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Note-Thanks to Bill Vigrass for updated information in bold.
The PATCO Hi-Speedline is a rapid transit system operated by the Port Authority Transit Corporation (PATCO), which runs between Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Lindenwold, New Jersey. The Speedline runs underground in Philadelphia, crosses the Delaware River on the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, runs underground in Camden, then runs above ground in New Jersey (except in Haddonfield, where it runs in a cut), until the east end in Lindenwold. The Port Authority Transit Corporation and the Speedline are owned and controlled by the Delaware River Port Authority. PATCO Hi-Speedline operation began 6am, January 4, 1969 between Lindenwold and Camden. Service was extended into Philadelphia 16th and Locust Sts. on February 15, 1969. The line operates 24 hours a day.
The modern-day PATCO Speedline follows the route along the former Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines Main Line, dating back to the 19th century. This railroad terminated in Camden, where passengers could catch ferries to Philadelphia. Early in the 20th century, the idea of a fixed Delaware River crossing connecting Camden and Philadelphia gained traction, and in 1919, the states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey formed the Delaware River Bridge Joint Commission to build a bridge between the two cities. The Delaware River Bridge (now Ben Franklin Bridge) was designed to accommodate rail as well as road traffic; when it opened on July 1, 1926, it had two outboard structures beside the main roadway for rail and two streetcar tracks (later removed) on the main road deck. Construction of the rail line didn't actually begin until 1932, and the Bridge Line opened on June 7, 1936. Relatively short, it only had four stations: 8th Street and Franklin Square in Philadelphia (the latter now closed) and City Hall and Broadway in Camden (connecting to the Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines at Broadway).
In Philadelphia, the line used a tunnel built in 1931 to serve both Ben Franklin Bridge trains and a Broad Street Subway spur designed to serve 8th and Market and the southern part of the city center via Locust Street. The tunnel, which replaced an earlier proposal for a downtown subway loop, extended under 8th to Locust, then under Locust to 16th, but as tracks were not laid beyond 8th and Market, the first Bridge Line trains did not run beyond 8th Street into the Locust Street Subway until February 10, 1952. This section is owned by the City of Philadelphia and leased by PATCO.
No sooner had the Bridge Line entered service than neighboring communities in Southern New Jersey began agitating for rapid transit extensions to serve them. To facilitate their construction, the states of New Jersey and Pennsylvania expanded the powers of the Delaware River Joint Commission, which owned the Ben Franklin Bridge and the New Jersey portion of the Bridge Line, rechristening it as the Delaware River Port Authority in 1951. The agency commissioned Parsons, Brinckerhoff, Hall and MacDonald (now Parsons Brinckerhoff) to study possible rapid transit services for South Jersey; Parsons, Brinckerhoff's final report recommended building a new tunnel under the Delaware and three lines in New Jersey. Route A would run to Moorestown, Route B to Kirkwood (Lindenwold), and Route C to Woodbury Heights. A later study by Louis T. Klauder & Associates recommended using the Bridge Line instead to reach Philadelphia and suggested building Route B first, as it had the highest potential ridership.
The final Bridge Line and Broad St. Spur trains ran though the subway on December 28, 1968, when work began to convert the Locust Street and Camden subways for use by the new PATCO Speedline, which would use the Bridge Line subway to enter Philadelphia. The new Speedline from Camden to Lindenwold opened on February 15, 1969 along former Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines trackage. Woodcrest Station was added later, in 1980, between the existing Haddonfield and Ashland stations.
In 2005, PATCO officials began planning a new route in the corridor of the originally proposed Route C that would serve Gloucester County and end in Glassboro near the grounds of Rowan University (formerly Glassboro State College). On May 12, 2009, John Corzine the Governor of New Jersey, formally endorsed a diesel light rail along an existing Conrail right-of-way, which was selected because of its lower capital cost and operating cost. The proposed light rail would require riders to transfer to the Speedline at the Walter Rand Transportation Center for trips to Philadelphia. The PATCO study also recommended a multimodal, regional initiative to introduce bus rapid transit to New Jersey Route 42 and New Jersey Route 55, and upgrading New Jersey Transit's Atlantic City Line to improve its usability.
