For years, traffic in Philadelphia has been a struggle for the city and its commuters. There’s the constant traffic jams, the brutal weather — and now, this.
Every time I have to take the streetcar to City Hall from my current neighborhood, the Broad Street Line, the boarding process is almost always as abysmal as I would’ve expected. The first time I took a day’s worth of photos and catalogued them for The Daily Review, the greenboard mounted on a curbside pillar was deserted, and no one was stopping to get off when I did.
I really wasn’t expecting much on the street level, but when I took my seat, I noticed the standing-room-only people waiting for the first few trains of the day. As I stared at the predicament of what seemed like hundreds of people stuck in one place for hours, I stopped for a moment to think, what’s the point of this?
Just before I had time to think about it, the first band of passengers got off at 15th and Market streets, some bumming rides.
“Can you help me?” I asked.
“It’s already open,” a woman yelled back. “This is space. You’re just a wet blanket trying to spoil things for everyone else.”
Maybe it was the poster on the wall announcing that it was the “City’s Historic Streetscape” that bothered me most — it said, “Please be considerate!” Really?
I heard one woman calling the cops over to us. Apparently they gave her a verbal warning and told her it was nice that we were caring, because she was straight up yelling at the boarding.
“You can let a couple people get on and off as long as they move them first,” she screamed. “A lot of times, we move someone into the ground because there are no seats.”
When I tried to explain to her that the people behind us weren’t being allowed to board because of a lack of available seats, she glared at me and said she would stop at another station. The sky was teeming with commuters with nowhere to sit.
“The more there are, the more there are going to be” said a man on my bus going downtown.
“Unfortunately, we have to adapt. It’s the Philadelphia way. We have to deal with the situations,” agreed another woman on the bus.
When I was delayed due to bus traffic in that same line earlier that morning, I spoke with a man who was still annoyed at the sardine-like condition at the only boarding spot.
“People just need to move on,” he said. “People can always find another spot. Why not start right here?”
So I thought about it for a few minutes and decided not to follow him out of there. Instead, I decided to empty the pool of seats. I could get four seats at a bar inside of Denny’s, and at least one in front of a Starbucks. Maybe it was too close to the line or maybe I thought someone else would spill into the folding chair, but the four were still up for grabs. And when I took a seat, I let everybody else board, just as I had promised. But when I was ready to get up and change the direction of the bus, there was only one person left. How dare she stay where she was?
She gave me a quick look, and then apparently she’d had enough. I gave her a horrified look.
The woman was a nice gal, and she apologized. And then when she got off, I didn’t give her any more stares. But I realized that it was the bus driver who had to deal with all of this. After all, how many times can she ask people to move so he can take them to another part of the station?
The plan is to pick up and drop off people at each stop every few minutes. Or more directly, there will be a stand-in at another station if somebody gets a hang-up and can’t board.
“It’s not easy,” said an employee at a nearby business. “But it’s the next step.”