A Villanova SEPTA Train, Trolley and Bus Guide for Students
Villanova SEPTA service is among the best and most varied in the entire Philadelphia region.
SEPTA Regional Rail
- your best option - has a Villanova Station, directly in the center of Villanova’s campus, on the border between Main and West Campus.
Norristown High Speed Line Trolley
– formerly known for decades, as the Route 100 Trolley – has two stops on campus – Villanova and Stadium, heading to 69th Street Terminal in the south, and Norristown Transportation Center in the north.
And the SEPTA Route 105 Bus Route, runs east and west down U.S. Route 30 / Lancaster Avenue, from Paoli in the west, to 69th Street Terminal in the east, where it connects to the
SEPTA Blue Line
- and the Blue Line, in turn, also connects you to Center City Philadelphia.
So with all of these options, what are the best options for Villanova students wishing to travel off-campus, either to other Main Line towns such as Wayne, Rosemont, Bryn Mawr, or Ardmore – or if they wish to go all of the way to Philadelphia, for its many tourist attractions and vibrant nightlife.
Let’s go through all of the Villanova SEPTA on-campus options, and analyze them in turn…
The Villanova SEPTA Regional Rail Station - Your Preferred Option For Travel to Center City Philadelphia Tourist Attractions and Nightlife
"Wait A Minute - I Thought I Took the R5 Paoli / Thorndale Line From Villanova! What Happened to the Blue and White Signs and the R5?"
Over the summer of 2010, for reasons which remain mysterious-
SEPTA decided to abolish the entire R_ designation system, which was how generations of Philadelphians (and Philadelphia-area college students) navigated SEPTA Regional Rail. They also abolished the convenient color-coding that indicated the lines. So the R5 - which coincidentally, but aptly, had the Villanova blue and white as its colors - is now just the:
And officially, the colors, as well, are all erased from sight. (You will see vestiges of the old color codes, and we hope that SEPTA will realize its errors and eventually restore the old R5 and its siblings, along with the colors. But until then...)
What this also means is that when you pick up a paper schedule, you have to look for "Paoli/Thorndale Line", and they're all gray now. There are no blue R5 schedules any longer.
Fortunately, you still take the train exactly the same way as before - you get on at the Villanova SEPTA Regional Rail stop, ride to Center City, come back. The routes themselves weren't changed - just the codes and nomenclature.
But obviously, remember that you're on Paoli/Thorndale, not one half of the R5 any longer.
One other note - if you want to go not only to Philadelphia, but to Rosemont, Bryn Mawr, or Ardmore, you take the train heading to Philadelphia. The eastbound trains require you to be on the platform on the side of Main Campus; the westbound trains, away from Philadelphia, toward Wayne and Paoli, fittingly require you to board from the West Campus side. If you're on the wrong side, just cross via the tunnel, underneath the tracks.
If you are planning to visit the major Philadelphia tourist attractions in Center City, and/or party in the city's many bars and restaurants, or enjoy the foot traffic scene in Old City, the Villanova SEPTA Regional Rail Station is for you.
The "train" - which is how it's commonly known in Philadelphia - will provide you with quick, easy, and completely safe (even late at night) service to the three major Regional Rail Stations in Center City:
30th Street Station
- located at 30th and Market Streets, which also offers Amtrak service...
- located at 16th Street and John F. Kennedy Boulevard
Market East Station
- located at 11th and Market Streets.
Tip - If you are headed for
Old City Philadelphia
- get off at Market East. Just consult our
Market East To Old City Attractions Guide
- it has everything you need to know, about how to get there, once you've disembarked from your train.
The train costs more than the trolley and the el, or the bus and the el, but it more than makes up for it by its speed, convenience, and safety.
Buying A Ticket in Advance, at the Villanova SEPTA Regional Rail Station Ticket Office
You can buy a ticket in advance from the Villanova SEPTA Regional Rail train station ticket window, when it's open. Since it's conveniently located on the border between Main Campus and West Campus, you can easily squeeze in a visit there, between classes.
