SEPTA’s historic route 15 trolleys being replaced with buses

Metro file photo

The SEPTA trolleys along route 15 are going to be taken out of service and replaced by buses. The buses will last at least a year, and the transition starts Sunday. 

Inquirer.com reports that historic PCC II streetcars will be removed for maintenance and evaluation. 

Although the route 15 trolleys will be removed, SEPTA says they will keep trolleys that run from Richmond-Westmoreland to the 63rd-Girard stop. 

Scott Sauer, SEPTA’s assistant general manager for operations, told Inquirer.com that the trolleys are not expected to come back until there is a completed PennDot bridge project.  

The reconstruction of I-95 has prompted changes to the line, and the trolleys that run east of Frankford Ave, have been replaced by buses since early 2012, according to Inquirer.com.  

The 18 trolleys are being removed for a couple of reasons, which include scheduling with Trolley operators and the mixed-use of trolleys versus buses; additionally, another huge factor is PennDot construction.

“It’s kind of the right moment for us to pull them in, take a look at them, rebuild things where needed, where necessary, and to get those cars back on the line,” Sauer told Inquirer.com.  

As the trolley get modernized, and buses undergo revitalization, it’s not the first time bus service will be used on the line. There was the 2019 Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) report, which explored modernization. 

And it’s not the first time bus service has been used on the line. Bus replacement has been floated as a consideration as SEPTA undergoes trolley modernization and bus revitalization.

“SEPTA staff report that buses frequently substitute for trolleys on Route 15 due to mechanical failures and expressed doubts that all of the PCC-II’s will remain operational between today and trolley modernization.” the report read. 

Inquirer.com reports that a 100-page report on revitalizing SEPTA’s bus network suggests that maybe they should convert the trolley routes to bus routes.  

Starting Sunday, the Route 15 Trolleys will become bus routes for the time being.  

“People love the trolleys; the trolleys are Philadelphia,” Sauer told Inquirer.com. 

Sauer added, “I’m a trolley person — I grew up around the trolleys, I operated the trolleys — so I know how people feel about them. So once they hear rumblings that the trolleys might go away, people get upset, and they fill in the blanks.”

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