CLASSIC SKYLINE: Independence Pass (June 2009)

Classic Skyline is a semi-occasional feature that revisits stories of 21st Century Philadelphia. This one was originally posted 8 June 2009.

Greetings, friends! I apologize for the lack of frequency in which this web site has provided updates; I have big plans for it, just gotta find the time for ’em. One of the big goals is to make it even more photo driven than ever, something that’ll come into sight over the next week like the El rumbling out of the darkness of the tunnel under the Schuylkill and into the fluorescent light of 15th Street. (With apologies to the SEPTA Poet.) This and I have some catching up to do on photos, maps, and stats for One Man’s Trash. All in due time, promise.

In June 2009, shortly after SEPTA unveiled their new single-day Independence Pass, a group of four of us photographin’ friends spent that single-day traveling as far as SEPTA would take us, each documenting his personal journey. We met in the morning at Market East Station (at Starbucks), went our separate ways, and met back at Market East (at Field House pub) in the evening; we clocked in and clocked out from the same station, worked a full shift in the field from 9am to 6pm, and the following week rolled out our respective results in four individual photo essays.

And here we are five years later. SEPTA’s Independence Pass, $10 in 2009, is $12 now, a fair price indeed for a full day’s worth of travel to everywhere SEPTA goes (minus the Regional Rail service to Trenton and West Trenton, which each incur an added $5 should you see a need to travel to New Jersey on a SEPTA day pass). 6 June 2009 was a Saturday; as I quickly discovered on my own journey that day, SEPTA’s Saturday schedule is a little lacking. The four of us had kicked around the idea of encoring the series this coming Sunday, but as everyone knows, SEPTA’s Sunday schedule is even worse.

So instead, we’re doing it this Friday, on a weekday schedule. Chris Dougherty, Steve Ives, Brad Maule, Steve Weinik, FRIDAY THE 13TH. Four dudes, four cameras, one day, one public transit system. And we’ll post our results on this here web site next week—just like we did five years ago. Check out our respective essays with the links below.

—B. Maule

Back at the end of March, Septa announced that they would be rolling out a brand new One Day Independence Pass, a $10 pass ($25 for a family of up to five) that’s valid for a full day on all forms of Septa’s transit — regional rail, subway, el, trolley, bus, all of them. The new pass differed from the existing $6 Convenience Pass, which was only valid for eight rides and did not include any regional rail use. A previous $5.50 Day Pass, the subject of a December 2004 Philly Skyline photo essay was valid for unlimited rides on all forms of transit except regional rail, which was allotted one ride.

The new Independence Pass is good for everything, including a partnership with Center City District that allows for rides on the Phlash. A singular side note is that trips originating from the New Jersey stations (Trenton, West Trenton) incur an additional $5 fee.

Septa brands the Independence Pass, more or less, as a way for suburbanites to spend a day at Philadelphia’s tourist sites:

A family, for example, can board a Regional Rail train in Lansdale, connect with the PHLASH bus at Suburban Station for a trip to the Zoo and then return to Center City for dinner before taking the train back home.

(If there was a regional rail station at the Zoo, which can absolutely be done, a suburbanite’s day would not involve a ride all the way to Center City just to transfer to a tourist bus. By the way.)

While suburbanites and their children very well may be boarding in Lansdale and heading to the zoo with a stop at the Spaghetti Warehouse on the way home, I thought the Independence Pass was good cause for a good project carried out by good people with a good eye (and a good reserve of patience). On Saturday morning, I met with The Necessity For Ruins‘ Chris Dougherty,‘s Steve Weinik, and Philly Skyline resident Septa expert Steve Ives, whose archive recently got a much needed makeover.

Our starting point was 9am at the Starbucks in the Marriott, directly across the street from Septa’s 1234 Market headquarters and right upstairs from Market East Station. From there, the wind — and Septa — would carry us wherever it would carry us, each one going his own way with a single deadline of meeting back up at 6 at the Field House pub, at the top of the stairway from Market East Station. We’d depart and reunite at the same location, a full and individual shift of riding Septa and photography in between.

There were no rules or requisites. Each person could ride as many or as few forms of Septa’s vehicles as desired. There were no assignments; photos of trains, people, buildings, signs, rivers, animals — it was all acceptable.

Would the four of us make it through the day without any trouble? Would we be hassled by sensitive bus drivers? Overzealous transit cops? Hustlers on 52nd Street? Would any of us actually ride all of Septa’s forms of vehicle? Visit all five PA counties they cover?

Stay tuned.

In the next four days, we’ll be rolling out our respective efforts, one per day. Steve Ives, Chris Dougherty, Steve Weinik, and R Bradley Maule will each exhibit a day’s worth of travel on Septa, in a uniform format: 40 photos with simple captions and a companion written essay to tell their tale of the day. It begins tomorrow.

Watch the closing doors.

–B Love

To view the respective essays, please click the images below.