Be cognizant of the fact that the train station ticket window isn't open all day. You buy the tickets at the station on the north side of the platform (i.e., the one closer to West Campus).
Its formal address is:
1797 County Line Road & N. Spring Mill Road (Route 320) Villanova, PA 19085
Its phone number is 610.525.4546. Its hours are:
Monday through Friday
5:45 AM to 10:30 AM; then it closes for 45 minutes; then it reopens from 11:15 AM to 2:00 PM. It's closed, completely, on the weekends - which is ironic, given that's the time you're most likely to to be using the Villanova SEPTA Regional Rail service!
What Kind of Ticket(s) Should I Be Buying, At the Villanova SEPTA Regional Rail Ticket Office?
For one-way travel, SEPTA changed the fare structure (and increased the fares) over the summer. As of July 2010, the old "Peak" and "Off-Peak" structure - which had existed for decades - was abolished.
The new dichotomy is between "Weekday" and "Evening & Weekend" fares.
What Do These Changes Mean?
The best way of explaining it, is that "Peak" - which formerly covered only AM rush hour trains to Philadelphia, and PM rush hour trains from Philadelphia, has been broadly expanded. Now, "Weekday" encompasses the entire business day, including both rush hours - and regardless of whether a train is heading to or from Philadelphia.
To illustrate the distinction: last year, if you took a 5:30 PM train from Villanova to Philadelphia on a Friday, it was Off-Peak, because you were heading the opposite way from most commuters. However, under the new rule, any weekday train prior to 7:00 PM counts as "Weekday", regardless of the direction you're going.
So you now get the discount only after 7:00 PM on weekdays, and on any train during the weekends.
The New Villanova SEPTA Regional Rail Fares - You're Still in Zone 3
If you buy a one-way Weekday ticket in advance, it costs $5.50.
If you buy a one-way Evening & Weekend ticket in advance, it costs $4.75.
If you buy a round-trip Weekday ticket in advance, you save a quarter, at $10.75, as opposed to $11.00 for two one-way tickets.
If you buy a round-trip Evening and Weekend ticket in advance, it saves nothing, as it's $9.50, the same as two one-way tickets.
On Board The Train - It May Be Slightly More Expensive
If you buy a one-way Weekday ticket on board, it costs $6.00, as opposed to $5.50.
If you buy a one-way Evening & Weekend ticket on board, it costs $6.00, as opposed to $4.75.
If you buy a round-trip Weekday ticket on board, it costs $12.00, compared to $10.75.
However, if you buy a round-trip Evening and Weekend ticket on board, there's no penalty, for not buying in advance. It's $9.50, the same as it would be, if you had bought it, in advance.
You may remember that there used to be a significant, $2.00 penalty for buying tickets on the train, as opposed to the window. SEPTA was widely and justifiably criticized for this, especially when they increased the penalty to encompass trains where the ticket window wasn't even open when the passenger arrived! So they've retreated from it a bit. In some cases, as you can see above, they've abolished it completely, or scaled it back.
Bottom line - as of the fall of 2010, buying your ticket on the train doesn't carry the penalty it once did, and probably shouldn't factor into your plans, too much.
If you'd like more information about SEPTA train tickets, take a look at our comprehensive
Guide to SEPTA Regional Rail Fares
- which has all of the information on the changes that were implemented, whether you are taking the train from Villanova, or anywhere else.
The SEPTA One Day Independence Pass, At $11.00, May Be A Good Choice For You
You may want to consider purchasing a SEPTA One Day Independence Pass, which costs $11.00. As a Zone 3 traveler, it's actually a pretty good deal.
Included in this purchase price is your round-trip train fare, plus the right to unlimited rides on any other SEPTA entity, for the entire day - buses, the Blue Line, the Broad Street Subway, and most importantly, the purple Phlash Trolley, which runs from May 1 to October 31, and covers many of the tourist attractions.
