On Sunday, June 15, SEPTA launched a pilot of weekend overnight service on the Broad Street and Market Frankford Lines. A total of 5,792 riders were counted as they entered the system between midnight and 5:00 am on the first night of subway service. This represents a 35 percent increase over the average of 4,301 riders who used Nite Owl bus service for travel on Sunday mornings.
SEPTA staff reported “a lot of young people” choosing the subway with high ridership counts observed at the 40th, 2nd, Spring Garden, and Girard Stations on the Market-Frankford Line. Ridership on both lines peaked between midnight and 2:00 am, with numbers of riders declining more than half after those hours. According to Chief Thomas Nestel who joined patrol for the entire overnight period, no crime was reported or observed by SEPTA Police or operational staff on the subway system.
Pilot trains operated every 20 minutes from 12:01 am until 5:00 am, with arrival times staggered at the City Hall/15th Street Stations by 10 minutes to accommodate transfers. Some minor delays were reported, mostly due to passengers who were unfamiliar with boarding procedures at non cashier stations. “Signs are posted in each station informing passengers of Nite Owl boarding locations,” said Assistant General Manager for Operations, Ronald Hopkins. “We expect that our riders will quickly become familiar with the overnight boarding pattern as the pilot program continues.”
Aimed at accommodating the demand for subway service among late night riders on Fridays and Saturdays, the weekend overnight service pilot will continue through Labor Day, replacing the existing bus service that operates during that time. SEPTA staff will evaluate ridership, staffing costs, overall security and other factors collected during the pilot to determine if subway operation will continue past that date. “Based on these initial reports – SEPTA is pleased that pilot operation of weekend service on the Broad Street and Market-Frankford Lines appears to be a popular option for late night travel,” said SEPTA General Manager Joseph M. Casey. “We hope that the pilot continues to be convenient not only for existing passengers, but new riders attracted by additional hours of subway operation.”
Additional information about the weekend overnight service pilot program, including rider tips and schedules is available online at: www.septa.org/service/all-night.html.