PATCO was one of the first transit systems to incorporate Automatic Train Operation (ATO) for regular service. The ATO is an analogue system that makes use of Pulse_Code_Cab_Signaling supplied by Union Switch and Signal. The cab signals supply one of 5 different speeds (20mph, 30mph, 40mph, 65mph and 0mph) and the on-board ATO gear will supply maximum acceleration or maximum braking force to reach that target speed. The frequent use of such high acceleration and deceleration rates makes for a quick ride, yet one that is also perilous for non-seated passengers. Automatic station stops are handled by track mounted transponders and can be overridden by the operator for non-stopping trains.
The system suffers from problems handling slippery track conditions and human operators are required to take control in any sort of precipitation. Because of the ATO limitations, operators must make one trip per day under manual operation to stay in practice and are not penalized for running their trains manually at any time of their choosing. In practice, most operators prefer automatic operation as not only is it less effort, but it also tends to result in faster trips.
The system was designed for one person train operation by exclusively utilizing island platforms and right-handed operation with operators sitting on the left side of the vehicle where they can open their window and monitor the boarding process. Where trains have to use the "wrong" side, mirrors are provided to give the operator a proper view. The operator's booth is not isolated from the passenger cabin, instead being surrounded by a low partition. Operators wishing privacy can pull a curtain closed during operation, but are still on call to answer inquiries from passengers. When not in use, a lockable cover sits over the console controls. Operators are responsible for making station announcements, opening and closing the doors, sounding the horn, starting the train from station stops and full manual operation of the train (when necessary).
Trains operate at a maximum of 65mph on the surface portion of the system and 40mph in the subway portion and over the bridge. Trains used to have a top speed of 75mph on the surface portion, but this caused excessive wear on the traction motors and was cut back to 65mph in the 1970s.
PATCO runs the majority of its trains in 2, 4 or 6 car configurations. Single unit trains WERE operated late evenings and weekends but all trains now are two or more cars. Two coupled single cars are used for the nightliner "owl" trains for reliability based on redundancy.
While 3 or 5 car trains are encountered only when not enough cars available to meet the load line. All stations are capable of handling 7 or 8 car trains, but these lengths have never been run except for brief testing and for the annual holiday "Santa Train" special for children. In an effort to contain costs, PATCO actively manages its consist length as opposed to running trains in fixed sets. Train length is matched to the demand level for that particular time of day. In peak periods trains are 6 cars long, on "shoulder" periods they are 4 cars long, off peak they are 2 cars long and overnight sometimes single units are run alone. Due to recent capital improvements weekend and mid-day headways have grown prompting to run 4-car trains all day, albeit less frequently than the 2-car trains.
When PATCO opened it used a frequency modulation (FM) signal in the 3rd rail. During ice and snow when the shoe/third rail was intermittant and arcing, static made its use useless. When it was needed it the most, it did not work.
With the PATCO II cars PATCO converted to Radio at Ultra high frequency (UHF)T-band. As of 2014 they have joined the Delaware River Port Authority's 800MHz EDACS Network.
The entire PATCO system is run from Center Tower, centrally located above a substation near the Walter Rand Transportation Center-Broadway station in Camden, NJ. Center Tower contains a relay based Centralized traffic control machine dating from 1968. The CTC machine at Center Tower is staffed by two operators at peak periods and a single operator otherwise. Wayside signals are marked with their corresponding lever in the old US&S fashion with R signals indicating a "right" lever motion and L signals indicating "left". Signals and switches are numbered in ascending order from west to east with 15th/16th Locust using levers 1-4 and Lindenwold using levers 73-76. The interlocking at Woodcrest, which was added in 1980, uses levers 87-98.
PATCO trains are governed by a Pulse code cab signaling system which transmits the signal codes to the trains via the running rails.
Signal System Operation
The following Pulses Per Minute (PPM) are used to tell the train what speed in Miles Per Hour (MPH) to operate:
The cab signals are displayed to the operator via a series of 5 lamps above the speedometer each corresponding to a speed:
These lamps correspond to the same cab signals in use by various northeastern railroads. Even when the Automatic Tran Operation System is not in use, the cab signal speed control function is still enabled and if an operator goes above the permitted speed, the power is cut and the brakes are applied until the speed is back within the limit.