The lowest round-trip fare from Villanova to Philadelphia is $9.50 - and for an additional $1.50, you get the rest of SEPTA for free for one day. In addition to the time savings, you also don't have to buy SEPTA tokens or wait at ticket windows. You just get a pass (which looks cool, and has the date on it, so you can keep it as a souvenir), and it permits you to just swipe it through the turnstiles or flash it to SEPTA drivers.
In addition, you can buy the One Day Independence Pass, in advance of when you want to use it.
And finally, you can also buy it on the train, from the conductor, if the Villanova ticket office is closed. Tell the conductor that you want to buy a One Day Independence Pass. He'll charge you $11.00, and give you a black-and-white ticket receipt for that amount. When you arrive at one of the Center City stations, go to the SEPTA ticket window and tell them that you want to exchange your receipt for the One Day Independence Pass. (This is essential; unless you do the conversion, the pass isn't valid and you'll have wasted the extra money.) The clerk will give you the One Day Independence Pass at the counter, and then you're free to enjoy Philadelphia.
The Villanova SEPTA Options That Require Tokens - The Norristown High Speed Line (The Former Route 100 Trolley) and the Route 105 Bus
Both the Norristown High Speed Line and the Route 105 bus are SEPTA City Transit Division entities (in spite of the fact that their service takes place almost completely outside of the city - don't let the name confuse you). What this means, is that you can't use your Villanova SEPTA Regional Rail tickets on them, with the exception of the aforementioned SEPTA One Day Independence Pass.
One irony - you can buy SEPTA tokens at the Villanova SEPTA Regional Rail Station, although you can't use them on the train.
For those of you unfamiliar with SEPTA tokens, we'd recommend our comprehensive
Guide to SEPTA Tokens
- which has a comprehensive explanation about how to buy, use, and benefit from SEPTA tokens.
The Villanova SEPTA Norristown High Speed Line Service at Villanova and Stadium Stations
If you remember this as the Route 100 Trolley, your memory is not faulty. For the same mysterious reasons that motivated the abolition of R_ color-coded Regional Rail travel, SEPTA got rid of "Route 100" - which was simple, easy to remember, and had been used for decades - and decided to rename the trolley the Norristown High Speed Line.
As with the Villanova SEPTA train service, it didn't affect the way the trolley runs - it still goes to the same places, and in the same way. It's just a different name.
The Norristown High Speed Line is a viable choice, particularly if you live on South Campus, or the eastern half of Main Campus, since the two trolley stops - Villanova and Stadium - are located there.
It might have been wiser, for the Villanova SEPTA stops to be given separate names. The Villanova SEPTA Regional Rail station is located, as discussed above, at the border between West Campus and Main Campus. The Villanova SEPTA Norristown High Speed Line trolley stop (despite having the same name) is located directly across the street from the iconic, twin spires of St. Thomas of Villanova Church, on the southern side of Lancaster Avenue, behind the main parking lot.
The Villanova SEPTA Stadium stop is located just down the street, on Ithan Avenue, directly across from Villanova Stadium.
There will not be much of a cash savings, though. You still have to pay for your tokens, or the $2.00 cash fare, plus a $1.00 transfer to get on the Blue Line at 69th Street. (Important: you need to buy your $1.00 transfer from the driver on the trolley, and use it to get on the Blue Line at 69th Street. They won't sell it to you, once you're at 69th Street. You'll have to use another token.)
Also, on the train, you don't have to use exact change. But on everything else on SEPTA, you do. It's $2.00 exact change, a token, and $1.00 for the transfer. (Look at it this way - it doesn't have to be exact - they'll accept a $5.00 bill, but they just won't give you back your change!)
Also, remember, it takes a lot longer to get to Center City Philadelphia this way. Once you're on the train, it goes right to your destination.
When you take the trolley, in contrast, you not only have to wait for the trolley (unlike the train, which adheres, more or less, to a fixed, predictable, publicly printed schedule) to get there, you also have to switch at 69th Street, walk to the Blue Line, buy a transfer or use another token or pay cash, and then in turn, wait for the Blue Line train to get there, and complete your trip. This two-step process will, 99% of the time, take you longer than the train trip would have (unless you have to wait a long time for another Regional Rail train to leave campus, naturally). But if the train and the trolley both leave at around the same time, the train is a lot faster.
