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Hacking PATCO: 7 secrets for success on SEPTA’s South Jersey cousin

PATCO is like SEPTA’s cousin, the one you see two or three times every year and aren’t quite sure where he lives these days (Brooklyn??? He did always have a thick beard). This South Jersey transit line is not so easy to understand and unfamiliar to many Philadelphians. But it can actually be quite convenient for trips to South Jersey or as a starting point for trips to New York or the Shore. All it takes is $1.40 (for a one-way ride) and heading toward a PATCO station in Philadelphia at Locust on 15th/16th streets, 12th/13th streets and 9th/10th streets or at 8th and Market.

After that, Billy Penn has you covered. Here are seven insider tips to know for making the best use of PATCO.

1. Use an app to know the schedule

@PATCOWatchers, a well-known Twitter personality who follows and tweets PATCO news, says that it’s not always easy to figure out when the PATCO train is going to come by and pick you up because there are four (!) different schedules each week — Monday thru Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday and Sunday. It doesn’t help that if you want to check the schedule on your phone you’ll get a PDF that’s pretty tough to read without a magnifying glass.

Luckily, there’s a hack. @thegreengrass created NextPAT.co, a website that shows when the next three trains are arriving at all of the PATCO stations. You can also download the PATCO Schedule app on IOS for a convenient to see daily schedule. This website and this app were made by PATCO users who had no affiliation or help from PATCO.

2. PATCO cardholders will be able to use SEPTA Key, too

When SEPTA Key is finally finished, people with PATCO Freedom Cards can use them to pay fares on SEPTA. But you won’t be able to use a SEPTA Key card on PATCO.

3. Take PATCO to score one of the cheapest routes to New York City

Philadelphians can get to New York City several ways, from Chinatown buses to Regional Rail and NJ Transit to Amtrak. There’s also PATCO. Hop on PATCO from the 8th Street Station on Market Street and take it to the Broadway Station in Camden. Get out and walk to the Walter Rand Transportation Center and take the River Line to Trenton. From Trenton, take NJ Transit. Not saying it’s the best route (it takes almost an hour to get from Camden to Trenton). But it will not cost you a lot of money.

The PATCO trip involves a PATCO fare of $1.40, a RiverLine ticket of $1.50 and a Trenton to New York NJ Transit ticket of $15.50. That’s $18.40. Amtrak costs $54. The Regional Rail-NJ Transit costs $24.50. Chinatown Bus and Bolt Buses are both less expensive than this PATCO route, but the PATCO route is cheaper than taking a Mega Bus ($27).

4. Never pay with a $20 bill

Think it sucks using the token machines on SEPTA? Try paying for a PATCO fare. @PATCOWatchers says the ticket kiosks “absolutely suck. Bring small bills, don’t pay with a $20 and remember to get a round trip ticket to make your return trip easier.”

5. Yes, you can take PATCO to the Shore

Or at least easily to Atlantic City. Take a PATCO train to the final stop, Lindenwold Station, and then hop on a 554 Bus or Atlantic City Rail line to Atlantic City, and you’ll be losing money at the craps tables in no time!

6. Parking your car at the Lindenwold Station and then taking a train is a terrible way to beat traffic down the shore

PATCO doesn’t allow parking in its lots for greater than 24 hours, except for special circumstances on a case-by-case basis (and your beach trip is not special). So while it might seem like a cool idea to drive to Lindenwold Station on Friday evening and then hop on a train to Atlantic City, you’ll probably arrive back at the station on Sunday and find your car is located in the lot of some towing company.

7. Get a discount at the aquarium

A PATCO ticket or a Freedom Card gets you $2 off at the Camden Adventure Aquarium and $3 off Camden Riversharks baseball games. To get to either one, along with with other sites along the waterfront, get off at the City Hall Station stop.

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