Everything About SEPTA Regional Rail Train Travel, In and Around Philadelphia

SEPTA Regional Rail

SEPTA Regional Rail train - this particular one is an R2 Newark (Delaware) train stopped at the Prospect Park-Moore station, in Prospect Park, Delaware County, Pennsylvania, south of Philadelphia. To better view this picture, just click directly on it.

NEW - September 19, 2010 - If You Are Coming From the Visitor Site Map, Here Are All the Direct Links, Listed Under "SEPTA Regional Rail Main Page"

SEPTA Regional Rail Fare Guide

Market East Station

Market East Station to Old City Attractions

Travel Times To Market East Station

Suburban Station

Travel Times To Suburban Station

30th Street Station

This page is your guide for riding the SEPTA Regional Rail trains, in and around Philadelphia and its suburbs. This will be helpful, whether you are-

a visitor to Philadelphia;

a college or graduate student enrolled here;


a long-time resident of the Philadelphia region- but one who hasn't taken the train anywhere, in a while.

The Basics of SEPTA Regional Rail Travel

First and foremost -

Philadelphians universally refer to this railroad network, as "the train". Of course, you do need to know its formal name, for navigating the official schedules and signs for it, because, naturally, they do not read "the train".

However, if you are asking someone a question about the Regional Rail system, you need to ask, for example:

"Where is the train station?"

instead of-

"Where is the Regional Rail Station?"

Finding Your SEPTA Regional Rail Station

We would highly recommend this SEPTA Regional Rail Map from an unofficial SEPTA blog - SEPTA Watch. This site is well worth exploring, particularly if you are a local Philadelphian.

Important note, especially for out-of-town visitors unfamiliar with urban mass transit:

You might think that the Market/Frankford Blue Line ("the el") and the Broad Street/Orange Line ("the subway") are also "trains". That's an understandable assumption, as that's literally true, as they have cars and they run on tracks.

However, the subway is underground for its entire length. The el (despite its name) is underground for much of its length, and elevated well above street level, elsewhere.

In contrast, SEPTA Regional Rail trains (except when they are traveling to or from Market East and Suburban Stations, in Center City Philadelphia) are all on the surface, and they are not elevated. Hence, the distinctions.

SEPTA Regional Rail Stations in Center City

The vast majority of SEPTA Regional Rail riders are arriving in, and also departing from, Center City Philadelphia ("downtown", unofficially). Odds are, you're reading this page for that reason. So here's what you need to know.

There are three train stations in Center City: 30th Street Station; Suburban Station, and Market East Station . Every single train, at any time of day, will stop at least one of these stations, and the vast majority (well over 90%) will stop at all three of these stations.

It takes approximately five minutes, to travel between each station. So it's 10 minutes from Market East to Suburban Station to 30th Street, and vice versa.

30th Street Station

This received its name, logically enough, because it is located at 30th and Market Streets. While nearly all SEPTA Regional Rail trains stop there, it is primarily of interest, because that is the primary Philadelphia station for Amtrak, the national passenger rail system.

If you are traveling to Philadelphia via Amtrak, it is the perfect place to begin your visit to Philadelphia. You can connect to all Regional Rail trains at 30th Street, without even having to go outside.

If you wish, you can also get on the "el" at its station across the street.

Important Note: That Blue Line el station is also called "30th Street", but it is not the same station, as the architecturally impressive one that you just arrived in. Also, if you ask anyone "how to get to 30th Street", they will, universally, tell you how to get to the Amtrak / SEPTA above-ground 30th Street Station. They won't be referring to the subterranean Blue Line station. Many people won't know it exists.

If you are traveling into Center City Philadelphia, though, odds are, you will not be disembarking at 30th Street Station. The reason - it is too distant from most of the downtown places to visit in Philadelphia.

One exception: The University of Pennsylvania's attractions - the Palestra, Franklin Field, and its antiquities museum, the Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology - are the only ones, for which you should disembark at 30th Street.

The only other major attraction where getting off at 30th Street is desirable, will be if you want to take a taxicab to the Philadelphia Museum of Art - the home of not only world-class art treasures, but the famous Rocky Steps and Rocky Statue - but only by cab, not by any other method.

Instead, you would be far better served, by getting off your train at either Suburban Station, or Market East Station. Both are far closer to the main places to visit in Philadelphia.

Suburban Station

Suburban Station (or "Suburban") is located in the dead center of Center City Philadelphia, at 16th Street and JFK Boulevard.

SEPTA conductors always announce the stop as "Penn Center/Suburban Station", but they are synonymous, so that's not of any significance any longer. You can also read more about Suburban Station on our own guide to it.

Market East Station

Market East Station (or "Market East") is located at 11th and Market Streets. SEPTA conductors will announce "Market East / The Gallery", referring to the commercial mall, that stretches underground, from 11th and Market to 8th and Market. You can also read more about Market East Station, and the places to visit nearby, by clicking here.

Added, Saturday, August 21, 2010...

