11th and Reed trolley tracks have finally been removed

Last summer it was announced that the trolley tracks at 11th and Reed, along with about 20 other intersections in the city, would be removed. The inactive Route 23 tracks have been a hazard to bicyclists and drivers alike for years now, since the trolley stopped service over 20 years ago.

Photo from the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia.

Over the weekend the tracks were finally removed at the Passyunk Square intersection.

From the Bicycle Coalition:

Talk to a handful of cyclists, and you’ll probably hear at least a few stories about getting road bike tires caught in the tracks, and potentially, a crash. This came to a head for our organization in December 2013, when former Bicycle Coalition staffer and Women Bike PHL co-founder Katie Monroe caught her tire in the tracks at 11th and Reed Streets in South Philadelphia, fell, and broke her jaw in three places.

We began meeting with the Streets Department and SEPTA after that, to find a way to avoid these needless incidents going forward. The plan focused on 24 intersections between South Philadelphia and Chestnut Hill, where the old Route 23 trolley used to take passengers.

26 thoughts on “11th and Reed trolley tracks have finally been removed

  • September 8, 2016 at 11:25 am

    Yay! Down with light rail transit! More buses!

    • September 9, 2016 at 12:20 pm

      As much as I lament the loss of trolleys in general all over the US, the narrow one-way streets of Philadelphia are much better suited to buses (yes, I know there is a portion of 11th that is two way and wider, but it is not very long!) Buses can detour when there is road work or an event in the way; disabled buses can more easily be removed, etc. Trolleys are already in place in some areas where they are more appropriate in the city, and that’s likely a good reason that they remain. There is room for expansion of light rail/trolley, but a lot of the old trolley routes are just much more appropriate for buses, and as others have said, aside from safety, it is clear any time you are on a street that has old tracks under the asphalt that they cause serious maintenance headaches for Streets.

  • September 8, 2016 at 12:12 pm

    While I agree with you in preferring transit to buses, at the same time, at what point do you admit it’s a lost cause? And once you have, there’s no point in keeping the infrastructure in place.

    • September 8, 2016 at 1:33 pm

      I wonder how much it costs to tear up those rails? It didn’t cost a penny to leave them as is.

      Why spend the money tearing out infrastructure just because some suburban raised dolt can’t figure out that you only bike across a trolley track at a right angle?

      • September 8, 2016 at 2:44 pm

        “some suburban dolt” ?

        Seriously experienced urban bicyclists crash on trolley tracks regularly, for a whole host of reasons, many of which are due to circumstances out of their control. If you’re going to trash-talk people you don’t know, at least be sure your information is accurate.

      • September 8, 2016 at 2:50 pm

        I take it back. Lou_100x, your comment is adding literal insult to literal injury. Be nicer.

        • September 8, 2016 at 3:36 pm

          Lou just likes to complain. The rails probably cost more in maintenance every year, since they are producing potholes at lightning speeds when paved over/up to, than they would to remove and replace if need be.

        • September 8, 2016 at 3:40 pm

          You omitted the word “raised”. If you’re going to quote someone at least do it HONESTLY.

          FWIW, it was a reference to the fact that I’ve been biking around these tracks since about 1973, and tracks were never a problem.

          Drunk biking is a much bigger problem.

          • September 8, 2016 at 4:39 pm

            The double parking in the bike lane forcing bikes onto the parallel tracks definitely isn’t a problem.

            Either way, the tracks suck for everyone, cars included, and probably cost more to keep than to remove. Light rail would be great, but it is not happening anytime soon and the tracks should probably be replaced for a newer system anyway, since they’ve been paved over year after year.

            • September 9, 2016 at 6:56 am

              Double parking (blocking bike lane while doing so) is why the tracks between 11th and 12th on Synder need to go as well!

            • September 14, 2016 at 9:35 pm

              Please. I don’t want to sound like an SP lifer bullying the newbies.. But you don’t know what double parking problems are. Double parking is NOTHING compared to what it used to be in South Philly and around the city. Can’t blame this one on car owners. Leave us out of it. Thanks.

              • September 14, 2016 at 9:39 pm

                And when there were actually 5 blocks in a row worth of double parked cars on streets back in the day, we rode our bikes all over the city.

                That being said, the unused and unmaintained trolly tracks cause potholes to form more easily. Thats a problem for EVERYONE. The corresponding unused power lines that go along with them are always falling and look saggy and ragged. Thats a problem for EVERYONE.

                Lets just have a real conversation about finding solutions to the problem without inventing ways to pit “Team automobiles” vs. “Team bicyclists” etc etc…

                • September 15, 2016 at 4:09 pm

                  Don’t complain about this problem, because back in my day, the problem was even worse.

                  Sound logic.

          • September 9, 2016 at 9:19 am

            I don’t care that you’ve been biking around the tracks since 1973. Just because you’re fine with them doesn’t mean everybody is. Don’t be a jerk to people who get hurt because of crumbling, situationally-obsolete infrastructure.

            • September 9, 2016 at 12:43 pm

              You got hurt due to your poor biking skills or you were drunk.

              Own up to your mistakes.

              • September 9, 2016 at 7:20 pm

                It wasn’t me. I don’t bike drunk, and I don’t have poor biking skills. Stop being a jerk to strangers.

        • September 8, 2016 at 5:04 pm

          Hey i’m a suburban raised dolt! It just happens i’ve been in the city for nearly 30 years, and biking around for most of that time.

          It’s just … at some point you have to make the best of a situation. Did I want the trolleys to go away? NO, definitely not. I prefer them for a lot of reasons. But they did, and there’s nothing I can do about it. And if a trolley-less city is going to be our fate, then let’s get rid of the tracks that are a hazard and cause potholes.

