May 07, 2019
Do you live in Collingswood, Haddonfield or Haddon Township and ride the PATCO Speedline to or from Philadelphia in the wee hours of the morning for work or for play?
Well guess what: as of next Monday, you won’t be able to do so from your local station anymore.
As part of an effort to “make overnight travel safer” and reduce the numbers of trains on the rails, those are among seven stops being removed from the Weekday and Weekend Owl services. Specifically, this will impact riders between 1 and 4:30 a.m. during the week, and 2 to 4:30 a.m. on the weekends.
Here are the related portions of PATCO’s FAQ about what led to the shift:
How many people on average will be impacted by the new owl service?
A very small number of customers will be impacted by the station closures. Our ability to provide the additional security and comfort of having a police officer onboard all owl trains necessitates these schedule modifications. We regret the inconvenience to the small number of customers who will need to modify their travel plans.
Why isn’t Haddonfield, Westmont or Collingswood open? It seems like there is a long distance between the open Ferry Ave. and Woodcrest Stations.
Historically, ridership at these stations is almost nonexistent during the owl hours.
Sure, there are some positives to the change, the biggest among them a police officer aboard every train, and a 20-minute ride from Lindenwold to the 15th/16th Street stop in Center City. As safety goes, this move can’t help but improve it.
There are also some major negatives which should leave PATCO rethinking this move.
Those go beyond people not being able to retrieve their vehicles from the station where they parked, or having to turn to their feet or ride-sharing services to get home from Ferry Avenue in Camden (from where a woman was kidnapped and murdered in 2001) or Woodcrest Station in Cherry Hill.
Listen, I don’t have access to broken-down-hourly Delaware River Port Authority rider data. What I do have is access to memories of having grown up in Westmont in the latter part of the 20th century, and those recollections include late-night rides on the Speedline, an invaluable source of public transportation.
From those memories, and from the social-media reaction to this week's news, I know ridership wasn’t, or isn't, “non-existent.”
So, too, does Randy Teague, the mayor of Haddon Township, the municipality between Collingswood and Haddonfield where the Westmont station is located. He’s asking the agency to reverse course.
“I have sent an email requesting that they reconsider this decision due to the negative impact to Haddon Township residents that rely upon PATCO as a means of transportation at all hours of the day,” he told PhillyVoice on Tuesday morning.
As for the data claims? “It should be available regardless,” he said of Speedline service at Westmont station, which would be a logical station to add back to the Night Owl schedule because of its proximity to the other towns.
For his part, Haddonfield Mayor Neal P. Rochford also contacted the transit authority with a similar message.
"I have reached out to (PATCO General Manager) John Rink," he shared Tuesday night. "He is reviewing concerns from several communities (including) Haddonfield, Collingwood and Haddon Township. Hopefully, I'll have more to share with you Wednesday."
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