One factor is geographical convenience. If you aren't going to make it all the way over to the train station in time for a PM rush hour train into Philadelphia on a Thursday or Friday night, the trolley is an acceptable substitute. The trolley runs frequently during PM rush hour, as does the Blue Line.
Which Side of the Trolley Tracks Do I Want?
If you want to go to Philadelphia, follow signs for 69th Street Terminal. This means that you will be leaving from the south side of the tracks - i.e., the side closer to South Campus, further from Lancaster Avenue. If for some reason, you want to head to Norristown Transportation Center, follow signs for it, and leave from the north side tracks, i.e., closer to Lancaster Avenue. If you find yourself on the wrong side, just climb up the steps and over the tracks, to the correct side.
Safety Issues, While Taking the Trolley to the Blue Line at 69th Street Terminal
However, we issue some very important words of caution:
It's extremely unlikely that you'll ever encounter physical danger on a SEPTA Regional Rail train. But there's always the chance of it at 69th Street Terminal, and/or the SEPTA Blue Line, and/or the Broad Street Subway - and the Blue and Orange Lines have free interchange at City Hall.
For that reason - especially if you're female and/or unfamiliar with Philadelphia and SEPTA, we'd strongly recommend that you only take the SEPTA train into Center City. Walk the extra distance, pay a little more, and relax.
Naturally, there's safety in numbers, and the more of you going, the safer you'll be at 69th Street and on the Blue Line. But regardless of how many of you are going, always exercise caution and common sense on SEPTA, and especially on the Blue Line and at 69th Street. At rush hour, this won't be too bad, when service is frequent and the el is crowded, but you don't want to be riding it through West Philly to 69th Street late at night, especially alone. Take our advice. Trust us. Take the train, instead!
One viable option may be taking the trolley and Blue Line to Philadelphia, but taking the train back to Villanova, late at night...
You can get the train at any of the three major Philadelphia train stations, so this plan can be easily executed, if you do the research in advance.
The Weakest of the Villanova SEPTA Options - The Route 105 Bus Up and Down Lancaster Avenue
Of the three major options, the Villanova SEPTA Route 105 bus is by far the weakest, for two reasons.
The Service Is Infrequent and Sporadic
Even at rush hour, the 105 runs less often than the Villanova SEPTA Regional Rail service and the Villanova SEPTA Norristown High Speed Line service.
It Has to Fight Through Lancaster Avenue Traffic
One of the main advantages of both the train and the trolley is the fact that they can bypass automobile traffic on Lancaster Avenue, and speed their passengers to and from Philadelphia.
For that reason, although an eastbound Route 105 bus will be labeled "69th Street Terminal", don't ever consider taking it all the way there. It will take you forever.
However, the One Time the 105 Bus Is Useful, Is For A Short Trip, Either Way, From Villanova to Wayne Going West, Or to Rosemont, Bryn Mawr, or Even Ardmore, Going East
The 105 does have one advantage over its rail line siblings - it's the only one that runs directly on Route 30, Lancaster Avenue. And you can pick it up directly in front of the church, on either side of Lancaster Avenue - just look for the 105 sign.
If you're heading to Bryn Mawr, say, the ride won't be real long, and you can also see where you're going on Lancaster Avenue, which is helpful, if you don't have a great grasp of Philadelphia Main Line geography yet. And you should have no issues with safety, unless it's after the PM rush hour, in which case we recommend either the train or a cab.
How to Take SEPTA From Villanova to the Palestra, For Villanova Basketball Games
Villanova at Penn, Wednesday, December 8, 2010, 7:00 PM
It is easy to take SEPTA Regional Rail from Villanova to the University of Pennsylvania, at all times. However, it is even easier for the occasional Villanova game at the storied Palestra, college basketball's most storied venue, on Penn's campus.
How to do it -
Take the train from the Villanova train station to Amtrak 30th Street Station. This is located at 30th and Market Streets, on the western fringe of Center City.
