Ever been confused when someone says they're going DOWNSTAIRS to catch the El?
Ever wonder why it's called the Blue Route?
Whether you're new to the area or a native, this glossary of terms will help you understand what Philadelphians mean when they talk transportation.
Note: Glossary terms are boldfaced wherever they appear. If a numbered highway does not appear in this glossary, it has no alternate name.
Please send corrections or recommendations for additions to the author in the form of a private message.
Bridges, Roads and Highways
42 or 42 Freeway Formal name: the North-South Freeway, the only freeway in the region to bear the term in its name. Opened in 1957 to connect the Walt Whitman Bridge with nearby suburbs in Southern New Jersey. Commonly referred to by its New Jersey state route number.
76 See Schuylkill. The Interstate heads west from Philadelphia via the Turnpike.
95 Formal name: the Delaware Expressway (never used in either everyday or formal speech). Opened in segments between 1960 and 1985 and formally named for the river it parallels. Always referred to by its Interstate route number.
276 See Turnpike. Never used in everyday speech.
309 Formal name: the Fort Washington Expressway. Opened in segments in 1958 and 1960, rebuilt and upgraded in the mid-2000s. Runs from Wyncote, just past the Philadelphia city line, to Ambler. State Route 309 continues north as a regular highway from that point.
422 Formal name: the Pottstown Expressway (originally the Schuylkill Expressway Extension; this author has also heard this highway referred to on one occasion as the Upper Schuylkill Expressway). Opened in segments between 1967 and 1985, this road connects the Valley Forge/King of Prussia area with Pottstown. US 422 continues west from Pottstown as a regular highway.
476 See Blue Route. The Interstate highway extends all the way to Scranton via the Northeast Extension.
676 See Vine Expressway.
Ben Franklin | Betsy Ross | Commodore Barry | Walt Whitman The four Delaware River bridges owned and operated by the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA). From north to south:
All four are toll bridges. The toll for cars is $5, collected from drivers headed from New Jersey into Pennsylvania.
- The Betsy Ross Bridge connects Pennsauken, N.J., with the Bridesburg section of Philadelphia and connects to State Route 90 on the New Jersey side. Completed in 1974 but not opened until 1976, the span is the first major bridge named for a woman in the United States.
- The Ben Franklin Bridge (from 1926 to 1957, the Delaware River Bridge) carries Interstate 676 and US 30 between the downtowns of Philadelphia and Camden. It was the longest suspension bridge in the world from its opening in 1926 until the completion of the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit in 1929.
- The Walt Whitman Bridge carries Interstate 76 between South Philadelphia and Gloucester City (Camden County), N.J. Opened in 1957. The DRPA's decision to name the bridge for the gay literary icon who spent the last years of his life in Camden sparked a protest letter-writing campaign from the Catholic Diocese of Camden.
- The Commodore Barry Bridge carries US 322 and connects Chester, Pa., with Bridgeport, N.J. Opened in 1974 and named for the father of the United States Navy, the cantilever span - the world's third longest - replaced a ferry that had operated at the site since the 1700s.
Blue Route Formal name: Mid-County Expressway (never used in everyday speech); also 476 after its Interstate route number. The half-beltway around the city's western suburbs. So called because, when planning for this highway began in the early 1950s, the Pennsylvania Department of Highways drew three possible alignments for it on a map and color-coded each alternative: the easternmost was red and the westernmost yellow. The middle alignment of the three, roughly following Crum Creek, was colored blue, and it was the alignment that was finally chosen.
Boulevard, the Roosevelt Boulevard, the central artery of Northeast Philadelphia, along which US 1 is routed, as is US 13 for part of its length. Begun in 1911 as the Northeast Boulevard and later named for Theodore Roosevelt, the highway features two three-lane roads in each direction, with a wide landscaped median separating the center pair of lanes. Notorious for its pedestrian unfriendliness and for sporting several of the state's worst intersections for crashes.
Broad Street Takes the place of 14th Street in the city grid of numbered streets. Some new arrivals to the area occasionally refer to the latter in error.
Burlington-Bristol | Tacony-Palmyra The two Delaware River bridges owned and operated by the Burlington County Bridge Commission. Both are frequently referred to in local traffic reports surrounded by "Scheduled opening on the ________________; expect delays," as both are too low to let the tallest ships pass under them; the Burlington-Bristol has a lift span and the Tacony-Palmyra a draw span.
Both bridges are toll bridges. The toll for cars is $2, collected from drivers headed from New Jersey into Pennsylvania.
Northeast Extension Actually, the Northeastern Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Opened in 1956, it connects the Philadelphia area with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area, skirting the Lehigh Valley (Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton) along the way. Originally numbered as State Route 9, now Interstate 476.