  • September 8, 2016 at 2:27 pm

    I popped my tire on the rails last year

  • September 9, 2016 at 10:00 am

    A few years ago, my bike tire caught a trolley track in a curve while I continued forward ass over teakettle and roughed myself up quite a bit; breaking my cell phone in the process.

    Not once did I think to blame the track because its an inanimate object thats been there since the 19th century.

    I also wonder the level of entitlement it takes to make a determination as a bicyclist that a trolley line is beyond the point of reactivation. I’d like to see your transportation planning and/or engineering credentials.

  • September 9, 2016 at 5:16 pm

    As soon as every car-owning resident who lives on or near 11th Street is willing to give up their precious parking spaces, I will petition Septa to bring light rail back to South Philadelphia.

  • September 11, 2016 at 11:42 am

    So let me get this straight…people have been biking fine in this area for probably over a 100 years. Someone well connected at the Bike Coalition crashes there, and then all of a sudden this tracks are being torn up. Has the city demonstrated that this is a high accident area? What does the data say? I’m guessing that they didn’t bother, and they’re only doing this because of their friends couldn’t figure out how to ride around the tracks. If the data shows a problem, that they have had a high number of accidents here in the past few years, ok, maybe I can see a reason to make a change. But this sounds like old South Philly-style-taking-care-of-your-buddies-first, only done by a new generation.

    Furthermore, what does the Historical Commission have to say about this? They’re tearing out historic cobblestone on a historic trolley route, next to the the last remnants of what used to be Moyamensing Prison. Did the city ever ask?

  • September 12, 2016 at 11:12 am

    The tracks are unused, dangerous and costly to maintain (as mentioned above). Despite this, Septa has consistently patched them rather than remove them because the cost of removal is much higher than the maintenance cost. For all of you sentimentalists, Septa doesn’t really care about your memories, they just want to spare themselves costs. I would venture to guess that while Septa doesn’t care much about your health, wellbeing or wistfulness, they do probably want to avoid lawsuits–something they definitely get each year due to trolley track accidents (not just for cyclists).

    What I find really bizarre is that no naysayer here understands the basic physics of expansion and contraction of metal. This is the real issue–the tracks expand and contract with the weather and create breaks in the pavement. When this happens, the city has to use your tax money to repair the cracks. Also, surprise! the tracks freeze over more quickly than the pavement, which, in turn, causes them to be a slip hazard for humans, bikes and cars. All of this for something that hasn’t operated in decades.

    Yes, it’s a shame when the vestiges of your childhood or local history have to be replaced by something new, but it’s also unreasonable to defend and protect poorly managed or dangerous structures and infrastructures for the sake of nostalgia. Are you also the type of person who refuses vaccines on the grounds that polio is historical and “homey”? Electrical lines are ugly, but would you be willing to go without electricity to your home? You have to draw the line somewhere.

  • September 12, 2016 at 12:37 pm

    I believe it was the city that determined the trolley line is not being reactivated. I believe most, including drivers and bicyclists, would like to see the trolley line come back.

    But again, since the city has no plans to reactivate it, the constant maintenance on the street from improper paving due to the tracks is more costly than removing them. Sadly, It does not look like they are actually removing them since I walked by this morning and saw them paving over top of the tracks, just removing the cobblestone. So the potholes will return.

    And cobblestone streets are rarely a concern for any historical society. A wooden street? Sure. Cobblestone? Not worth saving a tiny strip in the middle of a street.

  • September 13, 2016 at 2:00 pm

    To the point that the Historical Commission may not care, the State Historical and Museum Commission already has designated the former Route 23 Trolley Line as eligible for the National Register of Historic Places (Key #140915). Which means that it’s a resource that they should probably have been contacted about.

    And sure, paving over tracks in certain spots may make it safer for bicyclists. But why at this spot, where the capital cost of removing the cobblestones costs that much more? Why not take the added cost at this one location, and do standard paveovers at multiple locations instead?

    Where are the stats that says that this particular location is that much more accident prone, thus justifying the additional cost of removing the stone? Isn’t it safer to spread the cost to more locations?

    The reason is that they are doing this at 11th and Reed is because a friend of theirs fell there. A well connected friend at the Bicycle Coalition. They are practically gloating about it. And that in itself is practically a misuse of public funds.

    • September 14, 2016 at 10:05 am

      Just because you don’t like the people that got this done, does not mean it is a misuse of funds. It is the proper use of our tax money, since I’m tired of it going towards constant patch work instead of actual repair. I wish they would have torn up the whole street and repaved it though, instead of just the center strip.

      As for the tracks being histroical…the commission does not care about that. The path that the trolley took is what is registered. They want the long, historic stretch that runs from South Philly to Chestnut Hill to be recognized for its history (beginning in the 19th century) and it’s heavy use throughout the years (still the most used route in the city). The actual tracks and the cobblestones are irrelevant to that narrative. If they were removing a historic shelter/station along the route, then that is a different story.

      • September 14, 2016 at 4:26 pm

        Parking Police – I have seen plenty examples of where PHMC is interested in the actual infrastructure of historic trolley lines rather than just the path that the trolley once took. A similar paving project on Germantown Ave is what led to the Rt. 23 being on PHMC’s radar. And you’re right, the Commission or PHMC ultimately may not care – what you or I say is speculative.

        But, the City should have consulted with either group about this project, and from everything that I can find, they haven’t – probably because this is a political project that they pushed to satisfy the Bike Coalition.

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