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Market-Frankford Line

Line of the Week: Market-Frankford Line

September 21, 2020

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This is our second installment in our Line of the Week series. Follow us on Instagram to find out when the next one is posted!

Last week, we took a look at the Paoli/Thorndale Line, which we called the workhorse of the Regional Rail System. Now we want to explore the workhorse of all of SEPTA: The Market-Frankford Line. This behemoth of a line came into existence in 1904. At the time, it only went from City Hall to a portal at 23rd Street. In 1907, service was extended to 69th Street Transportation Center (then known as 69th Street Terminal). The next year, the line was built farther east to 2nd Street. SEPTA didn't take over operation of this line until 1968. Before that, it was operated by Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company and Philadelphia Transportation Company.

The Market-Frankford Line is absolutely vital to so many people who live and work in Philadelphia. In 2019, it averaged 178,975 riders every weekday. It runs east and west straight thru Center City and connects to every other SEPTA mode of transit (and offers free interchanges to trolleys at 13th and 15th Street Stations and the Broad Street Line at 15th Street Station). And now, your first transfer is free when you use Travel Wallet on SEPTA Key!  The Market-Frankford Line connects to 28 stations in all, stretching 13.6 miles between 69th Street Transportation Center in Upper Darby and Frankford Transportation Center in the Northeast, passing neighborhoods like West Philly, Haddington, Mill Creek, University City, Old City, Northern Liberties Fishtown, Kensington, Harrowgate, and Juniata:

  • 69th Street Transportation Center

  • Millbourne Station

  • 63rd Street Station

  • 60th Street Station

  • 56th Street Station

  • 52nd Street Station

  • 46th Street Station

  • 40th Street Station

  • 34th Street Station

  • 30th Street Station

  • 15th Street Station

  • 13th Street Station

  • 11th Street Station

  • 8th Street Station

  • 5th Street/Independence Hall Station

  • 2nd Street Station

  • Spring Garden Station

  • Girard Station

  • Berks Station

  • York-Dauphin Station

  • Huntingdon Station

  • Somerset Station

  • Allegheny Station

  • Tioga Station

  • Erie-Torresdale Station

  • Church Station

  • Arrott Transportation Center

  • Frankford Transportation Center

It's also the most frequent route in all of SEPTA. At its peak, it runs every five minutes or less. On weekdays, from about midnight to 4a, the MFL transfers to bus service called the Owl Bus. On weekends, you can catch the MFL 24 hours a day. A trip across the entire line would take roughly 40 minutes, but you can get from City Hall to 69th Street Transportation Center in about 15 minutes.

The Market-Frankford Line is often affectionately referred to as the "Blue Line," since that's the color it is on most maps. It's also called the "El" since it's a "Subway-Elevated Line" which means it spends about half of its time on an elevated track (it's underground from 46th Street Station to 2nd Street Station. The elevated parts of the journey are many people's favorites because they offer some truly spectacular views. 

In 2009, these views were enhanced by artist Steve Powers, who created a series of murals along the Market-Frankford Line in a project entitled "A Love Letter For You." Powers, a West Philadelphia native now based in New York, is a former graffiti writer who became an established studio artist, illustrator, and Fulbright scholar. In Powers’ own words, Love Letter is “a letter for one, with meaning for all” and speaks to all residents who have loved and for those who long for a way to express that love to the world around them. He considers the project “my chance to put something on these rooftops that people would care about.”

The El stops at 5th Street/Independence Hall Station. It's currently under construction (but still open!). The construction's purpose, among other things, is to transform the station and street-level amenities into a transportation hub with modern amenities that is worthy of its location in the heart of one of nation’s most important historic districts. This project is expected to be completed in December of 2020.

If you're planning on riding, there are a few things you don't want to forget.

  • You'll want to remember your SEPTA Key! This is your "key" to not just the Market-Frankford Line but to all of SEPTA! If you don't have a SEPTA Key, you can purchase them at any station on the Market-Frankford Line. You can read up about fare here. And if you've never ridden the MFL before, check out this informative video on How to Ride!

  • Don't forget your mask! This isn't just to keep you safe, it's to keep everyone who rides SEPTA safe! Make sure your mask is covering both your mouth and your face.

  • And finally, don't forget to keep social distance!

 As the song goes, you may not be able to get to heaven on the Frankford El, but you can certainly get to a lot of other places!

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