I’m Miles Taylor, a sophomore at UPenn studying urban studies, and I love public transportation. I’ve made it my goal over my four years here to ride every SEPTA service and document it all on my blog, Miles in Transit. I also volunteer for the SEPTA Youth Advisory Council and play tuba in the Penn Band.
The start of school is almost upon us, and with it comes the balancing act of classes, extracurriculars, and social activities. With all that stuff to keep track of, it’s really easy to forget that there’s a whole city out there! Philadelphia is one of the most interesting and diverse places in the country, and since we’re all living here for four years, we really should go and check it out. I regularly go out to experience what Philly has to offer, and part of the reason I’m able to do that is with the power of SEPTA.
SEPTA is the public transportation agency for Philadelphia and its surrounding areas, and it is the absolute best way for us students to get around.
I mean, if you want to get stuck in traffic for half an hour just to get into Center City, more power to you, but SEPTA’s subways are amazingly fast. Did you know that you can get from University City to City Hall in just three minutes? From Temple to City Hall in eight? If you’re at a school in the Philadelphia area, it’s almost certain that SEPTA services it in some capacity, and many of its lines run super late or even 24/7.
But what about cost? Don’t worry, SEPTA’s got you covered. If you get a SEPTA Key Card from any subway station (they cost $5, but you get the money back when you register the card online), a one-way trip is just two bucks! If you ask me, that beats spending a ton for a rideshare just to sit in a line of stopped cars on Market Street.
That Key Card is valuable, too—a ton of places in Philly offer “Perks,” which are discounts on stuff when you flash your Key.
From a free small popcorn at certain movie theaters to discounts on museum admissions, it’s always worth checking online to see if you could be getting a Perk.
SEPTA opens up the city for anyone who uses it. I’ve been able to see so much of Philly and beyond from my trips on it, and you totally should as well.
Here are my top five places in Philadelphia to go using SEPTA:
5. Fishtown: This is an area that has seen an upheaval in recent years and is now a haven for hipsters. You’ll find garages converted into restaurants, local art galleries, and for my money, the best cheesesteak in Philly (Joe’s). The best way to get here is with the Market-Frankford Line to Girard, but the vintage 15 trolley is a fun way to go if you’re coming from the north.
4. Manayunk: It’s a bit of a pain to get to on SEPTA, requiring either a more-expensive Regional Rail trip or a long bus ride, but there is a very cool neighborhood waiting for you when you arrive. Manayunk is set at the bottom of a hill along the Schuylkill River, and scenic trails make for great walking when you’re done checking out all the hip restaurants and shops. The Manayunk/Norristown Line or the 61 bus will take you straight here, but there are some express buses to Wissahickon that make for the best balance between speed and cost if you’re willing to walk a bit (the 9, 27, 124, or 125).
3. Old City: There are plenty of historical tourist attractions here if that’s your kind of thing (I mean, we’ve all gotta see the Liberty Bell at least once), but for me, the best part about Old City is wandering the narrow streets and alleyways. There are a ton of businesses housed in beautiful old buildings, and a visit to Elfreth’s Alley (the oldest continuously inhabited road in America) is a must for photos. Take the Market-Frankford Line to 2nd Street to get here.
2. Reading Terminal Market: Unlike the other places on the list, this is just a single location rather than a neighborhood, but that should show just how amazing it is. If you’re sick of dining hall food, the restaurants in the giant Reading Terminal can keep you coming back for months. Pick what looks good or find a place at random—it’s guaranteed to be amazing. 11th Street on the Market-Frankford Line is the closest station, but it’s also a quick walk from City Hall on the Broad Street Line.
1. South Street: I was blown away the first time I saw South Street, and now I can’t stop coming back. Every time a friend comes to Philly, this is where I take them; it’s a place that everyone should visit. This is a confluence of weird and creative people, and every restaurant or shop is someone expressing that. From an anarchic bookstore to an alien-themed barber to a number of sex shops, there is nowhere else like South Street. It’s all punctuated by the unique mosaic designs of Isaiah Zagar, which are on full display at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. Although the 40 bus runs straight down South Street, you get a better experience if you take the Broad Street Line to Lombard-South and walk from there.
For more information about SEPTA and/or to buy a SEPTA Key Card (recommended!), and to visit these and other amazing neighborhoods, visit SEPTA.org. To follow my adventures on the System, check out my blog, Miles in Transit.