Hickey, an engineering consultant for CH2M Hill, and now chairman of APTA's Streetcar & Heritage Trolley Subcommittee, is famous (notorious?) for organizing amazingly comprehensive and well-coordinated invitation-only tours of major regional multi-modal transit systems. As you might imagine, it involves interesting rides of transit with lots of high-powered ambulation between some very closely scheduled connections.
If you want to burn off some calories, short of doing an Iron Man triathlon or something, a Tom Hickey tour will work wonders (lots of walking and stair-climbing to make connections). With dark humor, insiders jocularly refer to each of these events as "Hickey's death march." It's sort of like traveling Around the World in 80 Days in, well, a day.
So, on Saturday, June 1st, just after 8am, about 60 of us gathered at the conference hotel in downtown Philadelphia to embark on this adventure in serious weight loss, courtesy of Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), Port Authority Transit Corp. (PATCO), and New Jersey Transit (NJT). Including some hastily arranged ad-hoc modifications to the itinerary, here's a quick summary:
• From the Market East station downtown, the group clambered aboard a regional rail train to Norristown.
• At Norristown, we walked from the regional rail station over to the elevated Route 100 light metro station, where we boarded a special High Speed Line car to 69th St.
• At the venerable 69th St. multi-modal terminal, with about 5 minutes to spare, we then hustled through the terminal to board a special light rail interurban-style trolley (decked out in historic red Philadelphia & Western livery) to Sharon Hill.
• From there, SEPTA provided a special bus connection to Darby Transit Center.
• At Darby we were then guided aboard a chartered PCC car, one of a fleet renovated by Brookville Equipment Corp. (photo above), for a trip over segments of urban trolley routes 11 and 15 (and special connector trackage).
• Our group were then deposited at a Market-Frankford elevated station, from which we took rapid transit to the historic 30th St. intercity-regional-urban rail station.
• From 30th St., we took another regional rail train to Market East station and Reading Terminal Market (upstairs) for lunch.
• After lunch, back down to Market East, then aboard regional rail to the Fern Rock Transportation Center.
• Why Fern Rock? Well, that's a terminus of the Broad Street subway (must ride that, you know), which we stepped aboard to get to a downtown Philadelphia station of...
• PATCO's High-speed ("Lindenwold ") rapid rail line, which we rode (again, on a special train) across the Delaware River to the Walter Rand Transit Center in central Camden, New Jersey.
• At Walter Rand we were in time to catch a special NJT RiverLINE diesel mutliple-unit (DMU) train, which then whisked us northward to...
• The new and nearly finished Pennsauken station (actually, two new stations, including the one for NJT's Atlantic City regional rail line, as seen in photo at left) and a tour of the construction; then, back aboard our RiverLINE train, back to Camden, in time (after getting stuck in a huge traffic jam) to catch...
• Our special PATCO train again out to the end of the line at Lindenwold station (and a tour of PATCO's maintenance facility there).
• Then it was back to Philadelphia via NJT's Atlantic City regional rail line, which carried the surviving remnants of our troupe to the 30th St. Station, where we then transferred to the last leg of our foray...
• SEPTA regional rail back to Market East.
It was a grueling, but exciting and fascinating excursion, as well as a testament to the crack scheduling of Tom Hickey. And you know what? If the opportunity arises in another metro area with another network of lines, I'd jump at the chance to do it again.