Located only at interlockings and consist of two lamps on a single signal head, one lunar white, the other red. There are three typical signal indications,
The following are also present on PATCO:
All PATCO trains are electrically powered. Power comes from a top contact covered third rail at 750 volts Direct Current. There are two feeds to the commercial power grid, one located in Philadelphia from Exelon for the old Bridge Line tunnel segments and the other in New Jersey from PSE&G for the new mainline segments. In New Jersey power is distributed via wayside AC transmission lines at 26.4 KV, 3 phase, 60 Hz., and a series of 7 substations, located every 2 miles or so, transform and rectify the current to the 750V DC used in the third rail.
Since 1969, PATCO used a magnetic ticket as the sole means of collecting fares. The plastic tickets were purchased through vending machines in the stations. These machines required coins, so bill changers were placed in stations. Each vending machine was capable of selling two types of tickets, which the rider selected by pushing a button after inserting the correct fare. Several machines were needed in each station, since different types of one-way and two-way tickets needed to be sold. After the ticket was purchased, it was inserted through a turnstile gate. To exit the station, it was inserted again, and if it had rides remaining, returned to the rider. A ticket with no rides was re encoded by the system and returned to use in the vending machine. Tickets could also be purchased in ten-trip passes, but these were obtained through mail or in office.
At its inception, this system was state-of-the-art, but it eventually became obsolete. Often, tickets were damaged by magnetic sources such as cell phones and Personal digital assistants that did not exist at the creation of the system. If something went wrong with a ticket, the best help that could be provided was through a call for help phone because most stations had no attendants.
In July 2006, PATCO announced that it would start the transition from a magnetic ticket fare system to an electronic smart card system. Magnetic tickets are still sold, for the occasional riders, however they are now in a paper form and can only be purchased with cash.
The new computer vending machines allow more advanced purchasing options for Freedom Cards (the term used for the smart cards). Payment can now be in the form of coins, bills, credit cards, or debit cards. PATCO also says that balances can be reloaded on the Internet.
Each fare machine in the unpaid areas (i.e. outside the gates) performs all transactions. Also, to augment the call-for-aid phones, there are now exit fare machines located inside of the fare gates, so that if a rider has purchased the wrong fare, they may pay the remaining fare to exit.
The system is now being used by the general public at all PATCO stations, following a testing period by PATCO employees and some frequent commuters. For a time, some stations did not have the new equipment functioning. This had created confusion for riders who had purchased one of the new tickets for entry at an upgraded station, only to find out that the new ticket could not be used to exit at a station that had not yet been upgraded.
The system is being put into effect in an attempt to gain ridership, which has fallen sharply since its peak in 1990. The system was built in Tullahoma, Tennessee by Cubic Transportation Systems, Inc.
Because of the system's flexibility, it could one day operate seamlessly with SEPTA and RiverLine rail networks, allowing an integration of the systems. A disadvantage of the new system is that because the smart cards store value (instead of "rides") and the paper tickets expire after three days, it is no longer possible to hoard "rides" in advance of a fare increase. Also, the combination of the contactless card payment and the new swinging fare gates have decreased turnstile throughput, resulting in long exit queues after a train discharges a load of passengers at a station.
One of the six possible routes is displayed on a fluorescent lit piece of glass in the car. There are six routes, cut through a dark tinted piece of glass. The light behind the correct one identifies the train route. There are also rolling signs on the car ends and sides displaying this same route. The routes are as follows:
An additional sign is displayed (Special) when the train is accepting no passengers. Currently, the only three service designations used are Lindenwold Local, Philadelphia Local, and Philadelphia Express. The only currently operating express service is westbound from Lindenwold towards Philadelphia, which operates six times daily between 7:30 am – 8:45 am, skipping only Haddonfield, Westmont, and Collingswood stations. There is currently no eastbound express service, and all eastbound trains terminate at Lindenwold, as opposed to terminating early at Ferry Avenue or Woodcrest.
