I live in the Norristown area and absolutely love to take little trips to downtown Philadelphia. Since I love it so much you would think that I have taken Philly’s mass transit regional rail line, SEPTA, into Philadelphia a thousand times. No, no, up until recently I never took the ‘ol Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority into Philly or anywhere.
Well, I guess I was always a glutton for punishment. For some reason, for years, I simply drove down the dreaded Schuylkill Expressway ( I 76 ) to get into center city. If you aren’t familiar with this torcherous piece of macadam you clearly haven’t lived yet. Traffic is non-stop, stop and go. You are barreling down the road one minute (or one second might be a better way of stating this) and slamming on your brakes the next. Most of the road is two lanes of congested, exhaust filled filth that promotes nothing but road rage and demoralization. I swear I take this road sometimes way late at night and still hit a lot of traffic.
Enjoying a nice drive into town does not apply to Philadelphia, at least not from the west. Enjoying this road would be the equivalent to enjoying cold brussel sprouts marinaded in spoiled milk or simply a good clubbing.
What Other Reasons Did You Drive Into Town?
Well, honestly, I liked the freedom of being able to come and going into town as I wished without being a slave to a train schedule. This perceived freedom, as proved to me over years of travelling that God forsaken road, is a myth. SEPTA regional rail trains even on off peak hours run an hour apart at the latest. It could take you an hour alone just to get off Schuylkill’s Conshocken curve or to find decent parking in the city (especially if you are new to driving in town).
I hate to sound like an ad for SEPTA. Honestly, I could care less about SEPTA, the train system could be called “Satans Serpent” and I’d still be writing this article (a bit reluctantly, but it wouldn’t stop me from taking the train over that, that, ugh, road). Anyway, for one thing, SEPTA upgraded all of their trains recently. They are pretty nice for commuter trains. This is not the same train as the old El that was one of the most wildest rides from Frankford to Center City. These trains are in pretty good shape and fairly comfortable.
Does The Trip Take Long
Nope. Once on the train, from where I get on, it takes a half hour tops. Usually a little less than twenty minutes.
So You Live Near Norristown, Which Station Do You Get On
Well, believe it or not there are two stations in Norristown and I don’t use either of them. I’m not real comfortable, especially later at night at either of those stops. If you have any experience with these train stations in Norristown, let me know. We’d love to hear your thoughts. Plus, from what I understand at least one of these stops, maybe both, aren’t going to be serviced by SEPTA regional rail and instead you’d have to get a shuttle bus to the next stop in Conshohocken.
I actually drive the ten minutes or so to the SEPTA station in Conshohocken. Parking is free and I like the area. Plus there is a restaurant or two near by for a quick bite or drink if I get to the stop too early.
Getting on Board
If you’ve never taken the train before, I’ll give you a quick lesson on SEPTA regional rail. Check out their website and find the destination you want to go to and the arrival time of the train to the stop you are going to get on at. Time it so that you get there about 10 or 15 minutes early in case the train is running early (which isn’t often but still..)
When the train comes, get on board and wait for a conductor to come by. He or she will ask you where you are going. Be sure you know this. There are a number of stops in Philadelphia. The two popular center city stops are Market East Station (near the convention center, Chinatown, Old City) and Suburban Station (kind of on the outskirts of Rittenhouse / Center City / Museum / Fairmount but a good stop if headed to Rittenhouse or one of the adjacent areas).
Unless someone is picking you up and bringing you home, get a round trip ticket, not a one-way. Two one ways cost more than one round trip.
Pay the conductor (exact change is not required, they make change) and enjoy the ride.