview, Comati said SEPTA was planning to replace all of its old trolley cars with modern cars like those that can be found on the streets of Portland, Ore.

Those cars offer a lot of improvements — they are modern, quicker and can be boarded at ground level, making them full accessible.

The tradeoff, however, is that the city’s trolley infrastructure would need to be overhauled to accommodate the new cars.

Trolley supporters in Northwest Philadelphia have been trying to get the 23 line restored for a generation now (if not longer). I’m sure an investment in trolley infrastructure is welcome news.

Still, there is cause for skepticism.

A transformation of neighborhood intersections sounds like slow starter for the historic corridor of Germantown Avenue, where even the installation of solar composting trash receptacles is not without controversy. There’s also the issue of the tight and often traffic choked Avenue accommodating trolley cars that stop at least every other block.

We’d love to know what you think. Want to see streetcars back on the Avenue? Let us know in the comments below.

  • bob

    would love to see the 23 line return.

    BUT mark my words, you heard it here first, SEPTA will use ADA access as the reason for their not being able to do so.

    for SEPTA, ADA is always the excuse for things costing too much or why they “can’t” do what ever it is that the citizens of this city want them to do.

  • Jeff Smith

    Yes to street cars on Germantown Ave. Yes to dividing the line into two parts joining in center city. No to trash compactors which are a total scam. The expensive boxes don’t have a compactor inside them for starters.

  • OttoDelupe

    Trolleys are quaint and adorable, but also stupid. Every street closure, double parked car or what have you blocks them. I’d rather see trackless trolleys which can at least avoid one-lane obstacles and still have the benefit of no emissions.

    • gtn steve

      I agroo with you. I once escaped a line of Rt 23 trolleys jammed up on a snowy night on Gtn Ave by driving illegally on one way streets. Luckily there was no traffic.

  • motorman_1305

    They need to reopen the line with trolleys! The north end and the south end both end at Center City but still follow the old foot print of the line!

  • F.M. C

    While trolleys do indeed have some disadvantages as mentioned below, the advantages probably outweigh them. For one thing, some people would prefer to ride on trolleys instead of buses so they might offer a nicer alternative to driving. But some cities that have brought modern trolleys back have discovered that they also tend to boost economic activity and jobs and generally improve the urban environment.
    Bringing modern trolleys to Philadelphia would very likely provide a boost to the city. It would be nice to have Routes 56, 53 and 50 back too.

  • Thomas Dulisse

    I worked the 23 as a motorman for five years. Trolleys work when they have a dedicated right of way or a wide street like Erie Ave. and Torresdale Ave. for Route 56. Germantown Ave. and 12th Street southbound and 11th Street northbound are quite simply too narrow for the trolley cars. All it takes is one vehicle parked too far out from the curb to halt traffic until the vehicle is moved which of course result in service delays and inconvenience to passengers. 12th St and 11th St are already choked with moving vehicles and clogged on both sides of the street with parked cars. I could see a portion of the 23 line restored to rail service between Germantown Ave. and Bethlehem Pike to the old Germantown Depot and looping back but consider the cost of upgrading the rails and overhead. That would mean street closures and detours that could last for months. Can you honestly believe that Chestnut Hill merchants and residents would endure an inconvenience like that? It happened in Germantown along the stretch of line that extends between Church Lane and Ashmead St. in 2008 and lasted all summer; all new rail, overhead, street lighting and signals plus restoration of the Belgian blocks. The line has yet to used for streetcar service. Millions of dollars were wasted on this project. It was (and is) what is commonly referred to as a “boondoggle.” I loved working the old PCC cars but honestly, Route 23 is not a working rail museum. It’s transportation and it’s not used by Chestnut Hill residents very much. Most of the passengers that use Route 23 are either seniors that can’t drive or can’t afford to drive, folks working poor paying jobs and students that depend on SEPTA to get them to and from work and school.