The 40th Street Trolley Portal is one of the busiest public transit hubs in Philadelphia. All of the trolley lines serving West Philadelphia meet here in what used to be a bewildering expanse of concrete, crisscrossed with trolley tracks and dotted with catenary poles. The University City District asked us if we could redesign the transit hub to not just improve pedestrian and rider safety, but create an engaging, pedestrian-friendly, social gathering place for the community. We also designed the new hub to reduce the urban heat island effect, manage stormwater, and mitigate combined sewer outfall discharges. Our design transforms the concrete plaza with clearly-defined pedestrian circulation, extensive new native, meadow-like landscaping, movable seating, and a new restaurant. It’s as good for people as it is for pollinators. The design inspired University City District to rename the site as the Trolley Portal Gardens.
Features of the design include a cafe, the retrofit of existing catenary poles with high efficiency motion activated LED lighting, the installation of new pavement, and construction of planted zones that create habitat, provide seating opportunities, and reduce stormwater runoff. Consulting on the plan were representatives of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities, higher education institutions, and members of the surrounding community.