PlanPhilly

Ahead of schedule with funding to spare, SEPTA unveils renovated bus loop

Amidst its ongoing funding crisis, SEPTA managed to complete the 33rd and Dauphin Bus Loop renovation several months ahead of schedule and with enough funding left over from the competitive grant that funded the project to pay for two additional bus loop overhauls - three birds, one stone.

Around this time last year, SEPTA broke ground on a project to fully renovate the historic bus loop, which serves five bus routes and some 2,115 daily riders. Since then crews have demolished and rebuilt the bus canopy, renovated the existing corner building and replaced the roof, ventilation and plumbing and heating systems. 

Wednesday, proud SEPTA officials, a happy community and the government leaders who helped make the project possible, unveiled the finished product. 

    • SEPTA preserved and restored the bus loop building, left, and replaced the bus canopy, right, using some of the original bricks
      SEPTA preserved and restored the bus loop building, left, and replaced the bus canopy, right, using some of the original bricks
    • The bus loop pre-renovation, Photo courtesy of SEPTA
      The bus loop pre-renovation, Photo courtesy of SEPTA
    • SEPTA finished the project ahead of schedule and under budget
      SEPTA finished the project ahead of schedule and under budget
    • The bus canopy was torn down and rebuilt using some of the original bricks
      The bus canopy was torn down and rebuilt using some of the original bricks
    • The bus loop pre-renovation, Photo courtesy of SEPTA
      The bus loop pre-renovation, Photo courtesy of SEPTA
    • The event drew a large crowd, a mix of community members, SEPTA officials and other project supporters
      The event drew a large crowd, a mix of community members, SEPTA officials and other project supporters
    • It was important to the community to preserve as much of the original structure and style as possible
      It was important to the community to preserve as much of the original structure and style as possible
    • It was important to the community to preserve the original cherubs
      It was important to the community to preserve the original cherubs
    • Roofline detail, including the cherubs
      Roofline detail, including the cherubs
    • Roofline and lighting detail
      Roofline and lighting detail
    • Roofline details are intended to match the original design
      Roofline details are intended to match the original design
    • The bus loop
      The bus loop "windows" and roofline detail pre-renovation, Photo courtesy of SEPTA
    • Landscaping connects the bus loop with its neighbor, Fairmount Park
      Landscaping connects the bus loop with its neighbor, Fairmount Park
    • The bus loop is directly across from Fairmount Park
      The bus loop is directly across from Fairmount Park
    • SEPTA hoisted people in a cherry picker to see the new green roof
      SEPTA hoisted people in a cherry picker to see the new green roof
    • The 4,000-square-foot
      The 4,000-square-foot "green" roof will help reduce storm water runoff
    • From the roof, it is easy to see the bus loop's proximity to Fairmount Park
      From the roof, it is easy to see the bus loop's proximity to Fairmount Park
    • The
      The "Arches of Resurgence" Art in Transit installation stands at the intersection of the park, bus loop and community
    • "Arches of Resurgence" pays homage to the neighborhood, park and John Coltrane
    • The project included installing new bus shelters around the perimeter of the bus loop
      The project included installing new bus shelters around the perimeter of the bus loop
    • In addition to shelter, the bus loop provides bathrooms for passengers and SEPTA employees
      In addition to shelter, the bus loop provides bathrooms for passengers and SEPTA employees
    • As part of the project, lighting throughout was improved
      As part of the project, lighting throughout was improved
    • New signage is prevalent throughout the site
      New signage is prevalent throughout the site
    • Congressman Fattah noted that, while we need transit, sometimes we need shelter too
      Congressman Fattah noted that, while we need transit, sometimes we need shelter too
    • A SEPTA employee stood in a gateway into the bus loop
      A SEPTA employee stood in a gateway into the bus loop
  • Previous
  • Next

When the original bus loop was built in 1901 it was envisioned as a “handsome building and shelter shed” for trolleys, employees and passengers. More than a hundred years later, the structure had been painted a garish yellow, had its windows sealed and had generally deteriorated. Now, thanks to this SEPTA project, the building has been completely made-over and restored to look more like the “handsome building and shelter shed” it originally was. 

The original bus loop building, with space for retail and bathrooms, was renovated and spruced up, and elements like decorative cherubs and the original window designs were preserved. SEPTA changed the shelter’s layout from four bus bays to three, wider bus bays, added an Art in Transit installation and incorporated significant "green" elements, including a vegitated roof and a storm water retention bin for ground-level runoff.  

