Pattye Benson

Community Matters


SEPTA No Longer a Numbers Game . . . And We Lose Our ‘R’ . . . Effective Sunday, July 25!

In less than 24 hours, our regional rail numbers will disappear forever. Yes, starting Sunday, July 25, all regional rail lines will be renamed after their end destination. SEPTA will no longer be a numbers game so we lose our ‘R’ and our ‘5’. Our R5 will become the Paoli/Thorndale and Doylestown lines . . . R6 Norristown line will be renamed the Manayunk/Norristown line, etc. etc..

Philadelphia visitors, tourists and new riders claim that the regional rail ‘R’ system was confusing and people have been known to get on the train going the wrong direction but still . . . I’m going to miss our ‘R’ and our ‘5’.

The regional rail is also getting a color change. Trains will be designated by a blue/gray color, instead of their separate colors for each line. I thought it was easier to read the Center City transit maps by following the color-coding! But wait, there’s more change on the tracks.

They’re also making some schedule changes for regional rail including a makeover to the timetable schedules; presumably making them easier-to-read. The designations will be abbreviated with three letters and all schedules will have a name reference box.

To make it even easier to get on the right train, the display signs on the regional trains have also experienced a makeover to show the direction the train is traveling. Our ‘R5 Paoli’ display sign will have a ‘Center City to Paoli’ sign starting tomorrow. Conductors will change display signs to show the outbound destination of their trains when they enter Center City.

I’m not suggesting that SEPTA commuters should panic come Monday morning. In fact, officials from SEPTA are not expecting the changes will impact the regular rider because their commuting routine does not depend on the SEPTA signage. In fact, there will be customer service agents around to hand out new schedules and answer questions during the transition.

Say your goodbyes to the R5 today. . . starting tomorrow, it will be no more.

Starting in July, SEPTA is Taking our 'R'!

Starting in July . . . SEPTA is taking our ‘R’. I had heard rumors and come July. . . it becomes a reality. The Paoli R5 is loosing its ‘R’. SEPTA has made it official, they will no longer use the R-number system for designating the rail service routes. Rails service routes will just be known by their end destination.

A bit of historical trivia – the R-number was devised by a University of Pennsylvania transportation professor in the early 1980’s in anticipation of the opening of the Center City commuter tunnel. The tunnel connected the former separate regional rail networks of the Pennsylvania and Reading train lines and made it possible to operate the trains from one suburban terminal to another via Center City. There have been changes to the system over the years and now only about one-third of the Regional Rail trains make end-to-end trips through the tunnel, which is a primary SEPTA argument to remove the R-numbering system.

With SEPTA’s replacement of the R-number system to the ‘end destination’ system, where does that leave our R5 – will the train line be known as ‘Paoli’ or Thorndale or ‘Paoli/Thorndale’? All outbound trains stop at Paoli but all outbound trains that stop at Paoli do not continue on to Thorndale. (Thorndale has a reduced schedule as a final destination). SEPTA is using the end destination labelling as the way to designate the train routes which works fine with outbound trains from the city. That is once SEPTA determines what the end destination is for the R5 . . . will the train be known as ‘Paoli’ or ‘Thorndale’ or ‘Paoli/Thorndale’? (I already want our ‘R’ back!).

Using SEPTA’s idea of naming the train by its end destination, I then wonder how the inbound trains will be labeled. Some have suggested that SEPTA should just name the trains according to where they end, regardless whether they are inbound or outbound. Schedules can include outbound destinations for inbound trains at the top, just below or above the train number. Trains terminating in Center City can be labeled “30th Street” or “Temple University” accordingly, depending on which direction they’re headed.

But there’s more . . . if you are that person who depends on SEPTA’s color-coding to make it easier to get around, that too is coming to an end. Come July there will be no more color-coding of individual routes which are currently on schedules and signage. The color codes will be replaced by the light bluish-gray color that is now used in the Center City District.

All of this sounds very confusing to me – why can’t we just keep our ‘R’?

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