Credit: Rikard Larma / Metro
Conrad Benner worked for a cafe in Center City earning $8 an hour, with minimum tips, while living in Fishtown in his late teens and early 20s. He would get done around 1 a.m.
"And I would just take a cab home," the now 28-year-old said. "Literally a third of my pay that day."
He couldn't take SEPTA's NiteOwl buses, because, let's face it: "They take an incredible amount of time, and I had to close so I didn't have time to wait 45 minutes for a bus that may or may not come. And if it did come, [it] would be crowded and kind of creepy," he added.
For those in similar situations, SEPTA has made some changes.
Officials announced this week that it would institute a pilot program this summer that would keep the El operational from 5 a.m. Friday morning until midnight Monday morning.
While it's still pending board approval, officials have set aside between $100,000 and $200,000 in the operating budget to start the pilot program. The program will start in mid-June and will run through Labor Day weekend. It would offer 24-hour service for the weekend on the El and Broad Street Line. Right now, the El and BSL stop running around 12:30 a.m.
And those NiteOwl buses will not be in service.
"It was the early '90s when we switched over to the NiteOwl buses," said SEPTA spokesman Andrew Busch. "And a lot has changed."
Center City blossomed. The Millenials, that age-group between 19 and 34, aren't as keen about buying cars and buying houses because of college debt and low-paying jobs. So, they moved closer to the their inner-city jobs and bicycles and public transportation became the preferred modes of transportation for their daily commutes. Also, more and more, empty-nesters are moving closer to Center City for convenience and accessibility.
"Philadelphia is seeing an increase in population," Benner said. "Young people are going to college here and are staying here. I'm glad SEPTA has sort of stepped up and realized this."
Benner, who runs the popular website streetsdept.com
that showcases city street art, created a petition to extend El hours to 24-7, 365 days a year. More than 2,000 signed the "SEPTA 24-7" petition.
"We appreciated his interest," Busch said,"but our process of looking into this started a number of months before that. We've been in kind of the planning stages for this ourselves going back to the later part of last year."
Benner quipped: "SEPTA plans a lot of stuff, but they don't seem to necessarily enact a lot of stuff, so I'm glad we could push them in one way or another."
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