Confused By the Constantly Changing SEPTA Regional Fares? Check Out Our Thorough, Up-to-Date, 2010 Guide on The Subject

Who knew that buying a train ticket could be so complicated?

Are you confused by all of the SEPTA Regional Rail fares? Should you buy a TrailPass, or individual tickets? Should you buy them on the train, or at the ticket window? What decisions are in your best interest - in terms of not only money, but time and aggravation - and what is just SEPTA propaganda?

You're in luck. Check out our comprehensive, up-to-date, 2010 guide on the subject - The SEPTA Regional Rail Fares Guide - which, hopefully, will resolve all of your questions. (It's a sufficiently complicated subject, that it warranted its own guide).

A Map of Philadelphia, Showing the Three Major SEPTA Regional Rail Stops - Each Train Icon Marks A Location

View SEPTA Regional Rail Guide in a larger map

Added, August 21, 2010...

This section, regrettably, contains the old, traditional colors and R-designations. We sincerely hope that SEPTA might decide to get rid of the monochrome gray, non-R labeled system they have now installed, and restore the colors and R-labels. However, the trains remain on their previous lines - they've just abolished the colors and the R-system prefixes.

To illustrate, the R5 to Paoli/Thorndale, which had blue as its theme color, no longer does. It's just gray, and there is no longer any R5 prefix, either. It's now just the "Paoli/Thorndale Line".

This, ironically, is going to be more confusing to the visitor to Philadelphia, and the inexperienced local, than the status quo had been... of course, you never know... maybe they're right. (But they didn't ask us, before they did it.)

Anyway, this section is still of value to you, and you should use it as your basic guide. At the same time, please remember that there are no longer colors or R-labels on the train lines. You can't rely on the shorthand of the color and/or the R-label of your line. You have to know its actual name, now, and they all have gray as their color on the signs and schedules

How To Get to Market East Station, Suburban Station, and 30th Street - And No Less Importantly, How to Get Back Home

(Note to those of you, who are Regional Rail veterans - this section is designed for those traveling to Philadelphia, as well as those locals who are unfamiliar with the SEPTA train system.)

All Regional Rail trains have a code, consisting of the letter "R", followed by a number: R1, R2, R3, R5, R6, R7, and R8.

You might ask why there is no R4. The reason is that the planned R4 Regional Rail line never came to fruition. But since the entire plan had already been implemented, it was easier just to leave the numbers where they had been originally assigned, and just eliminate the R4.

Every one of the 150 or so active SEPTA Regional Rail train stations, is part of at least one (and sometimes more) of these R- lines. Here is the list:

R1 - Airport to University City

R2 - Wilmington/Newark, Delaware, to Warminster, Pennsylvania

R3 - Media/Elwyn, Pennsylvania, to West Trenton, New Jersey

R4 - none

R5 - Paoli/Thorndale, Pennsylvania to Lansdale/Doylestown, Pennsylvania

R6 - Norristown, Pennsylvania to Cynwyd, Pennsylvania

R7 - Trenton, New Jersey, to Chestnut Hill East

R8 - Fox Chase to Chestnut Hill West

Each of the R_ trains has a color code assigned to it, for ease of identification.

R1 - Gold

R2 - Purple/pink (the exact color fades over time, but that's what to look for)

R3 - Orange

R4 - (None)

R5 - Blue

R6 - Green

R7 - Red

R8 - Brown

We now come to the most frequent error, made by those riding SEPTA Regional Rail.

Each R- line begins at one outlying point, travels through the three Center City Philadelphia stations, and then - by and large - will travel to the other end.

Accordingly, you must make sure, that when you see your R- train arrive at your station, that it is traveling in the direction you want it to go.

Example: If you got on the R3 train in West Trenton, NJ, and you want to make the round trip home, make sure that when you board a R3 train with an orange sign, that it is going back to West Trenton, NJ, and NOT Media/Elwyn. Trains heading in both directions will both say "R-" followed by its ultimate destination. Pay attention to the destination, and that you are boarding the right half of your line.

Just ask the SEPTA conductor, which way it is going, before the train leaves, and ask him/her if it is stopping at your stop. (They know all the stops, by heart - they'll be able to tell you, if you're on the right train, immediately.)

Another important note on colors:

The R5 SEPTA Regional Rail line has blue signage for its code, as does the Market-Frankford Blue Line. But they are not the same at all. If you are traveling to or from the distant suburbs that the R5 serves, make sure you are on the R5 train and not the Market-Frankford Blue Line. (Especially if you are at 11th Street, where you can board both the R5 and the Blue Line.) Conversely, if you want to take the Market-Frankford Blue Line, do not confuse it with the R5. If you aren't sure, ask the SEPTA employee if you're on the right one.

The same is true for the R3 Regional Rail line, which has orange signage. Do not confuse that with the Broad Street Line / subway, which is called the Orange Line and has orange signs. They also are not the same, at all. The same advice applies.

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