Modes of public transportation in Philadelphia are operated primarily by SEPTA, the Southeast Pennsylvania Transportation Authority. The transit network, which consists of light rail, city buses, a subway and trolley lines is largely accessible, but there are some limitations that wheelchair users should be aware of. Utilize the information in this section of the guide to learn about the various public transportation options and prepare yourself to take advantage of the system when you arrive in Philadelphia.
Wheelchair Accessible Philadelphia Subway
Opened in 1907, Philadelphia’s underground subway system consists of two lines, the Broad Street Line (BSL) and Market-Frankford Line (MFL). Only a portion of BSL and MFL stations are wheelchair accessible (full list provided below). The BSL and MFL makes connections with the city’s subway-surface trolley lines, but these are not wheelchair accessible due to the age of the trolley vehicles used.
The BSL and MFL trains are wheelchair accessible, with seating areas designated for wheelchair users. The gap between the train and station platform is minimal, but the trains often sit a couple of inches higher that the platform. Certain stations, like AT&T Station, have raised sections of the platform which allow for level boarding. If you will require assistance with boarding the train, contact a station staff member or wait at the front of the platform to request assistance from the train’s operator.
List of wheelchair accessible Philadelphia Subway stations
The following subway stations, arranged by line and in alphabetical order, are wheelchair accessible, with elevators from the street to station platform:
- Broad Street Line (BSL) — 8th & Market Streets, Allegheny, AT&T Station, Cecil B. Moore, Fern Rock Transportation Center, Girard, North Philadelphia, Only Transportation Center, Oregon, Race-Vine, Spring Garden, Walnut-Locust
- Market-Frankford Line (MFL) — 2nd Street, 5th Street/Independence Hall, 8th Street, 13th Street/City Hall, 15th Street/City Hall, 30th Street, 40th Street, 46th Street, 52nd Street, 56th Street, 60th Street, 63rd Street, 69th Street Transportation Center, Allegheny, Berks, Church, Erie-Torresdale, Frankford Transportation Center, Girard, Huntingdon, Millbourne, Somerset, Tioga, York-Dauphin
The BSL and MFL intersect and allow for accessible connections/transfers at the Allegheny and Girard stations, but a new fare will be required (or a Key Card transfer).
While the majority of street-level elevators are located directly alongside the station’s stair entrance, this is not the case for all stations. Pictured above are signs posted on the outside the stairway entrance to the Walnut-Locust station, which advise commuters of the elevator’s location. The second photograph above is of the actual elevator described by those signs.
Philadelphia Subway fares and payment
Tickets are available at each station via the automated kiosk, or from a staffed ticket booth. Single ride trips can be purchased with cash or credit/debit cards for $2.50. Purchase a reloadable Key Card and you’ll receive a reduced fare of $2.00 per ride, plus the ability to transfer for $1.00 extra. Key Cards can be reloaded at any fare kiosk.
Once you have purchased your fare/ticket, insert it (or tap your Key Card) and proceed through the wheelchair accessible fare gates. You’ll be on the train and headed to your destination right away.
The SEPTA Key Card is the easiest way to pay, and I recommend purchasing a reloadable transit card at a fare kiosk. For more information, visit www.septakey.org.
SEPTA Regional Rail (including Airport Line)
SEPTA Regional Rail is a commuter rail system consisting on 13 lines serving more than 150 stations in the City of Philadelphia and surrounding areas. Each of the 13 lines stop at the three stations in Center City – 30th Street Station, Suburban Station and Jefferson Station, all of which are wheelchair accessible.
Accessibility of SEPTA Regional Rail trains
All regional rail train cars can accommodate wheelchairs of up to 30″ width and 48″ length. Due to the narrow entryway and sharp turn required, larger devices are unlikely to fit.
Because of the gap between the trains and station platforms, all accessible stations have bridge plates that are used to provide wheelchair access. To ensure that you are accommodated, wait at the front of the station platform and the train operator or conductor will assist you.
Wheelchair spaces onboard the trains are small, but were large enough to accommodate my powered wheelchair.