Thanks to a favorable bidding climate and site-specific factors that eased construction, SEPTA has enough of the $4 million Federal Transit Authority competitive grant awarded to this project to renovate the bus loops at both 23rd and Venango streets and 35th Street and Allegheny Avenue. 

Making community history by preserving community history

The project represents a major win for Strawberry Mansion – a community that refers to the 33rd & Dauphin Bus Loop as “our bus barn.”

Though a century of wear and tear had caused deterioration, the bus loop pre-renovation served as a landmark for the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood. When SEPTA announced plans to tear down and rebuild the structure, members of the community spoke up.

Council President Darrell Clarke was an early supporter of preserving the original bus loop. 

“A lot of people don’t know that folks in Strawberry Mansion, and SEPTA knows now, have this whole issue with historic character and respect to our neighborhood,” Clarke said. 

The Strawberry Mansion CDC championed the community voice and worked with the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia to research the building’s historic value. 

According to SEPTA the bus loop structure did not have official historic designation, but Deputy General Manager Jeff Knueppel said, “If it was historic to [the community], that was good enough.”

SEPTA compromised on its original plans and agreed to renovate the bus loop’s corner building, which has space for retail, but tear down the bus canopy and reuse some of the original bricks to rebuilt it. SEPTA left the decorative cherubs that adorn the corner building in place and added some design details that the building had lost over the years. 

“The upgraded design that SEPTA came up with, we felt was very, very acceptable to the community, but of course we’ve had some funding issues,” said Strawberry Mansion CDC President Tonnetta Graham. “Years have gone by, and we were like, ok, what’s going on? … Low and behold [Congressman] Chaka Fattah was able to help get the grant to restore the barn."

SEPTA and the community first began talking about the project in 2006, but it was not until Congressman Chaka Fattah helped secure the FTA grant that SEPTA and the community were able to move forward with the bus loop overhaul. 

“As a community we’d like to thank our representatives, Congressman Fattah, Council President Clarke, all of those folks were really there on our side,” Graham said. “When the community was like we want to keep our barn, they said, ok let’s find a way to do that.”

    • Project supporters posed for the official ribbon cutting
      Project supporters posed for the official ribbon cutting
    • "Preserving this neighborhood landmark was the right thing to do," said Tonnetta Graham, Strawberry Mansion CDC president
    • A passerby paused to look in on the commotion
      A passerby paused to look in on the commotion
  • Previous
  • Next

Graham said the community is also happy with the “Arches of Resurgence” Art in Transit piece that, she said, “captured the essence of the community as well as the relationship to Fairmount Park,” which is right across the street. 

Michael Morgan, the artist behind “Arches of Resurgence” held a workshop for community members to design 200 of the bricks used in the final installation. 

“It was really good to help us have ownership of the barn again,” Graham said of the workshop.  

Next Graham hopes that members of the community might be interested in leasing the retail space that is available inside the corner building and that the renovated bus loop might spur other investment.

“We’re hoping that the new bus barn itself will kind of give us some leverage as a community to get a grant, like a commercial corridor grant, something that could help create continuity in the area,” Graham said. She envisions a branding campaign that would build off of the bus loop’s design. 

ADVICE FOR OTHER COMMUNITY GROUPS

After working with the Preservation Alliance to learn more about the bus loop in order to convince SEPTA not to tear it down, the Strawberry Mansion CDC received a neighborhood engagement award from the Alliance. 

As part of that award, the Strawberry Mansion gave a presentation on how other neighborhoods should approach situations where the community wants one thing and the builders want another. 

“One of the things I would strongly recommend is that they do their research,” Graham said. “Learn the history of their neighborhood and also learn the process of how to get something like this built because there are several agencies you have to go before.”

Graham’s other piece of advice: “Be patient because it doesn’t happen over night, and actually build those relationships. Not everybody is going to get everything they want but you can come to a happy medium.”


About the author

Christine Fisher, Transportation reporter

Christine covers transportation and writes about everything from pedestrian concerns to bicycle infrastructure, bridges, trail networks, public transit and more. Her favorite assignments send her bushwhacking through Philadelphia’s yet-to-be-cleared bike trails, catching a glimpse of SEPTA’s inner workings or pounding the pavement to find out what pedestrians really think. Christine also covers community news for Eyes on the Street, where her coverage ranges from food sovereignty to public art and urban greening. She first joined PlanPhilly in fall 2011 as an intern through a partnership with Temple University’s Philadelphia Neighborhoods website. During the internship her reporting on the Housing Authority’s surplus property auctions earned an award from the Society of Professional Journalists.



blog comments powered by Disqus

Logging in via Facebook

Log in

Subscribe to the PlanPhilly Mailing List