Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority Serving Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia Counties

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Airport Line | Celebrating 25 Years


airport anniversary

April 28, 1985
Airport Line service begins between North Broad Station through the Center City Commuter Connection, which opened November 1984, to Philadelphia International Airport

Seventy-three daily trains provided half hour service seven days per week between 6:00 a.m. until 12:30 a.m.

Initially planned to be part of the R1 Route from West Trenton, service began independent of the West Trenton Line because of concerns about maintaining a high on-time performance. West Trenton Line service was run on tracks owned by Conrail and SEPTA passenger trains encountered delays because of freight train traffic.

Projected to carry 1,500 passengers initially, ridership reached 1,900 trips shortly after opening. By comparison, the Airport Express Bus previously operated carried only about 335 passengers per day.

October 27, 1985

An earlier outbound train leaving Suburban Station at 5:35 a.m. was added, increasing the number of daily trains to 74.

May 21, 1989
The Airport Line was designated as R1 Airport Line. West Trenton service was paired with trains to Elwyn to create a longer Route R3 (Elwyn to West Trenton).

By Fiscal Year 1990, average weekday ridership had grown to almost 2500 trips.

April 7, 1991
Terminal A at Philadelphia International Airport opened and was served by all trains.

1992 through 1993
A major project, known as Railworks, disrupted through service to PHL for ten months. Train service began and ended at Market East Station as 25 bridges north of Center City were replaced or rehabilitated.

SEPTA aggressively worked to regain lost ridership at the completion of Railworks. Airport Line trains were extended to Warminster and West Trenton on weekends providing a one seat ride to the Airport. Similar service extensions were also made on weekdays. The new Temple University Station replaced North Broad as the major stop in North Philadelphia.

April 24, 1995
Airport Line trains began serving the newly opened University City Station.

Also this year, a major change in SEPTA fare policy allowed customers to travel to Philadelphia International Airport with a TransPass during off-peak times. This move was aimed at encouraging employees at PHL to ride the train. Ridership jumped up to an average of 2,488 passenger trips per day, rebounding from the effects of the Railworks project.

December 1997
Eastwick Station opened as another stop on the Airport Line.

November 1999
As part of an Access To Jobs initiative, service was expanded by one additional roundtrip providing service one-hour earlier to and from the Airport seven days per week.

Customers also had the opportunity to board from new platforms in 1999, located adjacent to the Baggage Claim area. These new platforms improved access to the train for customers from flights picking up their baggage.

Another round trip funded through an Access To Jobs initiative expanded daily service to 76 daily trips providing half-hourly service, 19 hours a day, seven days a week.

Fall 2001 through Summer 2002

Overhead wires were renewed between Suburban Station and 30th Street, weekend Airport Line service was substituted by buses between Center City and Philadelphia International Airport.

Airport Line ridership has grown to weekday average of 7,500 trips as of February 2010.