List of wheelchair accessible SEPTA Light Rail stations
Not all regional rail stations are wheelchair accessible. The following list, organized by regional rail line, identifies the accessible stations in alphabetical order:
- Airport Line — 30th Street Station, Airport Terminal A, Airport Terminal B, Airport Terminals C & D, Airport Terminals E & F, Eastwick, Fern Rock Transportation Center, Jefferson Station, Melrose Park, Suburban Station, Temple University, University City, Wayne Junction
- Chestnut Hill East Line — 30th Street Station, Jefferson Station, Suburban Station, Temple University, Wayne Junction
- Chestnut Hill West Line — 30th Street Station, Allen Lane, Chestnut Hill West, Jefferson Station, Queen Lane, Suburban Station, Temple University
- Cynwyd Line — 30th Street Station, Bala, Cynwyd, Suburban Station
- Fox Chase Line — 30th Street Station, Cheltenham, Fox Chase, Jefferson Station, Lawndale, Olney, Ryers, Suburban Station, Temple University, Wayne Junction
- Glenside Combined — 30th Street Station, Fern Rock Transportation Center, Jefferson Station, Melrose Park, North Broad, Suburban Station, Temple University, University City, Wayne Junction
- Lansdale/Doylestown Line — 9th Street, 30th Street Station, Ambler, Chalfont, Colmar, Delaware Valley University, Doylestown, Fern Park Transportation Center, Fortuna, Fort Washington (Rt. 201), Jefferson Station, Lansdale, Link Belt, Melrose Park, New Britain, North Broad, North Wales, Pennbrook, Suburban Station, Temple University, Wayne Junction
- Manayunk/Norristown Line — 30th Street Station, Elm Street, Jefferson Station, North Broad, Spring Mill, Suburban Station, Temple University, University City
- Media/Elwyn Line — 30th Street Station, 49th Street, Elwyn, Jefferson Station, Media, Morton-Rutledge, Primos, Suburban Station, Swarthmore, Temple University, University City
- Paoli/Thorndale Line — 30th Street Station, Berwyn, Exton, Jefferson Station, Overbrook, Radnor, Strafford, Suburban Station, Temple University, Thorndale, Wayne
- Trenton Line — 30th Street Station, Cornwells Heights, Croydon, Jefferson Station, Suburban Station, Temple University, Trenton Transit Center
- Warminster Line — 30th Street Station, Ardsley, Crestmont, Fern Rock Transportation Center, Jefferson Station, Melrose Park, Roslyn, Suburban Station, Temple University, University City, Warminster, Wayne Junction
- West Trenton Line — 30th Street Station, Bethayres, Fern Rock Transportation Center, Forest Hills, Jefferson Station, Melrose Park, Neshaminy Falls, Philmont, Somerton, Suburban Station, Temple University, Trevose, University City, Wayne Junction
- Wilmington/Newark Line — 30th Street Station, Chester Transportation Center, Churchmans Crossing, Claymont, Jefferson Station, Newark, Suburban Station, Temple University, University City, Wilmington
To access SEPTA Regional Rail route maps and schedules, click here.
Philadelphia Regional Rail fares and payment
Fares on the SEPTA Regional Rail are based on the distance traveled, with stations organized into six separate zones: CCP (Center City Philadelphia), Zone 1, Zone 2, Zone 3, Zone 4 and, finally, NJ (New Jersey). One-way fares begin at $3.75 for adults, with discounts offered to children, people with disabilities and seniors.
For tourists, the most frequent route used is between the Airport and one of the Center City stations (30th St., Jefferson or Suburban), and the one-way adult fare for that journey is $6.75. Tickets can be purchased from the automated kiosks at the station, or onboard with cash. Please note that the fare onboard is slightly higher than that offered at the kiosk.
For more information on Regional Rail fares, consult the SEPTA website.
Wheelchair Accessible Philadelphia City Bus
SEPTA operates more than 100 bus routes throughout the City of Philadelphia and its suburbs, utilizing a fleet of more than 1,000 wheelchair accessible low-floor city buses.
All city buses in Philadelphia have wheelchair accessible ramp that extends from the front door. Seating reserved for seniors and people with disabilities can be folded out of the way to accommodate wheelchairs. Two wheelchair spaces are provided on each bus, and securement straps ensure that the wheelchair is tied down for the journey.
Philadelphia City Bus fares and payment
City bus fares are $2.50 if paying with cash, or $2.00 if paid using a reloadable Key Card. Exact change is required and discounts are only available upon presentation of a valid ID. If using the Key Card, transfers to another city bus or to one of the subway lines are just $1.00.
The SEPTA Key Card is the easiest way to pay, and I recommend picking one up as soon as you arrive. For information on the reloadable transit card, visit www.septakey.org.
Philly PHLASH Downtown Loop
Geared for tourists, the PHLASH bus runs a continuous loop downtown, stopping at popular attractions like the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Reading Terminal Market, Independence Visitor Center, Museum of the American Revolution and more! Best of all, it’s inexpensive ($5 for an all-day pass) AND wheelchair accessible!
Wheelchair users board the bus via a ramp at the forward door (just like city buses), and are secured in a space designated for wheelchairs. Each bus can hold up to two wheelchairs or scooters. Unlike the Big Bus Tours Hop-on Hop-off bus (described below), the Philly PHLASH does not offer a narrated our – it is just transportation. PHLASH buses run every 15 minutes from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (7 p.m. in the summer) and tickets can be purchased on-board or via the website at www.ridephillyphlash.com.
Big Bus Tours Hop-on/Hop-off Bus
The Big Bus Company makes it easy to get around Philadelphia using their wheelchair accessible Hop-on Hop-off tour buses. Riders will enjoy hassle-free transportation, while listening to an audio tour throughout the journey.
The buses used have a wheelchair accessible ramp that folds out from the door, allowing wheelchair users to roll-on and roll-off the bus easily. A dedicated wheelchair space provides comfort and security, and the audio tour is easily accessible. The audio tour is broadcast in multiple languages including English, Spanish, French and Chinese, among others.
For more information on riding the Big Bus to Philadelphia’s top tourist attractions, click here. If you make a purchase through the link, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.