SEPTA: “A Total Transit Complex”?


When SEPTA’s chairman William McConnon assumed control of the patchwork system in 1972, he announced an ambitious plan to knit the system together and adapt the spoke-and-hub arrangement of the commuter, subway, and el lines into what he termed “a total transit complex.”  He tried to fashion a system that would allow greater cross city movement and at “transit nodes” to provide a variety of movement options for users.  He looked to the well-developed systems of London and Paris for guidance.  In Philadelphia, McConnon’s plan called for the activation of previously unused rights-of-way, like this Reading Railroad cut just north of Callowhill St.  I’ve never fully understood why this plan was never fully implemented, and I’m not sure if many Philadelphians are aware of what SEPTA could have become.  My thought is that labor disputes and the additional stresses of assuming more and more operating responsibilities caused SEPTA to table McConnon’s “total transit complex” plan.  Click here for a larger version of the above map and some other documents. 

2 thoughts on “SEPTA: “A Total Transit Complex”?

  1. Hi, I know this is an ancient post, but I was directed to your SEPTA paper from YPP and found the above image. Do you still have a detailed version of the map? I found this idea to be the most interesting part of your paper. I doubt something like this could be achieved today.

    It would be nice to see a detail of what might have been. Keep up the good work!

  2. septa is everthing thats wrong with philadelphia im 32 years old and in my lifetime here all i can remeber is things going by the wayside,i.e. old school department stores,neighborhood shops heck just plain neighboorhoods. how about selling off some departments of septa like its suburban lines to european investors with deep pockets and imagination and use the proceeds to invest in city infurstructure like restoring old trolley lines and creating a new el line. its 2007 not 1957 whats old is new nad whats was direlect now has promise so reinvent yourself now rather than belly up later.

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