Safety First: PATCO Unveils Single-Train Plan for Overnight Owl Service

PATCO's new early morning Owl service between Philadelphia and South Jersey launches on Dec. 7

What to Know

  • PATCO's new overnight Owl service between Philadelphia and South Jersey launches on Dec. 7.
  • A single train will loop hourly across 12 of PATCO's 13 stations during overnight hours.
  • The agency cited safety as a big reason for having fewer overnight trains and stops. And keeping passengers closer together.

Night owls are going to see some big schedule changes to their rides home on PATCO as the transit agency works to keep everyone safe.

Last week, Delaware River Port Authority revealed its new late-night service plan, months after backlash from community members caused a delay in implementing the new Owl Service.

The takeaways of the new Owl schedule that goes into effect on Saturday, Dec. 7 are as follows:

  • Owl trains run from midnight to 4 a.m. on weekdays and midnight to 5 a.m. on weekends
  • Trains will run every 60 minutes, rather than every 45 minutes.
  • All stations remain open 24/7, except for the 9th/10th and Locust Station in Center City Philadelphia, which already closes from 12:07 a.m. to 4:15 a.m. daily.
  • Only one four-car train will be looping through the system during overnight hours. The doors will only open on the middle two cars to encourage riders to sit closer to one another.
    “Owl riders are encouraged to board the train, even if it’s traveling in the opposite direction, rather than waiting in a station for the same train to return,” PATCO said in a news release.
  • A police officer will ride on board the trains from midnight to 4 a.m. on weekdays and from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. on weekends.

Back in May, PATCO officials said that a sex assault on an empty train in part prompted the changes. Earlier this year the woman passed out on an otherwise empty PATCO train early in the morning was sexually assaulted. A South Jersey man was charged in that incident.

“Safety and security are still our top priority at PATCO and our new owl service plan incorporates the feedback and concerns of our riders," PATCO General Manager John Rink said.

They came to the plan, which also includes the launch of the new PATCO 'Look Up. Speak Up' safety app and a safety awareness plan, based on the suggestions of a special task force formed in the wake of backlash from the previous plan.

"It’s important to PATCO to listen to the communities we serve, and then act on what we have learned," Rink said.

Back in May, PATCO also said that overnight ridership is very low, with only a handful of riders at each station. But, they insist the new Owl plan is all about making travel safer.

"Our No. 1 goal is to ensure the safety of our riders and employees," DRPA/PATCO Police Chief John Stief said. "The owl task force provided solutions for increased police coverage and aligning riders in greater numbers together on trains and stations."

PATCO's current Owl service remains in effect, for now.

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