Trains and cars
PATCO operates 121 67-foot cars which were acquired in two separate orders, labeled PATCO I and PATCO II. The original PATCO I cars were designed and manufactured by Budd Company of Philadelphia, PA in 1968. Cars numbered 101-125 are single units, and cars numbered 201-250 are in permanently coupled married pairs. The PATCO II cars were delivered in 1980 (in parallel with the opening of the Woodcrest Park and Ride facility) and consisted of married pairs numbered 251-296. The PATCO II cars were manufactured by Vickers Canada under a license from Budd, but are virtually indistinguishable from the PATCO I's.
The single units differ from the married pairs by having an extra single leaf door located behind each operators booth. This was installed before the fare collection system was finalized and there was a possibility of operators collecting fares on board during the late night hours. The PATCO II cars differ from the PATCO I's by having a fixed partition behind the operator's booth and lacking a stainless steel shroud below the door line to ease access to traction components.
The PATCO 1 cars were originally fitted with WABCO Type N-2 spear and cup" couplers. These were replaced by "hook" type Ohio Brass Form 74 couplers. ("74" represents the year when ordered).
PATCO cars use camshaft resistance type motor controllers common to DC powered rapid transit vehicles up through the 1980s. The unique whine of the motors and gear assemblies can lead many to mistake the cars for using thyristor drive or even a variable-frequency drive, but this is not the case. The trucks are of the Budd designed Pioneer III variety and are lightweight. The married pair cars share a single air-compressor, auxiliary power supply and ATO system. Each car has its own propulsion control system. Many PATCO Car design features later appeared in the M1/M3 class of MU railcars for the Long Island Rail Road which provides for a similar riding experience.
Each single car seats 72 while each car of a married pair seats 80. Interior design was to maximize seating. The interior of a PATCO car can best be described as retro, not due to any intentional choice by PATCO, but simply due to the fact that the interior styling has not been updated since its introduction in 1968. The colour combination is a base of cream with a Moss green fill. Seating is a 2+2 arrangement with half of the seats in each car face the direction of travel, and half face backward. Seats run the full length of the car with the front seats next to the operator's booth having the benefit of a large picture window.
Each PATCO car has a pair of doors on each side with a foyer area inside the doors for standing passengers. There are also hand-holds on the seat backs for passengers to stand all the way down the isles. A few PATCO cars have been modified in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 to have a standard 2 person seat replaced with a single side mounted seat to create a space for a wheelchair passenger.
Car end-doors are unlocked, but inter-car movement is discouraged due to the extreme motions between cars. Train end-doors are also left unlocked, but are also secured with additional non-locking latches.
PATCO has announced plans for the complete refurbishment of the entire fleet, with work beginning in 2009 . The three - to four-year project will cost between 100 and 200 million dollars, with some funding coming from the federal government. Cars will be stripped to their exterior metal shell, and will be outfitted with new seating and electronic systems.
Connections to other transit systems
New Jersey Transit connections
New Jersey Transit buses connect to most PATCO stations in New Jersey. The New Jersey Transit Atlantic City Line also stops at Lindenwold Station, and the (New Jersey Transit)|River Line connects at Broadway Station Walter Rand Transportation Center.
The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) Market-Frankford Line connects to PATCO at the 8th Street (MFL station), which is five blocks away from SEPTA Market East Station (Philadelphia), where all of SEPTA's regional trains stop.
SEPTA's Broad Street Line connects to PATCO at the Walnut-Locust (BSL station) station via a short underground walkway to PATCO's 12th-13th & Locust, and 15-16th & Locust stations. The Broad-Ridge Spur connects to PATCO at the 8th Street (MFL station) via a pedestrian walkway.
The stations of the PATCO Speedline are a few miles from making connections with inter-city Amtrak trains at 30th Street Station. To make the connection to 30th Street Station, one must either transfer at the 8th Street and Market Station to the SEPTA Market-Frankford Line, and then travel four stations west to 30th Street Station or walk through the The Gallery at Market East to the Market East Station Regional Rail station and then catch any Regional Rail train to 30th St Station. While the MFL option involves less walking, the Regional Rail option is free for anyone holding Amtrak tickets (even though tickets are not normally lifted between the 3 Center City Regional Rail stations anyway). Alternatively, one can ride to 30th Street via the New Jersey Transit Rail Operations (Atlantic City Line) from the Lindenwold Station.
PATCO train operators are represented by Teamsters Local 676.
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