For those of you that don’t know, I’m a regular SEPTA rider now. I normally take the R5 to 30th Street Station, and then the green line trolley from 30th to 37th street. For a while now, I’ve been wondering if that’s actually the fastest way (which is some sort of strange trait I got from my grandfather). What’s the alternative route? Well, you could get off at Surburban Station, and catch the Green Line there from under City Hall.
My thought was that it would a little bit slower to get off at Suburban because the trolley station seemed a little bit further away, and it’s a bit more crowded there in the morning. However, this would be acceptable because at Suburban Station you are under cover the whole time, so I wouldn’t have to go out in the rain or snow until I got off the subway right by the office. For clarification, at 30th Street you have to leave the station and walk across the street to get to the trolley station, exposing you briefly to mother nature. I’m told that there was one a tunnel, but that it was closed due to being inadequately lit, and way too inviting for those of a criminal nature. I think that with today’s obnoxiously bright CFL technology and better video surveillance equipment that this should be re-opened, but that’s a post for another day.
The easiest way, it seemed to me, to test my theory was to find someone one the train going the same place as me. Unfortunately, no one from work is on my usual morning train, and there’s only a small handful of people I see on the R5 that also walk to the trolley station. Not to be denied, I knew that a co-worked of mine, Jamie Ly, took a later train, so I made plans with him to perform the experiment next time I had to take my daughter to daycare in the morning (which necessitates me taking a later train.)
Test One, and a Surprise Result
On February 23, 2010 the stars aligned and I was both on the later R5, and able to get in touch with Jamie. We agreed that I would get off at Suburban, and he would stay on and go the normal 30th Street route. Unfamiliar with Suburban Station, I felt like I may have lost a little bit of time hunting around for the correct route to the trolley, and though for sure I’d be arriving significantly after Jamie. After coming up the stairs at 37th street, I started looking around for him. Starting to wonder if he’d had so much time that he’s already gone up to the office, I shot him a text message and got a surprise reply: He was just getting on the trolley at 30th! Despite being pretty sure that I hadn’t arrived first, I had started a timer on my phone when I got off the trolley, I waited for Jamie to arrive, which he did: 8 minutes and 20 seconds later.
Designing a Solo Test
Needless to say, the first result got my attention. Was it some sort of fluke? Why would Suburban be that much faster? Are the trolleys just blowing the train out of the water in that 3/4 mile stretch (I measured it in Google Earth)? I needed a way to be able to take some more samples, but I wanted to be able to do it myself, so here’s what I came up with: As the train is pulling out of the Market East station, start a timer. Specifically, when the inner train door releases (which is right as the train is starting to move) start the timer on my iPhone. Next, take whichever route I choose to test that day, ending up on the green line trolley. Finally, stop the timer when I step off of the trolley at the 37th street station.
Having now taken a few samples, I’d like to share the results. By no means a exhaustive sampling, at this point I felt like it might be fun to share the results. Also, it’s starting to get warm out, and I’d like to try to walk from 30th Street and get a little morning exercise instead of feeling compelled to take more measurements. So here we go, I’ve added the conditions for the curious:
Now for a little math:
Average time, switching at 30th Street: 0:22:36
Average time, switching at Suburban Station: 0:15:52
So, on average, it’s 6:44 faster to make the switch to the trolley at Suburban Station! I think that’s pretty significant, definitely enough time to stop for a coffee and donuts at Dunkin Donuts, or hit the food trucks for a Scrapple, Egg & Cheese (Mmmm!). Granted, I know I don’t have nearly enough samples to say that this is true without a doubt, but it’s definitely safe to say that it’s at least as fast to get off at Suburban, and you get to stay dry to boot! Consider yourself a more informed traveler now.
Note: I’ll probably take more samples over time and periodically update the data. If anything significant changes, I guess I’ll have some ‘splainin to do.