Celebrating 50 Years of the PATCO Speedline

Since operating its first trip on February 15, 1969, the PATCO Speedline has helped transform South Jersey.

PATCO train at Lindenwold Station in April 1969. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia

Ben Franklin once referred to New Jersey as “a keg tapped at both ends,” a metaphor that, of course, referred to the state connecting the major ports of New York and Philadelphia.

Today, northern New Jersey residents have a wealth of transportation options linking them to New York: multiple NJ Transit commuter train lines, PATH trains and bus routes. There are fewer transit options from South Jersey into Philadelphia. There’s the NJ Transit Atlantic City Rail Line (which has not run since September 2018) and a handful of bus lines. But the real lifeline is the PATCO Speedline, which first connected Camden County to Philadelphia 50 years ago, and now carries more than 10 million riders a year.

On February 15, 1969, the PATCO Speedline began full operation with a first trip from Lindenwold to Center City Philadelphia. It came at a time in the 1960s when the first migration out of cities had begun, yet suburban residents still worked in Camden and Philadelphia and needed to be connected to them. Since opening operation 50 years ago, the PATCO has helped transform Camden County, making towns like Collingswood and Haddonfield more commuter-friendly for residents.

Photo courtesy of PATCO

It also made it easier for commuter students like myself to get to Camden County’s major university, Rutgers–Camden, which sits a block away from Camden’s City Hall PATCO station. When I was a graduate student at Rutgers–Camden, my peers and I relied on the PATCO to get to and from classes and internships. And because it operates 24 hours a day (one of only six U.S. rapid transit systems to do so), I never worried about working too late on campus and missing my train home.

Owned by the Delaware River Port Authority, the PATCO Speedline is operated by the Port Authority Transit Corporation and has 13 stations in Philadelphia and Camden County. It crosses over the Ben Franklin Bridge.

In 2005, PATCO began planning a new route that would serve Gloucester County and end at Rowan University in Glassboro, but it has yet to happen.

In 2013, PATCO announced a $194 million refurbishment project, updating interiors and braking systems in all 120 PATCO cars. The final run of the non-refurbished cars took place in June of last year.

Photo courtesy of PATCO.

To mark its 50th anniversary, PATCO is offering flashback fares from 6 am to 11 am tomorrow, Friday, February 15. At that time, riders can enjoy original fares that were in effect in 1969 when the speedline first opened. PATCO employees will also be at eight New Jersey stations (Lindenwold to Broadway) from 7 am to 9 am handing out commemorative reproduction of the original timetable.

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