The SEPTA Blue Line Is Also Known as the Philadelphia El
This is the interior platform, of the SEPTA Blue Line 11th Street Station, at the intersection of 11th and Market Streets. Note how much different it looks from the directly adjacent Market East Station, which you can reach without having to go outside.
The SEPTA Blue Line is also known - formally - as the Market-Frankford Line, and more colloquially, as the Philadelphia El. Half subway and half elevated train (hence "el"), it travels along Market Street, throughout downtown Philadelphia. While a subway, it takes visitors to many of the best Philadelphia tourist attractions.
If You Are Visiting Philadelphia From Out of Town
If you are visiting Philadelphia from out of town, please read this section carefully...
For the most part, the Blue Line is not going to be of much value to you. We would recommend the
- although bear in mind that regrettably, it only operates from May 1 to Halloween, and it doesn't run at night. It was explicitly designed for visitors, during tourist season.
Also, regardless of whether the Phlash is available, there are many SEPTA bus routes that run through Center City Philadelphia.
Here's why the Phlash and the SEPTA buses are better choices:
1) You can see where you're going, since you're on the surface, and since you're trying to make the most of your experience, seeing Philadelphia from them is better than being underground.
2) You can ask the driver if you're getting on or off at the right stop, and ask about your destination.
In contrast, the Blue Line and Broad Street Line operators are all the way in the front of the train, and you can't ask them anything easily.
3) The speed of the Blue Line makes it great for locals and commuters, but is a detriment to visitors.
You have to be ready to leap on and off the Blue Line at a moment's notice, as often there is only a minute or two between stops.
4) The problem of mistakenly getting taken outside the area with the most Philadelphia attractions.
Due to its confusing nature, there's a risk that you might wind up out of Center City, and then you'd need to figure out how to get back, which can be costly in terms of both time and money.
5) If you see the buses, or the Phlash, there's no "friction time" spent waiting for a Blue Line train, underground.
Although the Blue Line operates frequently at rush hour, it is less frequent at other time. Consequently, the typical SEPTA bus - since you see it right in front of you -may actually be faster, counterintuitively, because of the friction time.
So, if after reading all of the above, you still want to give the Blue Line a try? Well, here's how...
Switching from Market East Station to the Blue Line 11th Street Station
This can be somewhat tricky, if you're not from here, or if you're a local who isn't familiar with SEPTA...
SEPTA Regional Rail
offers frequent service to
Market East Station,
located at 11th and Market Streets. Conveniently, the Blue Line also has an 11th Street stop. And you can switch from the SEPTA train to the Blue Line, and vice versa, without ever going outside.
However, unless you have a SEPTA TrailPass, or a SEPTA One Day Independence Pass, this exchange - unlike the one between the Broad Street Line/Blue Line - is not free and automatic. What does this mean?
If you take the Blue Line to Market East, you still have to buy a train ticket, at the ticket window, to board a Regional Rail train. Conversely, if you take SEPTA Regional Rail to Market East, you still have to pay with a SEPTA token or the $2.00 cash fare, to ride the Blue Line.
SEPTA Tokens - Where to Buy Them and How To Use Them
A SEPTA token is a metal coin, about the size of a quarter. It is the convenient equivalent of a $2.00 cash fare, and costs $1.55. They are what you should use on the Blue Line - they can be purchased in packs of 2, 5, and 10.
To learn everything about how to use SEPTA tokens, take a look at our
Guide to SEPTA Tokens
- which provides a more detailed explanation of how to use them.
Assuming that you are coming in from the suburbs-
When you disembark from your train at Market East, go to the ticket window. You can buy both train tickets and tokens, at the train station window. However, the reverse is not true - you can only buy tokens at a Blue Line stop, not train tickets.
After you take the escalator up from the platform, head for the ticket window for tokens. Once you've done that, just follow the well-marked signage for "SEPTA Market-Frankford Line", or ask one of the SEPTA employees, "which way is the Blue Line?"
Once you have arrived at the 11th Street SEPTA Blue Line stop, you must make a fundamentally important decision: "In which direction do I wish to travel?"
Your choices, fortunately, are limited to two -
"Eastbound to Frankford" or "Westbound to 69th Street"
If you are trying to go to Old City, the historic area, Penn's Landing, etc., you want to go eastbound from 11th Street - so follow those signs.
However, if you are trying to go to
or the many
Benjamin Franklin Parkway
- to mention just a few places - you should go westbound, and get off two stops later at the 15th Street stop.
