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From city to stadium, new Philadelphia Union bus program debuts

U-Ride gives fans in Philadelphia a chance to ride to the game together and back for $15

Riders board a bus at Smith’s Restaurant & Bar to the Philadelphia Union game at Talen Energy Stadium on April 28, 2018
Evan Easterling

A new bus program designed to provide fans a more direct transportation option from Philadelphia to Chester debuted over the weekend for the Philadelphia Union’s match against D.C. United.

Non-descript white buses rolled up to four locations in the city at 1:30 p.m. — Baby Blues BBQ on Sansom Street in University City, Brauhaus Schmitz on South Street near 8th, XFINITY LIVE! at the sports complex and Smith’s Restaurant & Bar on 19th Street in Center City.

About 20 people rode the bus to the game from Smith’s Restaurant & Bar, including Chris Purdom and his father Tom. Chris Purdom, a 54-year-old Fairmount resident, has had season tickets since the inaugural season in 2010. He and his father usually take SEPTA Regional Rail to Chester Transportation Center and use the free shuttle provided by the Union to get to Talen Energy Stadium.

“Getting there hasn’t been too bad,” Purdom said. “The getting home has been mixed.”

After games that end late on Sunday nights, for example, there sometimes wouldn’t be a train, Chris Purdom said. In that case, he’d try to use the dedicated Uber Lot the Union started in 2016, but it’d sometimes take drivers 30 minutes to exit the parking lot, he said.

Union fans wait for a bus to Talen Energy Stadium at Smith’s Restaurant & Bar in Center City
Evan Easterling

Melissa Klass, 23, of Glenside, Pennsylvania, and Tim Long, 25, of Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, agreed that getting home after games can be tough on public transportation. Klass said there have been a few times when they’ve had to take an Uber from Talen Energy Stadium to Suburban Station.

Carlos Contente, 25, of Rhawnhurst, attends about one or two games per season. Last year, he tried to ride one of the Union’s pub affiliate buses from Fadó on Locust Street in Center City, but the trip got canceled because not enough people signed up.

He hopes the program, which is officially known as the U-Ride Bus Program, will be successful.

“I think it will be, but I think in the long run whenever they move out of Talen Energy Stadium somewhere else, they might have to go to South Philly,” Contente said.

Unlike some of the other fans who rode the bus from Smith’s Restaurant & Bar, Emily Reedy, 27, had never been to a Union game. The Center City resident said U-Ride made getting to Saturday’s game easier.

“I think it’s going to be a great alternative because everyone can just get on a bus with their friends, go down, it’s easy,” Reedy said. “Like, you don’t have to worry about getting a [designated driver] or anything or about navigating SEPTA, all that stuff. So, yeah, it’s going to be a good thing, I think.”

Unlike public transportation, all of the riders on the bus were headed to the same place for the same reason: to cheer on the blue and gold. Riders, most of whom wore Union apparel, also enjoyed bottles of Labatt Blue on the way to the game.

The program will be available for all remaining home games this season. Fans can either buy a $15 round-trip ticket to and from Talen Energy Stadium or buy a bus ticket in combination with a game ticket. Each bus departs two hours before the scheduled kickoff and returns to its departure point 20 minutes after the final whistle.