Parkway, the Benjamin Franklin Parkway (Ben Franklin Parkway in everyday speech). Begun just before World War I as Fairmount Parkway, this diagonal slash through William Penn and Thomas Holme's original 1682 street grid extends Fairmount Park into the heart of the city. Its builders envisioned it as a Parisian-style boulevard; it never quite fulfilled that vision. It is, however, home to many of the city's most important cultural institutions, including the Free Library of Philadelphia, the Franklin Institute, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and soon, The Barnes Foundation.
Schuylkill Full name: the Schuylkill Expressway, named for the river it parallels. Opened in 1950 as a spur from the Turnpike into Philadelphia, originally numbered as State Route 43 and incorporated into the Interstate Highway System (first as I-80S, then as I-76) in 1957.
Turnpike When used by itself, refers to the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the granddaddy of American superhighways. Opened in 1940 from Irwin to Carlisle, extended to Valley Forge in 1950, and to the Ohio border and the Delaware River in 1952. The Philadelphia Extension, between the Valley Forge interchange and the Delaware River Turnpike Bridge, has become a major commuter route in the region - as has the Turnpike itself from Valley Forge to Morgantown (Reading). The New Jersey Turnpike is always referred to as such (or, less frequently, the Jersey Turnpike) within the region.
Vine Expressway or Vine Full name: the Vine Street Expressway, which carries Interstate 676 from the Schuylkill Expressway to the Ben Franklin Bridge and Interstate 95. Opened in 1959 from the Schuylkill to 16th Street and in 1991 from 16th Street east to the bridge and I-95. Includes a novel (and hidden) cable-stayed bridge that carries the roadway over the subway tunnel at Broad Street.
69th Street Terminal The western terminus of the Market-Frankford Line (see El) in Upper Darby, Delaware County; connections can be made here to the suburban rail lines (see 100, 101 and 102) and bus routes serving Delaware, Chester and Montgomery counties. SEPTA has abandoned the terms "Terminal" and "Transfer" in favor of "Transportation Center"; however, most locals still use the older, familiar term.
100 Now formally called the Norristown High-Speed Line by SEPTA, which has dropped all references to its former route number from its schedules and maps. Most locals, however, continue to refer to it by number, and signs at its stations still bear it.
101 and 102 Also Media (101) and Sharon Hill (102) Trolleys. These two routes, along with the 100, all originate at 69th Street Terminal in Upper Darby.
Blue Line Used occasionally in everyday speech, mostly by more recent arrivals, and internally within SEPTA to refer to the Market-Frankford Line, after its color code on maps and signage. Also see El.
Bridge and Pratt Not an actual street intersection. These are the two streets that made up the former name of the last station on the Frankford Elevated, Bridge-Pratt, now called Frankford Transportation Center. Many longtime locals still use this term to refer to the station, which is also sometimes referred to as Frankford Terminal.
El Used to refer to the Market-Frankford Line (formerly Market-Frankford Subway-Elevated) regardless whether it is running above or below ground. Also in common use: Market-Frankford El. Also see Blue Line.
Green Line Used infrequently to refer to any of the five surface trolley routes (10, 11, 13, 34, 36) that feed the trolley subway between Center City and West Philadelphia, after the color used to depict the routes on maps and signs.
NJT New Jersey Transit Corporation, the statewide agency that operates mass transit service in New Jersey. A number of NJT bus routes operate into the city of Philadelphia.
Orange Line Used occasionally in everyday speech, mostly by more recent arrivals, and internally within SEPTA to refer to the Broad Stret Line, after its color code on maps and signage. Also see Sub.
Pass Used by some Philadelphians to refer to a transfer, thus causing some confusion with SEPTA's actual passes.
PATCO The Port Authority Transit Corporation, a subsidiary of the DRPA. Operates the Lindenwold High-Speed Line (see Speedline) between Philadelphia and points in Southern New Jersey.
R1 through R8 (R4 omitted) The now-abandoned numeric designations for the 13 SEPTA Regional Rail branches, developed by Vukan Vuchic of the University of Pennsylvania to take advantage of the through-routing afforded by the Center City Commuter Tunnel. Some locals still use them in everyday speech. They correspond to the following branches:
- R1: Airport
- R2: Wilmington/Newark and Warminster
- R3: Media/Elwyn and West Trenton
- R5: Paoli/Thorndale and Lansdale/Doylestown
- R6: Cynwyd and Manayunk/Norristown
- R7: Trenton and Chestnut Hill East
- R8: Chestnut Hill West and Fox Chase
SEPTA The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, which operates the mass transit system serving the five counties on the Pennsylvania side of the Philadelphia metropolitan area.
Speedline The PATCO Lindenwold High-Speed Line, which connects Philadelphia and several of its Southern New Jersey suburbs via the Ben Franklin Bridge.
Sub, also Subway Used to refer exclusively to the Broad Street Line (originally: Broad Street Subway). Also see Orange Line.