Category Archives: Classic Skyline

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, dovate.com‘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.

CLASSIC SKYLINE: Conventional Philadelphian Destruction (August 07)

Classic Skyline is a semi-occasional feature that revisits stories of 21st Century Philadelphia.

Today’s comes from summer 2007, when demolition began on the 19(!) buildings that were in the way of the Pennsylvania Convention Center’s fattening. The gluttonous white elephant schlumps together three city blocks like a cheap white Band-Aid, not the missed opportunity of a green roof to exemplify Mayor Nutter’s quixotic dreams to become the greenest city in America by his last year of office. (LOL.)

It’s hideous to look at; inside and out, it looks like what Iowa City would build if it had nearly a billion taxpayer dollars to work with. And its construction inspired the least inspired building downtown, the Home2 Suites one can see so well from the second level of the Convention Center.

With demolition in 2014 Philadelphia still full speed ahead, I’m surprised my younger optimist was somewhat supportive of it. Nineteen is a lot of buildings to clear for a single project, especially when it turns out to be such a dud.

—B. Maule

* * *

17 August 2007

If like any good attentive Philadelphian urbanist you are of the Cult of Inga, you’re surely aware the Pennsylvania Convention Center (PACC) is, after years of haggling, expanding. And if you’re a long time (pre-Erin O’Hearn) Philly Skyline reader, you’ll remember Steve Ives’ excellent look in January at the square blocks being razed to make way for that expansion.

Well the time is upon us. On Wednesday, the Convention Center authority hung a banner high on Buck’s Hardware store and ceremoniously plowed a wrecking ballthrough the effin thing.


Click to enlarge and see which buildings will be demolished.

The Convention Center’s expansion, like any controversy worth its salt, is a two-sided story. But, very generally speaking, it’s a good thing, extremely so for the overburdened local hotel industry.

As the PBJ reported last week, as many as 26 (twenty-six) new hotels could pop up as a result of the $700M (seven hundred million) expansion. As a result of the expansion, our Convention Center will jump up to 14th largest of its kind in the country, and perhaps more notably, be the largest in the mid-Atlantic region, larger than New York’s Javits Center and larger than the expanded Washington DC Convention Center.

When it’s finished in 2010 (which is less than three years away … wow, it’s gonna be fun to review the first decade of the new millennium and see all the top ten lists and see how it stacks up against the 20s and 60s), the Pennsylvania Convention Center will have over a million square feet of saleable space. Some of the larger convention centers in the country — Las Vegas, Orlando, Honolulu — are in cities that live and die on their tourism, but then cities like Boston and Chicago have their acts a little more together and host larger convention centers than ours.

Whatever the case, when it all shakes out, the expanded PACC will likely be viewed with a positive impact, its hohum architecture aside. The expos alone should be a cash cow for Center City, and a healthy hotel industry makes for a happy downtown.

The down side is relatively minor: the 20 buildings we are losing to make way for it. There isn’t anything of particular historical significance, but there are some nice buildings — the Gilbert Building (former home to Vox Populi), the Metzger Building, Mitchell/Giurgola’s bank on Broad Street — that it’ll be sad to see go.

As with the one above, click this photo to enlarge it and see which buildings are going.

None among them, though, is as . . . cute? contextual? as the Firehouse at 1328 Race Street. The station built in 1925 was one of the central locations for the Philadelphia Fire Department for several decades. The small structure features six gargoyles which a little Skyline birdie told me will be saved and displayed at PACC.

But again, on the whole, it’s hard to think of PACC’s expansion as anything but an upgrade (architecture aside). Save for nights with Vox openings and specials at Edward’s Adult Bookstore, the area was one of Center City’s dead zones. And where the exterior of the expansion is pretty bland, the all important Broad Street side has a nice glass wall that transitions the pedestrian into a large, well lit open space on the way to the money making bowels.

Some further reading about the Pennsylvania Convention Center’s expansion:

• Blowing Up the Convention Center Neighborhood: Inga’s continued coverage of the expansion, with links to previous columns about same
• Expansion Is Here!: PACC’s official web site
• If the Convention Center expands: Phillyblog discussion
• Buildings at Stake: A 2006 Daily News diagram of the buildings slated for demo