Posts tagged with "SEPTA":

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New renderings and info unveiled for Philly’s 14-acre Schuylkill Yards project

New images of the Schuylkill Yards project penned for Philadelphia have been released, along with a fancy fly-through film and a new website that details new information. In addition to this, an interactive map outlines 12 of the 14 proposed new buildings for the 14-acre site which lies off the Schuylkill River. The master plan incorporates Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station, the third-busiest Amtrak station in the country. 30th Street will see an influx in usage if New York-based SHoP Architects and Netherlands-based landscape architects West 8 are as successful as the project intends to be. "It is estimated that over the next three decades, renewed interest in rail travel will bring twice as many people into this already bustling transportation hub," read a line from a marketing brochure on the project. SHoP and West 8's plans work around the station seem to place priority on public space (of which there will be 6.5 million square feet, denoted as "greenspace and improved streetscape") in the vicinity. Four public spaces were outlined in the brochure:
  1. Drexel Square will feature an elliptical lawn and supposedly represent the "continuation of William Penn’s original vision for the city’s 'public room.'" The area will be active during the day and night and is set to "serve as the gateway into University City from Center City and 30th Street Station."
  2. JFK Boulevard is due to be transformed into a "shared esplanade" linking 30th Street Station with the Armory building. This space will act as an overspill area for commuters and visitors leaving the station, safely integrating pedestrians, bikes, and cars in the same space, "while providing a rich new greenway for the public."
  3. Market Street, a well-known thoroughfare in Philly, will receive new bicycle and pedestrian lanes, as well as trees that will line the street to counteract noise and pollution.
  4. The Wintergarden. Renders for the space show an elevated, balustrade-encased area overlooking the streets filled with greenery and families. The surrounding area appears to be laboratories, so it is unclear if this is a specific public space. The Architect's Newspaper (AN) reached out to the developers (Brandywine Realty Trust and Drexel University) for clarification and is waiting to hear back.
Meanwhile, a 627,000-square-foot office tower, "3101 Market East," is in line to be built, as is a hotel covering 247,000 square feet. The $6.5 billion scheme is part of the "University City" development which will be home for many Philly-based universities and institutions, including: Drexel University, the University of Pennsylvania, Penn Medicine, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the University of the Sciences, Lincoln University, the Science Center, and the Wistar Institute. According to a press release, the Schuylkill Yards project "has the potential to add 25,000 new jobs and create millions of dollars in new tax revenue." Part of it overlaps the Keystone Innovation Zone, a program started by the state of Pennsylvania to encourage start-up companies to come to Philadelphia. It will give residents and businesses tax benefits (up to $100,000 annually) and "further stimulate investment and growth in the community." This hopes to draw science and research-based companies to University City, which offers a Science Center which is undergoing major changes itself. The center recently expanded its 17-acre physical campus, which has been rebranded as uCity Square, to encompass a total of 27 acres. It houses 15 existing buildings, a 16th  is under construction, and nine additional buildings are planned over the next 10 years. In past coverage of the Schuylkill Yards, AN's Will Barlow noted that in a report from last year, firms that were incubated at the Science Center bring $12.9 billion to the Greater Philadelphia economy each year.
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More details emerge on massive redevelopment for Philadelphia’s University City

University City, a neighborhood in central Philadelphia, on the Schuylkill River, is in for some major changes in the coming decades, thanks to a new redevelopment initiative from Amtrak with the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), BrandywineRealty Trust, and Drexel University. 30th Street Station will be the center point of the overhaul, which is part of a vision to build a dense urban neighborhood over a rail yard along the river.

The redevelopment site consists of a total of 175 acres in University City, 88 of which are occupied by the rail yard. The report and renderings released in the 30th Street Station District Plan are the culmination of a two-year study of the site, which extends east of Drexel’s campus, between Walnut and Spring Garden streets, and northeast from 30th Street Station.

The ambitious plan will be put into place over the course of 35 years, starting with capping off the existing Amtrak rail yard to accommodate a proposed 10 million square feet of development. The area will see a total of 18 million square feet of new development and will include housing for ten thousand residents. It will also offer 1.2 million square feet of commercial space to an individual corporate or institutional tenant.

Currently, 30th Street Station serves as one of the central hubs for Amtrak trains on the East Coast and is also a stop on the SEPTA Regional Rail line. The station building, along with the rail yard, is owned by Amtrak and was last renovated in 1991. One prominent feature of the station is the Pennsylvania Railroad World War II Memorial, a 28-foot bronze sculpture of Michael the archangel.

The project is expected to cost $6.5 billion, with $2 billion going to infrastructure investments and the other $4.5 billion to private investment. Among the infrastructure improvements may be the relocation of a ramp for the Schuylkill Expressway in favor of an intercity bus terminal. A new pedestrian plaza will surround the existing train station.

Preliminary renderings put emphasis on expanding parks and public spaces, as well as adding high-rise commercial and residential buildings to the area. According to the official report released by the district, an opportunity exists for the plaza around the station to become a “central civic space,” akin to the one at city hall. The station saw 11 million passengers last year, and the district expects ridership to double by 2040, following Amtrak and SEPTA improvements. The development counts on this ridership to anchor growth around the station.

