SEPTA’s Wilmington/Newark Line has been under construction since July 20, requiring a train change at 30th Street Station to get to Center City stations. It’s all part of the Southwest Connection Improvement Program that is upgrading 80-year-old infrastructure.
The good news? That construction is scheduled to be finished by Aug. 4.
The bigger news? Starting the next day — Monday, Aug. 5 — the Wilmington/Newark Line will add a 9:39 p.m. Saturday night train from Philly to Wilmington, which currently has trains leaving 30th Street at 7:45 and 10:45.
“The new train will help fill a gap for Wilmington riders, who still contend with two-hour headways off-peak, meaning a train serves Wilmington every two hours outside of the weekday rush-hour peak service,” Delaware transportation advocate David Curtis told Technical.ly.
Curtis, a Wilmington urbanist who helped bring increased SEPTA service, Zipcar and BoltBus to Northern Delaware, noted that the service upgrade was a much-needed improvement for a line that has fewer runs than other Regional Rail lines.
The Wilmington/Newark line is in the top half of SEPTA’s regional rail lines in terms of ridership — seventh of 16 despite running with fewer trains, with 9,727 daily average rides in 2018.
Wilmington Station, though, “is one of SEPTA’s highest ridership stations,” Curtis said: Of 154 total Regional Rail stations, an average of 2,035 daily riders (those boarding or leaving the train) ranks it at #17 overall, putting it in the top 11% of all stations — and that includes the four stations (30th Street, Suburban, Jefferson and Temple) that service every single Regional Rail line, compared to Wilmington Station’s one line. With those removed, it comes in 13th, or the top 10%.
And yet, “it is the only one in that cohort that does not receive at least hourly service throughout the entire week,” he said. “Wilmington last received a SEPTA service upgrade in September 2017, when a weekday morning round-trip train was added to the schedule along with the city’s first ever late-night Saturday train.”
SEPTA operates in Delaware through a contract with Delaware Transit Corporation (DART). Improvements to the service since 2014 included adding three weekday round-trip trains, one Saturday night round-trip train, one Saturday night one-way train, and one weekday one-way express, and the conversion of two weekday local trains to express.
The new schedule hasn’t hit your SEPTA app (which works in real-time) yet, but you can access it here.