How To Make the Free Interchange Between the SEPTA Blue Line and the Broad Street Subway - the SEPTA Orange Line - At 15th Street Station (Blue) and City Hall Station (Orange)
Also, the SEPTA Blue Line and the
Broad Street Subway
- also known as the Broad Street Line, and "the subway" - permit free interchange between the Broad Street Line's
station, and the Blue Line's 15th Street Station, which are separated by less than a block, and where you just follow signs from one to the other, without departing from the SEPTA system.
The key is to wind up at 15th Street Station. So the first thing to do, is to determine whether you are getting on the Blue Line, at a stop west of 15th Street, in which case you take "Eastbound to Frankford". Conversely, if you are at a stop east of 15th Street, you take "Westbound to 69th Street".
If you are from out of town, this free interchange is primarily useful, if you are attending an event in South Philadelphia - a sporting event, concert, etc., such as a Phillies game at Citizens Bank Park - if you can get tickets.
You can take the Blue Line to 15th Street, make the free, quick, and hassle-free switch to the Broad Street Line, and head to one of those South Philadelphia venues. However, it could also be useful, for example, if you're traveling from Broad and Walnut Streets, to Penn's Landing.
Important note: The Blue Line has no stops between 15th and 30th Streets, and has many stops from 15th Street to Penn's Landing. Consequently, unless you want to go to 30th Street Station, it probably would not be worth your time to spend time walking to, and finding, the Blue Line and buying tokens, because you're only saving four blocks, anyhow. You're also missing the chance to explore Philadelphia for those four blocks, as well.
So for the most part, we're going to gear this page toward the traveler who wants to see the attractions, east of the Blue Line 11th Street Station.
How To Take the SEPTA Blue Line to Citizens Bank Park
You just take the Blue Line to 15th Street Station, and make your free transfer to the Broad Street Subway, as described above. Once you're on the Broad Street Subway, you take it to the end of the line, at Pattison Avenue. For detailed directions on how to do so, check out our comprehensive
SEPTA To Citizens Bank Park Guide
- which describes the various ways of doing so.
SEPTA Blue Line / Market-Frankford Line Stops - Eastbound to Frankford
Added, July 24, 2010...
If you are traveling from Norristown, King of Prussia, Radnor - including Villanova University - or the inner-ring Delaware County suburbs, the
Norristown High Speed Line
- which was known for many years as the Route 100 Trolley, until September 2009, when SEPTA inexplicably changed it - may be of value to you. The Norristown High Speed Line will take you directly to 69th Street Terminal, where you can transfer to the Blue Line without even leaving the complex.
Important note: This is the order of stops that you will experience, if you are boarding the Blue Line at 69th Street Terminal, the western end of the line.
69th Street Terminal - 69th and Market Streets
34th Street - University of Pennsylvania / Drexel University
30th Street - You can switch to
30th Street Station
- where you can board SEPTA Regional Rail trains, and make connections to and from Amtrak. However, you have to leave the Blue Line system to do so, and make your way across the street to the architecturally impressive station. In contrast, the Blue Line 30th Street Station is underground...
15th Street - Here, you can make your free interchange with the Broad Street Line. You should also exit here if you are visiting any of the many museums on the
Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
At this point, you've left Market Street, and you are effectively leaving downtown Philadelphia. The next stop, Spring Garden, is on the fringes of downtown - and that's absolutely, the last one. If you want to travel to the increasingly vibrant
neighborhood, one way you can do so, is by getting off at Spring Garden.
Note that this is the first stop, going east from Center City, which is not located at an intersection with Market Street. Spring Garden and Market Streets do not intersect. Instead, they run parallel to each other, east to west, with Spring Garden being north of Market.
The Spring Garden stop is at the intersection of Delaware Avenue and Spring Garden Street. It is a two block walk west on Spring Garden Street to Finnegans Wake, at 3rd and Spring Garden Streets, the official starting point of Northern Liberties.
However, due to potential safety issues in the neighborhood, we strongly urge you to read our Northern Liberties page, linked above, in detail, before you try to visit the neighborhood, particularly if you are from out of town, or unfamiliar with downtown Philadelphia.
You'll also be able to tell when you are about to arrive at the Spring Garden station, because the Blue Line train will ascend out of the tunnel and become an elevated train once more; Spring Garden is the first elevated station on the Eastbound side...
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