The name University City was coined as a marketing tactic, in the 1950s, as part of a gentrification effort, to encourage faculty of the University of Pennsylvania and, to a lesser degree, Drexel University to move there.

This redevelopment isn’t the first sign of growth for the neighborhood. Much of University City is a designated “Keystone Innovation Zone,” a program started by the state of Pennsylvania to encourage start-up companies to populate Philadelphia. The program offers tax breaks of up to $100,000 annually for businesses younger than eight years old operating in the Innovation Zone. New companies in the science and research fields are also drawn to the incubator at the University City Science Center, which is in the process of a major expansion. According to a recent report, firms that were incubated at the Science Center bring $12.9 billion to the Greater Philadelphia economy each year.

Amtrak’s first steps are expected to be finalizing the design of the pedestrian plaza and receiving permission from PennDOT to relocate the highway ramp. More detail on the plan can be found here.

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SEPTA takes 120 cars out of service due to structural defects

Over the holiday weekend, SEPTA revealed that it had taken a third of its passenger rail cars out of service due to "structural defects." 120 Silverliner V cars will be out of commission until crucial repairs are performed. According to an agency spokeswoman, the six-year-old cars were taken off the tracks July 1 after staff noticed some of the cars leaning off-center, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Due to the fleet's overnight shrinkage, some stakeholders raised concerns over commuting delays post-July 4. Those fears of long waits and crowded trains were borne out in full: With 12,000 fewer seats, some commuters are experiencing travel times double and triple the usual length. Local news outlets report riders standing between cars, and recommend alternative forms of transit. Rideshare apps Uber and Lyft are capitalizing on the SEPTA fiasco: Uber's offering 40 percent discount on rides to and from regional rail stations, while Lyft is offering $50 off the first ride for new users. For all the hassle, SEPTA maintains that the car's flaws don't threaten riders' safety, and the decision to take cars offline was done out of an abundance of caution. On most days, up to 15 percent of the system's 400 cars are out of service for maintenance and repair. New trains, including Amtrak's high-speed Acela, have growing pains. In 2010, SEPTA spent $330 million in capital funds to expand its fleet and meet growing demand for regional rail service. The cars, manufactured by a subsidiary of Hyundai Motor Group and assembled in Philadelphia, have been plagued by mechanical issues, namely doors don't function properly in very cold weather, since operations began:
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Construction on Philly’s 40th Street Trolley Portal by Andropogon finally moves ahead

Plans are finally underway to remake Philadelphia's 40th Street Trolley Portal. In conjunction with the city, nonprofit University City District (UDC) will transform the boring, character-free concrete SEPTA trolley terminal, adjacent to the University of Pennsylvania, into a social space for one of Philly's most vibrant areas.  The terminal serves four busy trolley lines, but provides little in the way of comfort or amusement for passengers. Landscaping, by Philadelphia's own Andropogon Associates, will lure pollinators with native plants. The beds will be surrounded by seat-walls, an ingredient in William H. Whyte's famous formula for the social life of small urban spaces. UDC has a positive track record around refurbishing heavily used public space. A 2013 streetscape intervention at Baltimore Crossing created bump-outs at three corners to make the busy intersection safer for pedestrians. Curbed reported that a pedestrian plaza will include tables and chairs shaded by a grove of trees, surrounded by native plants, and flanked by artfully placed boulders. A restaurant with a green roof, art installations, bike parking, improved pedestrian circulation, and cultural programming will round out the redevelopment. Trolley waiting stations will have green roofs, too. The one acre site presents some challenges. For safety, the landscaping has to be low enough to allow clear sightlines, and trees cannot be too tall, or they risk interference with the trolleys' catenary wires. Construction on the 40th Street Trolley Portal will begin in 2016, with an opening set for 2017. UDC states that the project will cost $2.1 million.
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First look at new plan for Philly’s 40th Street Trolley Terminal

Philadelphia is getting tantalizingly close to transforming its 40th Street Trolley terminal into an inviting public plaza. Plans to remake the one-acre space have been in the works for about a decade, but things officially got started in 2012 when the University City District (UCD)—a collection of businesses and institutions near the terminal—was awarded a William Penn Foundation planning grant for the project. Now, with some cash from the energy company PECO and the Natural Lands Trust, the UCD is only $600,000 shy of its $2 million goal. And as the project gets closer to reality, the UCD has shared its latest proposed design with AN. The overall goal of the overhaul, explained Prema Gupta, the director of planning and economic development for the UCD, is to "tighten up pedestrian circulation patterns." Right now, she pointed out, the portal is just a giant swath of concrete. A revamp by Andropogon Associates would significantly change that. The Philly-based firm's design transforms the space with new plantings, seating, overhead lighting, and a café. Planners hope that down the road the space could also be used for cultural events. More details on the plan are expected from the UCD in the coming months. [h/t Curbed Philly]
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Philadelphia Zoo Officials Propose New Train Station

