The 30th Street station is the main railroad station in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and one of the seven stations in Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority's (SEPTA) Center City fare zone. It is also a major stop on Amtrak's (National Railroad Passenger Corporation) Northeast and Keystone corridors.
30th Street station is Amtrak's third-busiest station, and the busiest of the 24 stations served in Pennsylvania. On an average day in fiscal 2013, about 11,300 people boarded or left trains in Philadelphia, nearly twice as many as in the rest of the Pennsylvania stations combined.
The Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR), which was headquartered in Philadelphia, acquired tunnel rights from the Schuylkill River to 15th Street from the city of Philadelphia in return for land that the city needed to construct the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. This allowed the company to build both Suburban Station and the 30th Street station, which replaced Broad Street station as the latter was too small. Broad St. Station was a stub-end terminal in Center City and through trains had to back in and out, and the company wanted a location which would accommodate trains between New York City and Washington. D.C. Broad St. station also handled a large commuter operation, which the new underground Suburban Station was built to handle. (Because of the Depression and World War II, Broad St. station didn't close until 1952.)
The Chicago architectural firm of Graham, Anderson, Probst and White, the successor to D.H. Burnham & Company, designed the structure, originally known as Pennsylvania Station–30th Street in accord with the naming style of other Pennsylvania Stations. Its design was influenced by the Northeast Corridor electrification that allowed trains to pass beneath the station without exposing passengers to soot as steam engines of earlier times had. The station had a number of innovative features, including a pneumatic tube system, an electronic intercom, and a reinforced roof with space for small aircraft to land, and contained a mortuary, a chapel and more than 3,000 square feet of hospital space.
Construction began in 1927 and the station opened in 1933, starting with two platform tracks. The vast waiting room is faced with travertine and the coffered ceiling is painted gold, red and cream. The building's exterior has columned porte-cocheres on the west and east facade, and shows a balance between classical and modern architectural styles.
In 2005, Philadelphia-based Pew Charitable Trust asked Amtrak to change the name of 30th Street station to "Ben Franklin station" as part of the celebration of Ben Franklin's 300th birthday in January 2006. The cost of replacing signs at the station was estimated at $3 million.
In January, Philadelphia Mayor John Street threw his support behind the name change, but others had mixed reactions to the proposal. Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, a former mayor of Philadelphia, was lukewarm, while Amtrak officials worried that a "Ben" station could be confused with its other three "Penn" stations. On January 25, 2006, Pew abandoned the campaign, giving no reason.
In August 2014, a federal law was passed that will change the name of the station to the William H. Gray III 30th Street Station in honor of the late congressman. At the time, the change was scheduled to occur "in the next few months".
The building is owned by Amtrak and houses many Amtrak corporate offices, although Amtrak is officially headquartered at Union Station in Washington, D.C. The 562,000 ft² (52,000 m²) facility features a cavernous main passenger concourse with ornate Art Deco decor.
Prominently displayed is the Pennsylvania Railroad World War II Memorial, which honors Pennsylvania Railroad employees killed in World War II. It consists of a bronze statue of the archangel Michael lifting the body of a dead soldier out of the flames of war, and was sculpted by Walker Hancock in 1950. On the four sides of the base of that sculpture are the 1,307 names of those employees in alphabetical order.
The building was restored in 1991 by Dan Peter Kopple & Associates. When the station was renovated, updated retail amenities were added. They include several shops, a large food court, car rental facilities, Saxbys Coffee, Dunkin' Donuts, and others.
The Amtrak 30th Street Parking Garage was designed by BLT Architects and completed in 2004. This nine-level, double helix garage provides 2,100 parking spaces and glass-enclosed stair tower and elevator to offer views of Philadelphia. The following year (2005) the Arch Street Pedestrian Bridge was completed and designed with contribution from BLT Architects. The Arch Street Pedestrian Bridge provides direct access for pedestrians from 30th Street station to the parking garage and Cira Centre; this prevents pedestrians from interacting with heavy traffic from PA 3 and I-76.
The station is one of the busiest intercity passenger railroad facilities in the United States. The station also has extensive local and regional passenger volume; it is one of SEPTA's three primary regional rail hubs. It is within walking distance of various attractions in West Philadelphia, notably the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, and the University City Science Center, all in University City.
Many important highways and streets pass next to or near the station. Vehicles and taxicabs can reach the station from various major routes, including Market Street (PA 3), Interstate 76 (more commonly known as the Schuylkill Expressway in the Philadelphia area), and Interstate 676 (more commonly known as the Vine Street Expressway in the city of Philadelphia). The John F. Kennedy Boulevard Bridge is just east of the station.
Trains from SEPTA, Amtrak, and New Jersey Transit serve the station. The three east-west Upper Level platforms serve SEPTA Regional Rail suburban trains and connect to the Center City Commuter Connection. The north-south Lower Level platforms serve Amtrak and New Jersey Transit trains.
SEPTA's Market-Frankford Line (also known as the "El") and all of SEPTA's Subway-Surface Lines (Routes 10, 11, 13, 34, and 36) stop at the 30th Street subway station, less than 1/2 block (< 1/10 mile) from the southwest entrance to 30th Street station. A tunnel connecting the underground subway station and 30th Street station was closed in the 1980s.
A number of SEPTA's bus routes include stops at the station on their routes.
Cira Centre, a 28-story glass-and-steel office tower opened in October 2005, is across Arch Street to the north and is connected by a skyway at the station's mezzanine level next to the upper-level SEPTA Regional Rail platforms. The tower is owned by Philadelphia-based Brandywine Realty Trust, was designed by architect César Pelli and BLT Architects, and sits on land leased from Amtrak.
Amtrak owns and operates the Penn Coach Yard and Race Street Engine House equipment repair and maintenance facility at the 30th Street station.
The station has one of Amtrak's four ClubAcelas, which are open to Amtrak Guest Rewards members with a ClubAcela pass, Amtrak Guest Rewards Select Plus and Select Executive members, Acela Express first-class passengers, sleeping car passengers on overnight trains, United Airlines Polaris Business and Polaris First, United Airlines United Club members, and private railcar owners and lessees when the car is being hauled by Amtrak.
Zipcar and PhillyCarShare vehicles are parked outside 30th Street station, mostly in reserved parking spaces on the south side of the station or, during construction, in the controlled-access parking lot outside Cira Centre.
Spirit of Transportation (1895) by Karl Bitter
The station was featured in the 1981 film Blow Out, the 1983 film Trading Places, the 1985 film Witness, the 2000 film Unbreakable, the 2010 video game Heavy Rain, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (season 2, episode 7), and the 2015 film The Visit. The station also features in the opening credits of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
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