The station itself also included a number of innovative features, including a pneumatic tube system, an electronic intercom, and a reinforced roof with space to allow the landing of small aircraft.
It was opened in 1933, shortly after the peak of expansion by the former Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR), which was headquartered in Philadelphia. It replaced the Broad Street Station as the latter became too small to handle Philadelphia's growing passenger-rail traffic. The PRR sought a location on its main line between New York and Washington.
Broad St. Station was a stub-end terminal in Center City and through trains had to back in and then out again to continue on their journey. As Broad St. Station handled a very large commuter operation, an underground Suburban Station was built as part of the 30th St. Station project to handle it. Because of the Depression and World War II, Broad St. Station continued in operation until 1952. At that time, 30th St. Station took over all its operations.
On Jan. 13, the Inquirer reported that Philadelphia Mayor John Street, who had initially said he was unaware of the request, had thrown his support behind the name change. Philadelphians took the proposal with mixed reactions, according to the Inquirer stories. Former Philadelphia mayor and current Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell expressed a lukewarm reaction. Amtrak officials worried that a "Ben" station could be confused with its other three "Penn" stations. Still, Pew and Amtrak officials said that conversations were still underway. But the newspaper quoted Philadelphia charity manager H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest as saying that Pew had abandoned its proposal.
When the station was renovated, updated retail amenities were added. They include several shops, a large food court, car rental facilities, Bucks County coffee, McDonald's, Dunkin Donuts, and others. The station was featured in the 1981 film Blow Out, the 1983 film Trading Places, the 1985 film Witness starring Harrison Ford and M. Night Shyamalan's 2000 release Unbreakable.
Trains from SEPTA, Amtrak, and New Jersey Transit serve this station. Amtrak intercity trains and NJ Transit's Atlantic City Line run through the station's lower level, while SEPTA Regional Rail lines serve the upper level. In addition, SEPTA's Market-Frankford Line (also known as the "El") and all of SEPTA's Subway-Surface Lines stop at the 30th Street subway station, less than 1/2 block (< 1/10 mile) from the southwest entrance to 30th Street Station. A tunnel connecting the underground subway station and 30th Street Station was closed due to crime and vagrancy concerns. A number of the SEPTA system's bus lines include stops at the station on their routes.
The station is one of the busiest intercity passenger railroad facilities in the United States. In Federal Fiscal Year 2006, it had 3,555,646 Amtrak boardings plus alightings, making it the 3rd busiest Amtrak station in the U.S. It ranks behind New York Penn Station and Washington Union Station in Amtrak passenger volume . The station also has extensive locally and regionally generated passenger volume; it is one of SEPTA's three primary regional rail hubs. It is located within walking distance of various attractions in West Philadelphia, most notably the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University in University City.
Many important highways and streets pass next to or near the station. Vehicles and taxicabs can easily access the station from various major routes, including Market Street (PA Route 3), Interstate 76 (more commonly known as the Schuylkill Expressway in the Philadelphia area), and Interstate 676 (more commonly known as the Vine Street Expressway in the city of Philadelphia).
Cira Centre, a 28-story glass-and-steel office tower opened in October 2005, is across Arch Street to the north and is connected by a skyway at the station's mezzanine level next to the upper-level SEPTA Regional Rail platforms. The tower is owned by Philadelphia-based Brandywine Realty Trust, was designed by architect César Pelli, and sits on land leased from Amtrak. César Pelli is best-known for the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
German Developer Buys Eight Acres near Philadelphia's 30th Street Station. (Originated from Philadelphia Daily News)
Mar 15, 1994; PHILADELPHIA--Mar. 15--A German developer has purchased a coveted eight- acre parcel of land just east of 30th Street Station...