Once you're off the train, you have some options, for getting to the Palestra, which is located on 33rd Street, between Walnut and Spruce Streets.
You Can Walk to The Palestra, But We Don't Recommend It
The walk is 0.8 of a mile, and it's cold and windy. In terms of safety, it's certainly OK on the way down, but not as much on the way back. It's also very slow, and you want to make sure that you catch the next Paoli/Thorndale train (the former R5) back to Villanova.
How to do it - head west on Market Street (i.e., the numbered streets should be going up). When you get to 33rd and Market Streets - three blocks west - turn left to go south on 33rd Street. Just keep walking south till you reach the Palestra.
You Can Take the SEPTA Blue Line
We recommend this option on the way down, and the way back. But be careful to do it properly.
Once you disembark from the train at Amtrak 30th Street Station, you need to go outside and find the SEPTA Blue Line's 30th Street Station, which is also at 30th and Market Streets. (Yes, they have the same name, but they're in different buildings.)
Make sure you have SEPTA tokens, and enter the SEPTA Blue Line Station. Follow signs reading "Westbound to 69th Street". Drop your token in the turnstile. You will be on the Blue Line for about one minute - don't bother to sit down. The next stop is 34th Street, which is the one you want. You step on the el train at 30th Street, you step off it at 34th Street. It'll go by like a flash.
You exit the Blue Line 34th Street station, and you'll find yourself at 34th and Market Streets. Head south down 34th Street, till you reach the Palestra.
To go back afterwards - enter the 34th Street Station at 34th and Market Streets, and this time, follow signs for "Eastbound to 69th Street". You'll be on for one stop. Get off at 30th Street Station, and then go outside, and go back to the big 30th Street Station, and await the next train back to campus.
This Is Risky, But You Can Also Try It the Other Way, As It's MUCH Faster - Taking the Norristown High Speed Line From Campus To 69th Street, Then the Blue Line
You can try it the other way, which will be much faster. Instead of taking SEPTA Regional Rail, you can take the Norristown High Speed Line to 69th Street Terminal. From there, you just take the Blue Line eastbound (i.e., the only way you can go from there) till you reach the aforementioned 34th Street Station Blue Line stop, and walk to the Palestra.
Coming back, you walk to the 34th Street Station, and follow signs for "Westbound to 69th Street". Ride it till it ends at 69th Street Terminal. Then follow signs for the Norristown High Speed Line, and take it back to campus.
This is much faster than taking the regular train, because the trolleys run more often than the trains do. It also eliminates the need to walk from the 30th Street Station (SEPTA Regional Rail) to the 30th Street Station (SEPTA Blue Line).
However, we wouldn't recommend this doing this alone - the more of you, the better - especially for females and those of you who aren't familiar with SEPTA. Take particular care when traveling back to 69th Street after the game. (Once you're back on the trolley, you're in much better shape, but pay particular attention on the el).
Taking a Cab From 30th Street Station to the Palestra, and Vice Versa
The cab ride is about 0.8 of a mile. However, it's easy to find a cab at 30th Street Station (once you're off the SEPTA Regional Rail train, come up to the lobby, and follow signs for "Taxicabs"). If there's more than one of you, it would probably be cheaper to pile into a cab, and head directly to the Palestra, rather than bothering with the SEPTA Blue Line. You'll save the cost of the tokens, and more importantly, it's a lot faster to be driven directly from 30th Street Station to the Palestra, than it is to walk from 30th Street Station to the other 30th Street Station, wait for the el, and then walk from 34th and Market to the Palestra.
If money's not an issue for you, whether you're alone or not, take the cab. We particularly recommend the cab on the way back, when it's much colder, later at night, and there's an imperative need to get back to 30th Street as soon as possible, to catch the next Regional Rail train back to campus...
Hope this helps...
If you'd like to leave Villanova SEPTA, and return to the SEPTA Main Page, please click here.
If you'd like to return to the Home Page of Enjoying Philadelphia, please click here.