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    Getting around Philadelphia: tips on metro, buses and how to get to the airport

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    Lluis Enric Mayans

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    If you want to explore the city of Philadelphia understanding how public transport works can be useful to save time and money, thus allowing you to organize your itinerary in the best possible way. So here are some tips on subway, buses and connections with the airport which may be of particular interest to those visiting the city for a few days.


    • Metropolitan
      • SEPTA
      • PATCO
    • PHLASH Downtown Loop
    • Bike share
    • How to get to the Philadelphia airport
    • Other tips for exploring the city


    Although Philadelphia is one of the great American cities, its subway network, which is the third oldest in the whole of the United States, is not as extensive as one might imagine. There are only three lines (two managed by the company called SEPTA and one by PATCO). Let's go to see in detail the operation according to the company.


    Since they connect in a particular way to the city center, these will most likely be the lines you will use the most:

    • Market-Frankford Line (MFL): generally indicated by the blue color, starting from the north of Philadelphia it descends to the south and then connects the west part of the city. It has its terminus located in the stations of 69th Street Transportation Center and Frankford Transportation Center. If you have to go all the way, expect to take at least 40 minutes. The frequency of the service is one every about 6 minutes during peak times and one every 10 minutes during the rest of the day.
    • Broad Street Line (BSL): usually indicated in orange, it is a practically straight line that travels from north to south of the city, joining the terminus of NRG Station and Fern Rock Transportation Center. To complete the entire route also in this case it takes about 40 minutes with a service frequency ranging from about 7 minutes during peak hours to 12 minutes during the rest of the day.

    Also operated by the SEPTA there are also various so-called subway lines light surface (or tram), the best known of which is the line Norristown High Speed Line (NHSL, generally indicated in purple) which connects the aforementioned 69th Street Transportation Center with the Norriston Transportation Center, located in the northwestern suburb of the city.

    Others run in the city 7 tram line, which also particularly serve the West Philadelphia area and are named by numbers (10, 11, 13, 34, 36, 101 and 102). These lines are usually marked with the color green.


    Like most large cities, in this case too it is possible to take advantage of a denominated prepaid card SEPTA Key. Let's go and see in detail what are all the types of rates that you can choose during your stay in Philapdelphia.

    • SEPTA Key: as mentioned, it is a rechargeable contactless card with which you can choose the following options:
      • Weekly TransPass valid for 56 rides at a cost of $ 25.50
      • Monthly TransPass valid for 240 rides at a cost of $ 96
      • One Day Convenience Pass: Valid for eight rides in one day for $ 9
      • Travel Wallet: if you do not choose one of the passes listed, you can still deduct the cost of a trip ($ 2) from the credit on the card.
    • Day pass: also known as the Independence Pass, it is valid for 10 rides and has a cost of $ 13 which becomes $ 30 if you also want to use it for your family (up to 5 people).
    • Cash: if you decide to pay in cash you will have to have the exact amount of $ 2.50 with you, also remember that buying the ticket once on board has a higher cost.

    Since the prices and types of tickets available may change over time, the advice is in any case to consult the dedicated section of the official website.


    As mentioned in Philadelphia there is also another subway line called PATCO Speedline generally indicated by the color red. It is actually a service mainly used to connect the city center with Lindenwold and other areas of New Jersey, and is used predominantly by commuters.

    However, there are 4 stops (out of the 13 total) that branch off from Center City towards the Delaware River and, in some cases, it can therefore be convenient to use this service. To travel within Philadelphia the cost of the ticket is $ 1.40. Those who intend to use both this service and that of SEPTA can consider purchasing the Freedom Share prepaid card which can be used on the lines of both companies.

    PHLASH Downtown Loop

    It is a bus service which in terms of route and frequency is very similar to a shuttle service. It is a very convenient way to visit theHistoric Downtown of the city and all the attractions connected to it (including the famous Rocky staircase). The stops are 20 and go from Penn's Landing to the Philadelphia Museum of Modern Art. The frequency of the trips is good, in fact it is a bus every 15 minutes.

    The service is active at different intervals at different times of the year. During the summer season (May to September) buses run daily from 10:00 to 18:00. For the other months of the year, I invite you to check directly on the official website.

    The cost of the ticket is $ 2 per trip, or (if you intend to use it several times) you can opt for the day pass which costs $ 5, or the two-day pass (consecutive) for $ 8. If you have a SEPTA Key card you can use the service for free.

    Bike share

    If the weather permits and you want to get around the city with greater freedom than public transport, you can consider the bike share service offered by the Ride Indego company.

    As in most American cities, the service works by picking up a bicycle at the appropriate stations and, once you arrive at your destination, it must be returned to the appropriate parking lots. It is therefore not possible to leave it anywhere and you will have to check for the presence of these stations near your arrival (they are however many scattered throughout the city).

    The day pass to access the service has a cost of $ 10 and will give the possibility to make an unlimited number of trips within 30 minutes, after which the rate of 15 cents per minute will be triggered. Consider that only those over 14 years of age can access the bike share.

    How to get to the Philadelphia airport

    The airport can be reached via theAirport Line of the SEPTA which makes a very convenient connection to all terminals from various areas of Philadelphia, including that of Center City. The journey time from the city center is approximately 25 minutes, and the one-way fare costs $ 6.75, while if you go up from a station further away in Philadelphia the cost goes up to $ 9.25. Tickets can be purchased at the appropriate automatic ticket machines located at the stations in all terminals.

    The service provides a run every 30 minutes every day of the week, in principle from 5 in the morning to midnight but, for detailed timetables, I refer you to the official website.

    Other tips for exploring the city

    To organize a trip to the city there are other useful resources that I would like to point out: first of all, get an idea of ​​the most significant attractions and symbolic places by reading our tips on what to see in Philadelphia, instead, to understand in which area it is advisable to look for a accommodation, take a look at our tips on where to sleep in the city. If you have the opportunity to choose the period of your trip, read our in-depth analysis on the best time to visit Philadelphia while, if you are looking for some culinary tips, here is our guide to the best restaurants, speakeasies and clubs in the city.

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