Traffic delays resulting from the I-495 bridge repair work have led to a bump in ridership on SEPTA's Wilmington/Newark line as high as 33% in Newark and 28% in Churchmans Crossing, according to the Delaware Transit Corp.
It's possible many of those commuters will return to solo-driving once the bridge repairs are finished, but Penn grad student and Wilmington resident David Curtis is hoping to capitalize on the situation and lock in those ridership gains by increasing service frequency on the 40-minute trip between Wilmington and Philadelphia.
Curtis launched a Change.org petition this week asking the state of Delaware and SEPTA to run all trains to Wilmington, rather than just half of them, so that trains run hourly, and extend the hours of operation so that Delawareans can stay in Philly a bit later and vice versa.
He claims the service expansion would cost Delaware less than $1 million:
What it will cost annually:
$350k - $1m, and probably much closer to $350k. (I won't bore you with the math.)
The reason that trains only connect to Wilmington every two hours is because Delaware pays SEPTA $751,000 annually (yes, that's it) to connect about half of the trains on the line to Delaware. The other half of trains simply stop and sit at Marcus Hook. If you pay them, they will come.
What service will look like:
Weekdays: service from about 5:30am - 12:30am
Weekends: service from about 6:30am - 11:00pm
Would this be a good development for Philadelphia?
On the one hand, Delaware has a pretty dark economic development model based on undercutting other states and cities on taxes and regulations, so increasing connectivity with Delaware could potentially increase Philly's exposure to that.
But on the other hand, not everybody wants to live in a city as large as Philadelphia, even as they enjoy the proximity to the big city, and still want to live in a walkable urban place. That trend has been helpful some of the smaller cities in our shadow, and there's probably an argument to be made that suburban and exurban places in our region have more to lose from the resurgence of healthier satellite cities and "Classic Towns" than Philadelphia does.
What do you think? Would you be more likely to take a day trip to Wilmington if the rail service was more frequent? Would you consider living in Wilmington?