The Philadelphia Zoo, squeezed between heavily trafficked arteries in Fairmount Park, isn’t the easiest place to access by rail service, and with a dip in attendance in the last few years, Zoo officials are pushing for a new SEPTA train station at 34th Street and Mantua Avenue. When the zoo first opened in 1854, there was a train station located right at the entrance, but it closed in 1902 when the Pennsylvania railroad expanded, complicating the public transit options. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that architect Robert P. Thomas, along with other city planners, have put together a new rail feasibility study for the zoo. The $60 million project would entail building rail platforms, relocating tracks, and completing some environmental work. SEPTA officials have already indicated that they would not be able to provide any funding for this project, which means that the Zoo would need to look to the federal government for support. Beyond expanding rail service, the Zoo is opening a new 683-space parking garage this week. This is one of several measures that Zoo officials are taking to mitigate congestion and to make the zoo more accessible to visitors in addition to implementing new traffic signals and pedestrian crossways.
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SEPTA Station Benches: Veyko

Fabrikator Brought to you by:

Bent stainless steel benches in Philly’s SEPTA station are designed to stand the ultimate urban test.

A subway bench never proves itself on the first day. That was one of the things that interested the designers at Veyko, a Philadelphia-based metal fabrication shop, when they set out to compete for a federally-funded Art In Transit commission to design benches for Philadelphia’s 8th Street SEPTA station.
  • Fabricator Veyko
  • Architect Veyko
  • Location Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Completion Date Ongoing
  • Material electroplated stainless steel
  • Process CNC wire forming, 5-axis water jet cutting
“As a fabricator, you often see these blob forms, but my particular interest was taking that form and putting it in the most caustic situation, which is a major urban transit system,” said Veyko founder Richard Goloveyko of the team’s design, which won the commission in 2005. “We wanted to see that form built well enough to exist the wear and tear of a subway station.” The benches have resiliency thanks to their bent wire design. The idea for the shape came from the way subway travelers wait in the station: they sit or they lean. By modeling these positions in Rhinoceros and Solidworks, the team created a map between the two postures, and the curved, skeleton-like form took shape. Bench frames were cut using a five-axis water jet machine, while CNC wire forming bent 5/6-inch stainless steel strands to meet exact parameters set forth in the computer model. Wires are spaced at 1-1/8 inches on-center to create a comfortable, structurally sound design that also allows water and small debris to pass through. The ten, 20-foot-long benches fabricated by Veyko were bolted to station walls using Hilti epoxy anchors, giving cleaning crews easy access to clean the floor beneath. As another sanitary measure, the stainless steel is electro-polished, resulting in a mirror-like finish that resists dirt and bacterial buildup, similar to finishes used on sanitary hospital equipment. The design of the benches discourages anyone from lying on them, a parameter in the competition guidelines, but “virtually everyone uses them differently,” said Goloveyko. Kids tend to nestle into the seat, some people sit on the area for leaning, and some gather in the small alcoves formed by the arched seat. Now, about a year after installation, the benches show no signs of damage—no small feat for a station that sees tens of thousands of travelers a day. Inspired by the SEPTA bench design process, the Veyko team has now entered similar proposals in other public transit competitions across the country. While the SEPTA bench design is too complex to be viable for commercial sale, similar iterations may not be, and the company plans to develop its own line of urban furniture sometime soon. Above video: An example of CNC wire bending.
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The Perils of Subway Naming Rights

Our favorite wonky MTA blog has an interesting and funny post about how quickly and easily naming rights on a public transit system can get, in this case down in Philadelphia. While we all know transit systems are in trouble and should probably go about getting money wherever they can—short of more draconian fare increases, let's hope—it is easy to go too far on the naming rights front, not only into parody but confusion. While it may be a bit unseemly that the MTA tried to charge the Yankees for the rights to have their name at a refurbished 161st stop last year, and that Barclays is actually paying up for the rights in Brooklyn, yet another advertising assault on our public lives. But SEPTA has gone a step further, renaming its Pattison Avenue Terminal to AT&T Station. Unlike the Barclays annoyance, this could be downright confusing because there is no geographical relevance here, nothing AT&T about this station. As another blogger puts it on SAS: "The whole situation raises the frightening prospect in the near future that, instead of riding the Broad Street Subway from City Hall to Pattison, people will take the Coca-Cola Trolley from Pizza Hut to AT&T."
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Very Veyko

With the rising popularity of both design and public transportation, it was only a matter of time before the two joined forces. Here in New York we've gotten fancy bike racks, fancy bus stops, and fancy bike racks cum subway grates. Now, Philly's getting in on the action, with new, nifty seats for some of its SEPTA stations. Designed and fabricated by the fellas at Veyko, a local full-service shop, the benches are meant to evoke the movement of the trains as they fly by—though hopefully not because you've missed your train. They won't be installed in stations just yet, but yo can give them a spin at Penn's Meyerson Hall this Friday night, where they'll be installed as park of Philly Work, an open studio event for the city's designers. Invite after the jump.