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Getting There: The ISEPTAPHILLY Blog

SEPTA Bus 101: Riding the 38 to the Philadelphia Zoo

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Another week, another hot summer weekend! What are your plans, ISEPTAPHILLYers? If you don’t have an answer to that, we think this is the perfect weekend to get to the Philadelphia Zoo. And we have great news – you can skip the traffic! SEPTA gets you there, and we want to make sure your “bus nerves” doesn’t make you miss it. We’ve put together a step-by-step guide that will explain to you exactly how SEPTA can get you there, and should answer any questions you may have along the way. (And psst… there’s a PERK there!)

Which bus is right for me?

To get to the Philadelphia Zoo, you can hop the Route 38 Bus. This is the only bus that will get you close.

The Route 38 begins on 5th Street (north of Market Street) and finishes at the Wissahickon Transportation Center. The Route 38 runs about every 20 minutes during the day and early evening; after 8pm, the bus will be less frequent, running every 30-40 minutes. This bus will travel up Mantua Ave, dropping you at a 10 minute walk from the zoo.

Where do I find my bus stop?

We’ll walk you through the directions from City Hall in Center City Philadelphia – since this is an easily identifiable landmark and the center of town.

 There are plenty of Route 38 bus stops near here; you can find the bus stop for the Route 38 on Market between 6th Street and City Hall, as well as on JFK Blvd between Broad and 20th Streets. If you get the 38 at any of these locations, it will be heading towards the zoo.

If you’re using our Trip Planner, you can head to your closest bus stop listed in the directions.

Once you’ve found your bus stop, open your SEPTA App for Apple iOS or Android, and click on the Transit View. Select the route, and track where your bus is. Transit View updates every 3 minutes. If you tap the option bar in the upper right hand corner, you can view which color buses are heading in which direction.

If you’re already at the bus stop, you can get the next four scheduled trips texted to you by following these directions:

1. Open a new text message and type 'septa' and the STOP ID number (found on the SEPTA Bus Stop sign).

2. Send the text to 41411 3. Receive a return text with the next four scheduled trips

Remember: always board through the front of the bus. You can exit through the rear door if you choose.

How can I pay?

A detailed list of all of your fare options can be found here. If it’s a one-time bus ride, you can buy tokens at certain convenience stores, SEPTA Sales locations and Stations. The cost of a bus ride with a token is $2.00. Tokens may only be purchased in packs of two or more. If you want to hop on the bus right away before buying tokens, you can pay $2.50 in exact change onboard.

This is a great opportunity to try out your SEPTA Key Card (or get one, if you haven’t yet)! You can find plenty of places to buy a Key Card here. You can add money to your Travel Wallet, which will be the same value as tokens. Then, just tap your Key Card at our red validators on the bus to pay.

If you already have a TransPass loaded onto your Key, you can use it on ALL bus, trolley, subway or Norristown High Speed Line trips, including this one. Just tap your Key on the validator.  The same goes for a paper TransPass. If you’re a regular Rail rider, you’re in luck! A paper TrailPass will also allow you to ride on transit

If you’re just doing urban exploring, you can get a One-Day Convenience Pass for $8, and is valid for up to 8 bus rides in a single day (or 8 rides on any SEPTA Transit services).

If you also plan to include any Regional Rail travel in your trip, then the One-Day Independence Pass is for you. It’s only $12, and allows you unlimited one-day travel on all SEPTA services.

Also, if you have a TransPass, TrailPass, One-Day Independence Pass or SEPTA Key, you get SEPTA Pass Perks!

When do I pull the string to request my stop?

The 38 will turn onto Mantua Ave from Spring Garden Street (tip: you can follow on your phone’s map app if you aren’t exactly sure where you are).

After the turns onto Mantua Ave, it’s less than a half of a mile to where you want to get off the bus: Mantua Ave and 34th Street. Pull the string to request your stop after the bus passes 33rd Street (which will only be on the left). This will alert the Operator that you plan to get off at the next stop, which is on Mantua, directly past 34th Street.

When you get off the bus on Mantua Ave, backtrack a few feet to the corner, which will put you on the intersection with 34th Street. Here, you will have two options: a 34th Street that heads into a residential neighborhood, or a 34th Street that turns into a bridge, colorfully decorated with animals and flowers.  Take the bridge, and then stay on 34th Street after the bridge flattens into a regular road – it’s a short walk that leads you to the entrance of the zoo!  

Anything we didn’t cover?

If you still have questions, we have a short How-To video for you on our Destinations page. Simply scroll down below the Search Bar, and you’ll find our How-To videos, including How to Ride SEPTA Bus Routes.

…If you still have questions, well, we can help with that too. Our SEPTA Customer Service team is available through Twitter M-F (7a-7p) and on weekends (8a-6p). Tweet any questions at them and they’ll get back to you quickly with answers. If you don’t have Twitter, you can ask your questions with the Chat Now option. You can also reach them by phone at (215) 580-7800.

If your question isn’t urgent, you can email us at [email protected]

To make your travels easier, we recommend you download the SEPTA App. This helps with more than just your bus ride! Our App provides you with schedules, Transit View, Alerts, Pass Perks, and more. And it’s free.

Our buses are a great way to get to all of the corners of our city, so don’t be nervous! Remember, even the most seasoned rider had to once have their first solo-bus-ride, it’s just a matter of doing it.

Oh, and always be on the lookout for detours. Check our System Status or better yet - ask the Operator when you board.

Now you’re equipped with everything you need to know about riding the bus. So go catch your ride!


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